*Lydie van Deursen is a second-year transfer from Redlands Community college. An earlier version of the story misspelled her name and misstated her year.
COLUMBIA — The NAIA No. 2-ranked Columbia College volleyball team will face four teams this weekend, including No. 3 University of Texas at Brownsville, at the Hampton Inn Volleyball Classic.
Friday, Aug. 30
1 p.m. — Columbia College vs. Wiley College
7 p.m. — Columbia College vs. Georgetown College
Saturday, Aug. 31
11 a.m. — Columbia College vs. Evangel University
5 p.m. — Columbia College vs. University of Texas at Brownsville
Look for second-year setter Lydie van Deursen, a transfer from Redlands Community College in Okla., to be a major presence on the court this season. "She's the quarterback," head coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said.
Van Deursen also arrives as the leader of a team in the process of rebuilding. And with senior outside hitter Brooke Simpson out for the season with a torn ACL, the team's three other seniors will need to form an even stronger core. Senior libero Erin Pavlin looks forward to accepting a greater leadership role. Pavlin said that the biggest challenges for the team will be establishing ball control, team chemistry and game flow — techniques that generally develop over time — early in the season.
The Cougars have had to switch to a different defense without Simpson and adjust the offense without her presence. "She was controlling half of our court," Wrye-Washington said.
But Wrye-Washington is ready for the challenge and the competition doesn't intimidate her either. "I'm not a cookie-cutter coach," she said. "I like a competitive, challenging schedule, and that's what we have."
The Cougars are ranked No. 2 in the NAIA, and Pavlin — a four-year starter — said the challenge going into this weekend's tournament is focusing on each game as it happens. "Top five teams have a big ol' red target on their back," she said.
But losing isn't an option and beating the three visiting teams ranked below the NAIA top five this weekend will be especially important for the Cougars.
"Win or lose, within the top five, doesn't really matter. If you're in the top five going into nationals you're in a pretty good situation," Wrye-Washington said. "But if you lose matches to anybody below that, then you get yourself in a bad way."