Over the past 16 years, head coach Paul Swanson has led the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's volleyball team to a 539-195 overall record (.734 winning percentage).
In the decade of the 1990s, the Lady Cougars gained the reputation as one of the premier NAIA volleyball programs in the Midwest. MVNC posted a 396-107 (.787) during that span with four conference championships and four runner-up finishes. The Lady Cougars also compiled an incredible 122-9 home mark (.931) that included a 70-match home winning streak from 1991-1997.
The 1999 season was no exception to MVNC's winning tradition as the Lady Cougars closed out the decade with a 44-5 overall record for the best winning percentage in school history (.898). The team also won the American Mideast Conference title with a perfect 13-0 record. In postseason play, MVNC won the AMC Tournament, advanced to the semifinals of the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament, and advanced to the finals of the NAIA Region IX Tournament.
Swanson must replace four seniors (Rachel Widener, Becky Jefferys, Amber Rice, and Jessica Huffaker) who posted a 176-38 record during their careers in the blue and green uniforms of the Lady Cougars. However, MVNC will also return eight other players with plenty of experience including three starters. In addition, Swanson has landed three stellar recruits, Jeni Vanderhoof, Jessica Harding, and Chelsea Knight, to help fill the empty roster spots.
Vanderhoof, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter from Waldo, Ohio, was selected to the All-Ohio Third Team after leading River Valley High School to its second straight district championship in 1999. Vanderhoof set single-season school records of 254 kills and a .920 attack percentage as she was also named to the All-Central District First Team and the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference First Team.
In addition to volleyball, Vanderhoof has spent four years on the basketball team, three years in track, and one year in softball. She is a two-year member of National Honor Society, and she has been selected to Who's Who Among American High School Students.
"Jeni brings an interesting combination of excellent athletic ability (quickness, jumping, and coordination) as well as being a very smart and crafty player," said Swanson. "She comes from a strong competitive background, and we are looking forward to the many ways she can help us."
"MVNC has a great atmosphere and nice facilities," said Vanderhoof as she explained her college choice. "The campus is made up of very friendly and welcoming people who are willing to accept anyone into their 'family'. Coach Swanson is also a very good coach who is understanding and teaches a lot."
Harding, a 5-foot-11 middle hitter from New Philadelphia, Ohio, is a two-time Honorable Mention All-Ohio selection from Garaway High School. Harding led Garaway to a runner-up finish in the Inter Valley Conference in 1999 as she posted a school record 169 blocks. She also added 157 kills as she was named to the IVC and the District 5 First Teams.
Harding is also a two-year letterwinner on the Garaway varsity basketball team. She is a member of National Honor Society and the Student Council President.
"Jessica is a very powerful player - strong, excellent jumping ability - who can be a real force at the net," said Swanson. "She looks to continue the rich tradition of excellent education majors who are also very successful volleyball players."
"I feel that MVNC is a great place for me to grow athletically as well as mentally and spiritually," said Harding. "I am very excited to become a Lady Cougar."
Knight, a 5-foot-11 middle hitter from West Salem, Ohio, is a two-time Wayne County Athletic League First Team selection from Northwestern High School. As a senior, she recorded 45 total blocks and 192 kills as she was named to the District IV First Team and the Ashland Times First Team.
In addition to volleyball, Knight is active on Student Council and in National Honor Society, serves as the Yearbook Editor, and was chosen as Northwestern's 1999 Homecoming Queen.
"Chelsea has been an outstanding athlete and student in high school," said Swanson. "She will bring a strong net game with her with good jumping ability, reach, and timing. She is an art major who will add a great deal to our team and institution."
"I have chosen to attend MVNC because of its close, friendly environment and dedication to provide a Christian environment with higher education," said Knight. "The volleyball program caught my eye because of their successful seasons, but more importantly the obvious 'team' effort that is seen on and off the court. The willingness of the Art department to accommodate my personal interests and long-term goals helped solidify my decision to attend MVNC."
With these three standout recruits joining the quality group of returning players, the future of the Lady Cougar volleyball program looks good as it heads into the new millennium.