Cougars overcome early jitters

Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:44 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

After her team’s victory against Lindenwood University on Wednesday, Columbia College volleyball coach Melinda Wrye-Washington had a lot to say about the play of her team.

“This happens every year, we never play well in the first game of the season,” Wrye-Washington said. “Maybe we should start the season with an easier opponent.”

The Cougars defeated the Lions 3-1 (28-30, 30-19, 30-27, 30-19) at The Arena of Southwell Complex in their first match of the season.

Wrye-Washington pointed to Columbia’s serving and defense as two areas Lindenwood (4-1) was able to attack.

“Our blocks were closing slow which led to our back hitters filling the gaps,” Wrye-Washington said.

“That enabled Lindenwood to hit a bunch of underhand shots that dropped.”

Lindenwoodscored 57 points in the first and third games, despite netting only 12 kills.

“A lot of those shots were just bad luck,” senior outside hitter Tracie Ford said. “It sounds awful to say that, but they were a scrappy team and that’s how they got a lot of their points.”

Columbia College also struggled with its serve, giving the Lions 12 free points on service errors and making only nine aces.

“Our serving was pitiful in the sense that we weren’t aggressive enough,” Wrye-Washington said. “We weren’t making mistakes but we weren’t attacking them, and aggressive serving helped get us to the title game last year.”

Despite the less-than-positive review Wrye-Washington had after the match, the coach said she wasn’t worried about her team’s play.

“These were just opening-night jitters,” she said. “None of this stuff will be a problem as the season progresses.”

The Cougars responded to the first-game loss with a 5-0 run in the second game, and they closed out the Lions with a 10-4 run.

“We just knew we had to step it up,” senior middle blocker Shana Aubrey said. “We couldn’t play down to their level anymore.”

The third game remained close throughout, with the Cougars’ largest lead coming at 25-19 after freshman middle blocker Nancy Sikobe slapped a weak return from the Lions to the vacant left side of the Lions’ half of the court.

The Lions rallied back withhelp from some bad communication by the Cougars, resulting in several plays where two Columbia College players tried to dig the ball at the same time and ended up shanking it out of bounds. Columbia College closed out the game with sophomore outside hitter Doris Wefwafwa’s block.

In Game 4, Columbia College opened a comfortable lead on four straight service points by senior outside hitter Jacqueline Makokha to go ahead 23-15. After that, Lindenwood never got closer than four points and Makokha said the Lions looked like they gave up.

“I am trained not to stop until the last play is over,” Makokha said. “But it looked like they kind of gave up toward the end.”

The Cougars play the Lions again at 1 p.m. Friday to open this weekend’s Best Western/ KMIZ Classic, at The Arena of Southwell Complex.

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