COLUMBIA — "Be cheerful and tell your teammates good job after every play."
Written on the board in the Columbia College volleyball team's locker room before its American Midwest Conference tournament opener Wednesday at the Arena at Southwell Complex, the words showed up on the court in a 25-10, 25-13, 25-10 victory against Benedictine-Springfield.
"The bench read into that like, OK we need to be excited so they (the starters) do good, so they're hyper and they're hyped up, so they do good and so we kind of fed off each other," senior Nicole Murphy said.
The Cougars cheered loudly for each other after every kill and every block. They especially were heard in the second set when libero Aleah Hayes returned a ball so forcefully she fell flat on her back in the process. Paula Ferreira was there with the set and outside hitter Serena Jenkins smacked the ball down for the kill.
"What was going through my head was, 'This ball better be perfect to the setter, and I don't care what I look like getting that ball there, but that it was going to get up and get into Paula's hands,' " Hayes said.
Coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said because her players are beginning to trust each other, she wants them to cheer for one another, too, leading to the encouragement to be "cheerful."
"You have to have that teamwork, I mean everybody talks about teamwork, I know it sounds kind of goofy, but you have to have that teamwork at the upper level to be successful," Wrye-Washington said.
This victory puts the Cougars into the tournament semifinals. They will take on William Woods at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Arena of Southwell Complex. Columbia College won both regular season matches against the Owls.
"We just have to keep a strong mental focus on the game and not letting up at any point," Hayes said. "No lead is too big."