Four members of the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's volleyball team will play in the final regular-season home match of their careers when the Lady Cougars host Kenyon College in a non-conference match on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m.
Seniors Jessica Huffaker, Becky Jefferys, Amber Rice, and Rachel Widener will be honored prior to the match against the visiting Ladies (8-22). These four players have led MVNC to a 165-35 overall record (.825 winning percentage), two American Mideast Conference championships, and two AMC runner-up finishes during their careers. The team has also posted an incredible 53-3 mark in the friendly confines of Physical Education Center during the past four years.
Huffaker, a 5-foot-9 middle hitter from Grove City, Ohio, has made her presence felt at the net over the past four seasons for the Lady Cougars. The former Grove City High School standout ranks tenth on MVNC's career blocks list with 350 and eleventh in career kills with 926. This season, Huffaker, who was named to the Wazie Invitational All-Tournament Team earlier in the year, has recorded 35 digs, 68 blocks, and .225 kills to go along with a .273 attack percentage.
"Jessica (Huffaker) is a dynamic and energetic middle hitter," said head coach Paul Swanson. "Although always undersized for her position, she has competed very well in the middle. Her enthusiasm and hunger to play well really benefits our team."
Jefferys, a 5-foot-6 setter from Elyria, Ohio, has left her mark on the Lady Cougars' program in assists and serving. The former Elyria High School star ranks fourth in career assists (2,912), sixth in career aces (154), and tenth in career digs (1,034). She also has the best serving percentage in school history (97.9 percent). Jefferys, who was chosen as the AMC Setter of the Week once this year, leads the team with 681 assists, while also contributing 28 aces and 194 digs.
"Becky (Jefferys) has added life, vitality, and humor to our team," Swanson said. "She has been a real asset at the service line and setting for us. She is an excellent student and a very intelligent player on the floor."
Rice, a 5-foot-7 outside hitter from Baltic, Ohio, has been an impact player for MVNC in the back row and also at the service line. The former All-Ohioan at Garaway High School ranks fifth on the Lady Cougars' all-time list in digs (1,375) and twelfth in career aces (131). Rice, who joined Huffaker on the Wazie Invitational All-Tournament Team this year, has compiled 12 assists, 21 kills, 268 digs, and a team-high 37 aces this season.
"Amber (Rice) has been a steady and motivating force for our team throughout her career," said Swanson. "Her personal and spiritual leadership has been very valuable. She is a high quality player who has played a lot of positions for us."
Widener, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter from Elyria, Ohio, rounds out this stellar group of seniors. The former All-Ohioan at Open Door Christian Academy ranks in nearly every MVNC career category including second in kills (1,580), third in digs (2,180), and eighth in blocks (376). In addition to numerous other honors, Widener has been an AMC First Team and an NCCAA All-American First Team selection, and she was named the NAIA National Player of the Week earlier this year. She leads the team with 345 digs and a .361 attack percentage, and she has also recorded 19 aces, 31 assists, 65 blocks, and 288 kills.
"Rachel (Widener) has been a cornerstone of our team during her career here," Swanson said. "A lot of expectations and responsibilities have been placed on her shoulders, and she has responded well every time. She is a wonderful example for our team to follow as a person and a volleyball player."
The Lady Cougars are currently 33-2 overall and ranked #25 in the latest NAIA national poll. MVNC also clinched at least a share of the AMC regular-season title with a victory over Walsh University on Tuesday evening.