COLUMBIA — She bends over, dribbles a few times, stops and throws the ball high into the air. When the ball comes down, she is ready to slam the volleyball across the other side of the net. Ace.
Vesna Trivunovic pumps her fist and lets out a little smile before continuing to her next serve.
The Columbia College volleyball team's win against Freed-Hardeman on Saturday was more than just another W for the Cougars. It was coach Melinda Wrye-Washington’s 458th, giving her the most victories all-time among Columbia College volleyball coaches.
“I am happy that we have such a great sports information department, because I don’t count,” Wrye-Washington said of her statistics.
After 11 seasons, Wrye-Washington surpasses her former coaches, Wayne and Susan Kreklow, with a 460-57 mark.
“I’ve always been a really competitive player. Even when I was a player, they taught me everything else, the what it takes to get where you need to go,” Wrye-Washington said of the Kreklows.
Combined with her 72-19 record as coach at Westminster College, Wrye -Washington also has the best winning percentage among active NAIA volleyball coaches at .874.
Since the Freed-Hardman match Saturday, Wrye-Washington has added two more wins to her record and looks to add more at the Grandview University Tournament this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa.
— Kelsie Heneghan
The senior is in just her second year of playing for Columbia College but has become one of the Cougars' best servers and net players. Trivunovic, a transfer from Lake Land Community College in Mattoon, Ill., who is from Serbia, is already sixth on the all-time kills list but says she doesn’t pay attention to her stats.
“If I do bad, and I know I’m going to do bad. I don’t have to look at it," Trivunovic said. "I know how many balls I hit out and how many times they miss my balls, so I don’t have to look at it.”
Her coach, Melinda Wrye-Washington, said she thinks her power comes from her “quick arm and explosiveness of the core.” Wrye-Washington describes Trivunovic as heavy-handed, a volleyball term for players with strong arms.
Trivunovic is competitive and even admits to getting mad at players when they make mistakes, but she knows she must move on.
During Tuesday’s 25-14, 25-9, 25-3 victory against Hannibal-LaGrange, Trivunovic’s teammate, Ola Shawky, bumped a ball on top of a folded basketball goal.
“I was mad at her, and I think everyone was, but we get over it. There is nothing to say,” Trivunovic said.
Trivunovic then took it upon herself to save the play and bump the ball over the net as soon as it returned from bouncing on the backboard.
“Vesna is a very competitive player, and she thinks that she has a lot of responsibility toward our team, so I think that makes her kind of a leader,” Shawky said.
One of her biggest assets as a leader is her communication skills, even with her thick Serbian accent.
“She talks to everyone and not just her Serbian friends,” senior middle hitter Nicole Murphy said. "She talks to them in Serbian, and then she can just turn around and talk to another foreign person and just be best friends with them. She can talk to an American, and she knows English very well, so she can communicate with everybody really well.”
Trivunovic will talk to anyone around her, but when she messes up, she says you don’t want to know how she feels. Fortunately for her teammates, Trivunovic doesn’t mess up often and she’s quick to move on.
At match point of Tuesday’s game, Trivunovic steps to the line to serve. She does her usual routine and gets the ace to win the game. As she comes together with her teammates to cheer, Trivunovic smiles, knowing she has taken care of her responsibility. She helped her teammates win.