Tuesday night’s American Midwest Conference quarterfinal featured possibly the most nerve-racking 29-point game in the history of college volleyball.
Late in the second game of Columbia College’s 30-10, 30-1, 30-2 victory against Harris-Stowe at Southwell Arena, Cougars outside hitter Tracie Ford stood behind the service line, the same spot she had been since the game’s first serve. Ford had served all of Columbia College’s 29 points, and with one more she would have a perfect game.
Then, Carrie Wells intervened.
Wells, an outside hitter, picked a fine time to come up with her only kill. She knocked a Nikolina Rastovac lob back at Rastovac, who deflected it to the sidelines. Ford raced up from her spot in the back to make a play, but she couldn’t get there in time.
The ball fell to the floor, ending hopes of perfection.
“I just (was) praying that I got there,” Ford said. “It didn’t and it hit and it got through at one point. It was disappointing.”
Said Dawn Erickson, a Cougars hitter: “30-1 is not bad, but it’s disappointing as far as we couldn’t hand her the perfect 30-0. But regardless, we’re completely so proud of her. That’s something you don’t see a lot of.”
The No. 11 Cougars (34-6) have won 10 straight matches, including two in less than a week against Harris-Stowe. Columbia College hosts Illinois-Springfield in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Harris-Stowe finishes 0-22.
The tension around the arena began to increase about midway through the second game when Ford had served nine aces. Several of her serves dropped in front of defenders.
“She didn’t start in Game 1,” Cougars coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said. “But Game 2, we decided, OK, it’s time for Tracie.”
With the Hornets seemingly helpless to stop Ford, perfection became more of a distinct possibility.
“Once it started getting about 19, we started looking at each other like, ‘Hey, this could be 30-0,’” Erickson said.
Ford moved closer and closer. Two Hornets errors made it 28-0, and a Jaime Diestelkamp kill left Ford in need of one more. It wasn’t to be.
“You were just hoping that nothing would roll off the block the wrong way, which it did in the end,” Ford said. “But 30-1 is pretty amazing for a rally score.”
After the game, a teammate gave her a congratulatory slap on the back of the right leg, leaving an purple imprint. Ford said she had no idea who slapped her.
It didn’t slow her down in Game 3, though, for she served 26 straight. Her numbers for the match: 56 total serves good for 54 points and 17 aces. She also had nine digs.
The start of the match was delayed 30 minutes when Harris-Stowe was late. Wrye-Washington had her team running for 30 minutes before the game, and after allowing 10 points in the first game, she set a goal for her team to not to give up more than five points. For every ball that hit the floor, more running would be on the way.
Ford helped assure that no additional running would be necessary.
“It was an accomplishment keeping them that low, having them so close to 30-0 and being able to serve that many in a row,” she said.