COLUMBIA — As the Columbia College volleyball team ate cake Thursday night to celebrate head coach Melinda Wrye-Washington’s 400th career victory earlier this month, the team was all smiles. Players smeared cake all over their coach’s face, and laughter filled the room.
But the smiles and laughter weren’t a result of how the team had performed Thursday night against William Woods.
The Cougars had just swept the Owls 25-22, 25-19, 25-23 in a American Midwest Conference match at Southwell Complex. Most teams would welcome a sweep, but for the perennial national championship contenders, just winning is not enough. With their sights set on making the national tournament for the 17th straight year, Thursday night's performance was not acceptable for the Cougars.
“At nationals the difference will be who can sustain a high level of play for the entire match,” Wrye-Washington said.
Wrye-Washington said when the team knows they are going to win, they tend to not play their hardest. Setter Paula Ferreira said that the team has to avoid getting lazy, because they could continue those bad habits when they face other national championship contenders.
“When we play hard games, the silly mistakes will keep coming,” Ferreira said.
Wrye-Washington put the blame on the outside hitters, namely Vesna Trivunovic and Serena Jenkins, for not making plays on good passes and not keeping rallies alive on bad passes.
Trivunovic was upset after the match, and put her performance into simple terms.
“Tonight I had an off night,” Trivunovic said.
Ferreria said the team has to get used to playing tired, and can’t use that as an excuse when they don’t play well.
Despite her disappointment, Wrye-Washington said she still thinks her team has a chance to perform well at nationals.
“We have a great libero, we have a great setter, we have great outside hitters,” Wrye-Washington said. “We have all the components.”