COLUMBIA — They were nervous. They were tired. Their match was riddled with errors.
But the Columbia College Cougars managed to hold themselves together and beat Evangel University 3-0 to continue the volleyball team's best start since 2009.
Outside hitter Polina Severina said the team was nervous for this match because of how well Evangel has played so far this season. The Crusaders were 6-2 going into the match and were on a five-game winning streak entering Tuesday's game. That run included a win over No. 15 Viterbo University.
"That is a really good team," Severina said. "We didn't really know what to expect."
The team's nerves, along with the style of Evangel, resulted in a sloppy first two sets for the No. 9 Cougars. Coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said Columbia College was out of sync to start.
"They put you in a really bad situation," Wrye-Washington said. "That's how they're winning big games. They force you to make mistakes and make plays. We're not used to that."
Setter Lydie van Deursen said the team's struggles came from unforced errors. She said the team made dumb mistakes.
"We need more practice time," van Duersen said. "We need to communicate more on where the ball needs to be."
Despite the team's poor play, the Cougars won both sets 25-22 and went on to finish off the sweep. Wrye-Washington said one of the keys to the team's hot start is its experience and ambition.
"We have a solid core of returners that want to get better," Wrye-Washington said. "All of them are really driven."
Wrye-Washington said her team did show signs of fatigue during Tuesday's match. The Cougars had only one week of preseason practice to go along with starting the season with two tournaments and one match in 11 days.
"We haven't really had a lot of practice time," Wrye-Washington said. "We have had to put together a lot of stuff on the court during matches."
After Tuesday's match, the Cougars have a week off before their next match Sept. 9 against Missouri S&T. Van Deursen said although she is not fatigued, she thinks the break will be good for the team.
"We have some tough opponents coming up," including a match against No. 1 University of Texas-Brownsville, last year's national champion, on Sept. 13, van Deursen said. "We need to serve more aggressive and pass the ball."
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