When the Columbia College volleyball team travels to Lamoni, Iowa, this weekend it is probably not looking for an exciting time.
Lamoni boasts a Pizza Shack, a Dairy King and not much else, meaning the Cougars are traveling there to play in the Graceland University Invitational. The tournament has attracted some of the toughest competition in the nation.
“We’re going to have to find something to do there besides win,” Columbia College volleyball coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said.
The Cougars (6-1), the No. 2 team in the NAIA rankings, will be the top seed at the tournament. Other teams competing for the title include No. 4 National American of Rapid City, S.D., No. 6 Houston Baptist and No. 9 Dickinson (N.D.) State.
Cougars’ players said the high level of competition will make an injury to outside hitter Jacqueline Makokha more of a hindrance. Makokha sprained her rightankle in Tuesday’s loss to Truman State.
“It’s very important to show we don’t rely on one player,” senior setter Tracie Ford said. “We don’t usually roll over and die like we did (Tuesday night) and we need to show that to these teams.”
Wrye-Washington said Makokha will not practice and might not play on the first day of the tournament. Columbia College will open at 3:30 p.m. Friday against St. Francis of Joliet, Ill., and plays at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Culver-Stockton of Canton, Mo.
Wrye-Washington said Makokha will definitely play on Saturday if the Cougars qualify for the tournament’s playoffs.
“In past years, it was really important for us to win this tournament,” Wrye-Washington said. “This year, because we’ve toughened up our schedule, it isn’t as crucial.”
The 16 team tournament has only 15 teams this year because one team dropped out. Each team plays three round-robin games on Friday except for the Cougars, St. Francis and Culver-Stockton because of the dropout.
If the seeds hold out and the Cougars win their pool, Saturday they will face Dickinson State, which successfully recruited Nancy Nyongesa, a freshman outside hitter who competed in the Olympics for Kenya and considered playing for Columbia College.