Dawn Erickson might have trouble deciding on the best part of her Saturday: turning 21 or helping her team win a tournament on her home court.
But she said it was the latter.
“I couldn’t ask for a better present,” Erickson said.
The Columbia College Cougars swept through the two-day KMIZ/Best Western Classic, sweeping all five of their matches and winning each game by an average of 9.5 points. The closest any opponent came in a game was two points, and even then the Cougars reeled off seven straight points late in the game to make a six-point deficit a two-point lead.
“We can’t let these teams think they can play with us,” senior setter Tracie Ford said.
In the championship game, the Cougars defeated Iowa Wesleyan 3-0 (30-22, 30-19, 30-20), handing the Tigers their first loss of the tournament.
Columbia College held the Tigers to a hitting percentage of -.009 and hit .269 in the match.
“They’re a solid team and we rocked them,” coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said.
The Cougars played more consistently on day two of the tournament, reaching the 10-point mark in each game first all but once.
“We’re trained to jump on these teams early,” Erickson said.
The Cougars avoided the trap of letting up on a trailing opponent through most of the second day. Once Columbia College reached 20 points, the opposing teams got within seven points twice.
The Cougars earned a place in the championship game by vanquishing the University of Illinois-Springfield 3-0 (30-21, 30-21, 30-12) in the first semifinal game of the tournament. The Cougars recorded 17 blocks and 17 block assists in the match against the Prairie Stars.
“Right now Dawn (Erickson) and Shauna (Aubrey) are closing the blocks quick and letting us play one-on-one on the outside,” Wrye-Washington said. “However, that means Shauna and Dawn aren’t getting as many kills.”
The Prairie Stars were the only team at the tournament from the Cougars’ conference, the American Midwest. Columbia College defeated them twice in the tournament.
“Intimidation matters,” Wrye-Washington said. “You can win a lot of matches in the warm-ups and first five points.”
Before the Cougars begin conference play, they will face NCAA-Division II Truman State at 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Arena of Southwell Complex at Columbia College and will take part in the Graceland University Tournament the following weekend in Lamoni, Iowa.
“Truman State is the only D-2 college around here that will play us,” Wrye-Washington said. “So that’s a big rivalry.”
In its last game of round-robin play, Columbia College faced Missouri Valley College. The Vikings kept the score the closest until Game 3 of the match. The Cougars defeated the Vikings 3-0 (30-24, 30-28, 30-5), trailing 27-22 in Game 2 before reeling off seven straight points to reclaim the lead.
Game 3 was a different story, as the Cougars needed only five players to serve in the lopsided defeat. Junior defensive specialist Jenna Holdmeyer rang up 13 consecutive service points for the Cougars, giving her team a 20-1 lead.