COLUMBIA – Even for a four-time defending conference champion like the Columbia College volleyball team, a popular word surrounding the team is "improvement."
“I don’t want us to level off really early and just try to maintain,” said head coach Melinda Wrye-Washington. “I want to keep building our level as we go throughout the season, and I want to peak at Nationals. We need to win the conference. We have goals, short-term goals and long-term goals and our goal at the end is to be present when it comes down to the end.”
For the Cougars, improvement could come naturally as teammates become more comfortable with each other.
“We’ve got a lot of newcomers, and a lot of people that are new to the system. We’ve kind of changed a few things, so I think we are going through a lot of new things right now,” Wrye-Washington said.
Fortunately, vocal leaders such as sophomore setter Paula Ferreira and senior libero Tally Mattos have already emerged early in the season and should help the transition to a new year.
"We did two (intra-squad) scrimmages, so we still are starting to get to know each other,” said Ferreira. “We hope that we have good consistency the whole season so that we can go to Nationals and be very consistent and strong.”=
The Cougars could also see improvement by virtue of their size. Wrye-Washington said the added size of the team has also created a quicker style of play.
“We’ve got a bigger squad, and it’s creating a more competitive practice environment,” said Wrye-Washington. “It’s been 10 years since we’ve had a full squad that has been really competitive.”
Mattos hopes the competitive environment helps the team achieve the goal of constant improvement.
“This year, we have a lot of good players, so nobody can stop (improving)," said Mattos. "You have to keep playing and keep getting better all the time, because if you don’t play well, somebody is going to play for you.”
The Cougars scrimmage against four teams on Saturday and open the season against Central Methodist University on Monday.
All of those matches will be played at the Arena at Southwell Complex.