Everything seemed to be going according to plan late in Columbia College’s match with Missouri Baptist on Tuesday night at Southwell Arena.
The Cougars had coasted to easy victories in the first two games, and with a big lead late in Game 3, they seemed poised for another easy win.
They were wrong.
Thanks to Spartan outside hitter Marijana Stanic, No. 13 Columbia College was forced to sweat out a 30-5, 30-20, 32-30 American Midwest Conference win at Southwell Arena.
The Cougars improved to 28-6, 10-0 in the AMC, and the Spartans dropped to 10-5, 8-3.
“I knew we could pull it off,” Cougars defensive specialist Jenna Holdmeyer said. “Just maybe when was the question.”
Leading 22-14 in the third game, Stanic stepped behind the service line and nearly single-handedly brought Missouri Baptist back into the match. She served six straight points and four aces.
“When they start making consecutive points like that, you kind of get nervous and pull back the aggressiveness,” Cougars outside hitter Tracie Ford said. “I think that’s what hurt us.”
Stanic served from several feet behind the line, and Columbia College coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said that was difficult on the Cougars.
“That girl served from like the bleachers back there; she was like a mile away,” she said. “It’s so hard to pass that ball. I’ve been in that situation when I played at the University of Missouri; it’s hard to pass that ball.”
The Cougars recovered, but only after falling behind briefly at 26-25. Setter Nikolina Rastovac had three assists down the stretch, including one to Jacqueline Makokha that won it.
Ford put on a serving clinic in the first game, when she served 21 straight. Holdmeyer helped keep the run going with a great defensive play and Ford made a diving save. She had four aces during the run, and she finished with a team-high seven.
At one point, the public address announcer addressed her as “Acey Tracie.”
The run ended with the Cougars leading 28-5. Ford, who also finished with 13 digs and five blocks, said she was disappointed she didn’t close out the game.
“I started getting nervous,” she said. “The more I served, the more I was like, ‘I hope I don’t mess up now.’”
Outside hitter Doris Wefwafwa led the Cougars with 18 kills and Rastovac had 38 assists. Columbia College had 14 aces; the Spartans had eight.
Wefwafwa has been battling the flu since almost the beginning of the month. It forced her to take drastic measures in her first game back in Thursday’s win at William Woods.
“The first time I hit with one finger,” she said. “The hand has been off. Once the flu gets you down it breaks your mode of playing. Your form comes down.”
Wefwafwa has practiced once since then and said she was starting to feel stronger. That’s great news for Wrye-Washington, who can’t wait to get her team healthy.
“I think it’ll be good for us to practice together and get everyone out there,” she said. “This will be our first time actually having everybody on the court.”