COLUMBIA — On Friday, Stephens head volleyball coach Rose Obunaga stepped off a plane after a nine-hour flight from western Kenya.
After spending the last week in her African hometown to attend her mother's funeral, she now had to shift her focus back to the gym. There was a special match to prepare for.
In the fall of 2005, Rose Obunaga transferred from Central Methodist University to play volleyball for Melinda Wrye-Washington at Columbia College. That season the Cougars went 41-5 and were the runners-up in the National NAIA Tournament. Under Wrye-Washington, Obunaga was named to the national tournament's all-tournament team, earned NAIA All-American honors and American Midwest Conference Academic All-Conference honors.
Now she was about to play her former team and coach as the Stars' first-year coach.
Long-time Cougars fan Barbara Warn watched Monday night's game in excitement. She said she could vividly remember the days when Obunaga was on the court in a navy blue and silver Cougars' jersey.
"It's fabulous to watch Rose out there again," Warn said. "She has so much to offer those ladies with her experience, on and off of the court."
Wrye-Washington had similar praise for her former player.
"The team looks better than it has in the past," Wrye-Washington said. "She's done a great job so far and will be a good, fundamental coach."
Despite losing to Columbia College 25-8, 25-6, 25-13, the Stephens coach said she enjoyed playing against her former team.
"It's interesting playing against your old coach," Obunaga said. "I remember when I used to have fun playing for her, and now I'm on the other side of it."
Obunaga said that even though she only played one season under Wrye-Washington, she learned a lot about playing and coaching the game from her.
"She's a really good, smart coach," Obunaga said. "I respect her, and I continue to learn from her."
Stephens will play its next match against Missouri Baptist at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Silverthorne Arena.
The Cougars are set to take on Park University at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Arena of Southwell Complex.