COLUMBIA — The Columbia College volleyball team's senior day could have been called, "Tally Mattos Day." The libero from Brazil is the only senior on the Cougars this season, so Saturday's doubleheader against Williams Baptist was all about her.
As Mattos was being honored on the court before the game, her teammates presented her with a heap of gifts.
Columbia College finished at 16-0 in American Midwest Conference play after winning both matches of a doubleheader against Williams Baptist on Saturday at Southwell Complex.
The Cougars won the first match 25-15, 25-13, 25-17 and won the second match 25-18, 25-11, 25-17.
Paula Ferreira dominated for the Cougars with 40 assists in the first match and 29 in the second. She also had three kills in the first match and nine in the second.
Columbia College has not dropped a regular season match in the AMC since 2002, when they fell to Missouri Baptist.
The Cougars moved to 34-2 overall and now turn their focus to the conference tournament. They will host Stephens College at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the tournament quarterfinals.
"I just told the girls after the game that we are putting an end to this season, and there will be a different energy in the playoffs," Wrye-Washington said. "We are going to be ending people's seasons."
If the Cougars win the conference tournament, as they have for 20 of the past 21 seasons, they will receive an automatic bid to the national tournament that starts Nov. 30 in Sioux City, Iowa.
"I've never had a team go to the lengths that this team did for Tally," Cougars coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said. "That says a lot for what the team feels for Tally. I think they really love her as a person and as a teammate."
The team also decorated Mattos' locker and chair in the locker room with balloons, making it look like a throne for the senior.
Mattos quickly shifted her focus from pregame ceremonies to the match, as she led the back row for the Cougars in their two match sweep of Williams Baptist. She had 28 digs combined in the two matches.
Even though Columbia College was winning throughout both matches, Mattos did not let up. Mattos fell to the floor for any ball that she had even a remote chance at getting to, which set the tone for her team.
"She's not just a player, she's a competitor," Wrye-Washington said. "She really motivates the rest of the team to fire up if we are goofing around and they're scoring points they aren't supposed to, she's screaming at them."
Because of her hard work in the classroom, she can scream at the team in English. But speaking a foreign language hasn't been easy for her.
"When I came here, we had six Brazilians on the team, and my roommate was Brazilian, so I was speaking Portuguese all the time," Mattos said. "Now I can speak, and talk, and I think I'm getting better."
Wrye-Washington agreed, saying that Mattos' English is good when she is with the team. Wrye-Washington said Mattos just has to work on her confidence.
Mattos plans to stay in Columbia as an assistant coach next year while she finishes her degree. Then she will move back to her home country.
"I want to go back to Brazil and get a good job," Mattos said. "In Brazil, if you speak English, Portuguese and maybe Spanish, you can get a very good job."
Learning English was a big reason that Mattos came to Columbia College, but the volleyball team and her friends are what she said she will remember most.
"I'm going to miss everything, games, national tournament, even practice," Mattos said.
But the season is not over for the Cougars. They will host Stephens College at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. The national tournament starts Nov. 30 in Sioux City.
"I have this feeling it's going to be good, the nationals," Mattos said.