COLUMBIA — Playing from behind is not something the Columbia College volleyball team is used to doing. However, for much of the first set of Thursday's match against William Woods, the team struggled to keep pace.
The Owls earned 15 points from unforced Columbia College errors. Missed serves, hitting errors and shanked returns plagued the Cougars throughout the first set of the semifinal match of the American Midwest Conference tournament.
Thanks to timely kills by Kahoriz Feliz, Carol Berger and Kelly Corkum, Columbia College was able to come back and win the first set 25-21. Feliz ended the night with a team-high 13 kills, Berger with nine and Corkum with eight.
In the second set, the Cougars began to look a little more like themselves, playing with fewer errors. Serving did prove to be a weak point, though. Five serves were missed during the set.
Columbia College went on to win the second set 25-13 and third set 25-11.
Cougars coach Melinda Wrye-Washington was less than impressed with her team's play at the beginning of the game. The team's poor ball-handling choices were uncharacteristic and frustrating.
"I told them to quit trying to be an all-world team," Wrye-Washington said, describing her exchange with the team during the timeout halfway through the first set. "They were trying to do too much. They needed to settle down."
Senior setter Paula Ferreira agreed that the team was overly ambitious at the beginning of the match.
"You have to take it one point at a time," Ferreira said. "Or else you get anxious."
Wrye-Washington looked at Thursday's match, as well as Tuesday's win over Stephens College, as preparation for Saturday's AMC championship match. She said that being the No. 1 seed gave the Cougars a good opportunity to adjust to the pressure.
After all, they don't want a repeat of last season's AMC championship match.
Missouri Baptist University swept the Cougars in three sets in 2011, winning 25-23, 25-18, and 25-23.
"We didn't play at all," Ferreira said of the heartbreaking loss. "I spent the whole day in bed afterwards, just thinking."
She recalled how disappointing the event had been for herself and the entire team, vowing not to let history repeat itself.
The Cougars have two days to prepare for the championship match, in which they will take on Park University — a team that they have dropped sets to in both games earlier this season.
The Columbia College players are confident that they have what it takes to win back the AMC title that has been theirs 22 times in the past 25 years.
"It's what we do at Columbia College," Corkum said. "We win."
The No. 1-seeded Cougars will host the No. 3-seeded Park University in the AMC Championship at noon Saturday.