COLUMBIA — As usual, Columbia volleyball won when it met Stephens on Monday at Columbia College.
Unusually, however, the score included a Stars victory.
Stephens won the first set, but Columbia came back to win the match 23-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-17.
The Cougars, ranked No. 2 by the NAIA coaches, came in confident, but confusion early in the match threw off the team.
After an early rotation violation resulted in a Stars point, the Cougars struggled to get organized. Columbia coach Melinda Wrye-Washington took responsibility for the error.
"First time in 17 years of coaching I've ever messed up a lineup sheet," Wrye-Washington said. "I really messed it up good."
The team, missing some of its strong leaders to injury, took a while to find a rhythm.
"I think we hit a point of panic," Columbia senior Trinity Ojo said. "And sometimes I've noticed when we hit a point of panic that we kind of implode a little bit."
Stephens, on the other hand, was all smiles. The young team looked relaxed and continued to motivate each other regardless of the Cougars' shaky start. They took a seven-point lead. The Cougars attempted to rally, but the Stars took the first set 25-23.
It was the first time Columbia dropped a set to Stephens in the past five seasons.
"We came in thinking that it was going to be a fast game," said Stephens junior setter Samantha Phegley. "I think the fact that we wanted to come in and play and have fun is what really made us play well tonight."
A fast first game did not materialize, and the Stars continued their pace well into the second set. They almost won another set but fell to the Cougars 25-23.
Still, the Stars strategy was enough to throw off the Cougars.
"It was so simple that we couldn't play against it," she said.
Their strategy, according to Stephens coach Rose Obunaga, was to not worry about their performance and just play their hearts out.
"This does give them confidence," Obunaga said. "And I hope that confidence will help them win again."
Stephens will get another chance to beat Columbia when the teams have a rematch Oct. 2 at Stephens.