COLUMBIA — It was as if Erin Pavlin had forgotten what color jersey she was wearing. She had changed from her normal blue jersey into the white jersey of the libero, the leader of the back line, but hadn't taken on the responsibility of the position.
"Erin, you are the libero, take control," head coach Melinda Wrye-Washington told her.
Pavlin did just that, leading the back line for the Columbia College volleyball team in Games 2 and 3 against Harris-Stowe State.
With first-team All-Conference players such as libero Tally Mattos and setter Paula Ferreira getting most of the playing time during the season, backups on the Cougars don't get much of a chance to show off their skills.
But on Monday night in the Cougars' match against the Hornets, those All-Conference players, and other starters, received an early night off after an easy win in Game 1.
In the following two games, the reserves got some playing time and performed well in a 25-12, 25-12, 25-8 sweep of the Hornets. Still, it was obvious that Columbia College's starters were out of the game, as some passes missed the mark and hits were pushed wide.
"It's great to have depth, you have to have depth," Wrye-Washington said. "You never know whenever you are going to have to call on somebody on the roster to step up and play. The game experience is really important."
Pavlin, who normally gets substituted defensively, was called on to replace Mattos at libero after Game 1. She played libero in high school and could be the one to replace Mattos after this season.
"I'm the backup, the (defensive specialist) this year, the freshman learning a lot under Tally," Pavlin said. "I learn something new from her every day, along with coach. I'm still working to keep my spot and earn my playing time."
Pavlin made the most of her opportunity, notching four digs.
Wrye-Washington was talking more than usual during the match, using the opportunity to teach the reserves during the game.
She encouraged Pavlin to step up and assume the leadership role required of the libero.
"Another thing I need to work on is being more vocal, being a leader," Pavlin said. "Having that leadership on the court is very important for a libero to have."
Setter Chelsea Browner, defensive specialist Katie Silver and middle hitter Christy Sontag got into the match in the second game and were in the rotation from that point forward. Browner led the team with 15 assists. Sontag had four kills.
That gave the starters the opportunity to relax and enjoy watching their teammates play. Vesna Trivunovic, Mattos and Ferreira were laughing and joking throughout the second and third games.
The Cougars will take on McKendree on Wednesday with their normal starting lineup before taking five days off.