COLUMBIA — In a sea of unhappy faces, Ola Shawky stood out.
Down 5-9 in the first game of their match Thursday night against Hannibal-LaGrange, most players on the Columbia College volleyball team looked nervous and upset, but Shawky's confidence wasn't shaken.
Missouri Baptist (20-16) at Columbia College (36-2)
WHEN: noon, Saturday
WHERE: Southwell Complex
And after she made three kills in a span of six points to put the Cougars up 11-9, her confidence was justified. With her ponytail bouncing as she jumped up and down, Shawky screamed to get her team excited.
The junior middle hitter didn't see any reason to get upset with her team down early.
"If you stop playing like you normally do, you will lose, and that isn't acceptable for Columbia College," Shawky said.
Shawky's early dominance led the Cougars to a 25-20, 25-14, 25-18 victory in the semifinals of the American Midwest Conference tournament. Her 12 kills were a season-high.
The Trojans focused their defense on the conference leader in kills, Vesna Trivunovic, which opened up opportunities for Shawky and Kelly Corkum to finish points.
"They focused their right side and middle on her, so I'm usually one-on-one with the blocker, and it gives me more shots to play," Shawky said.
And Shawky delivered on those shots.
"If they are going to key on her (Trivunovic), then great, we have two hitters who can put the ball down on the other side," Columbia College coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said.
Trivunovic was visibly upset throughout the match, slamming the floor with her hands and lowering her head in frustration after failed attempts to kill points. Despite the extra attention she was given by the Trojans' defense, she still wanted opportunities to put the ball down.
"An aggressive hitter like that doesn't care if they key on you," Wrye-Washington said. "She wants the ball. It doesn't matter if an eight-foot blocker is on the other side of the net."
But Columbia College found success when they stayed away from Trivunovic and fed the ball to Shawky and Corkum.
The Cougars wore special camouflage jerseys during the match to commemorate Veteran's Day. The team also wore them Tuesday when they played Stephens College in the tournament quarterfinals.
Shawky and the Cougars will return to action in the American Midwest Conference championship game against Missouri Baptist at noon on Saturday at Southwell Complex.