There is one American Midwest Conference team left with a perfect conference record: Columbia College.
It took the Cougars two matches to outlast everyone.
Columbia College defeated McKendree 30-27, 30-26, 30-22 Wednesday night at the Arena of Southwell Complex, leaving the Cougars (12-1) as the top team in the conference at 2-0.
The No. 2 Cougars play Williams Baptist (4-8, 0-2) in their next conference match at 5 p.m. today in Columbia.
The Bearcats (4-10, 2-1) kept the match close in the first two games by pressuring the Cougars into mistakes. There were several instances in the first two games where a Bearcat attack neatly dropped between two motionless Cougars players. In the second game the pace was hectic enough to cause a collision between senior setter Tracie Ford and senior outside hitter Jacqueline Makokha.
“Their offense causes miscues like that,” coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said. “The only mistake we made was not serving aggressively enough early on.”
Of the Cougars’ 15 aces in the match all but five came in the last game. Columbia College also made 15 service errors, including one on the match’s first play by junior middle blocker Renee Zimmerman.
Wrye-Washington said the Bearcats were nearly flawless in the first two games.
“The margin of error against them is very large because of the offense they run,” Wrye-Washington said. “But in those first two games they made no mistakes.”
The Cougars played without freshman outside hitter Nancy Sikobe, who sat out her second consecutive match with a strained left calf. Junior Tracy Branson, normally a back-up setter, took Sikobe’s place and recorded nine kills with a hitting percentage of .389.
“(Branson) has really started coming around,” Wrye-Washington said. “At this point I don’t know if I would play Nancy instead.”
Sophomore outside hitter Doris Wefwafwa led the Cougars with 18 kills. Makokha, playing on an injured right ankle, added 11.
“I knew I would have to carry Nancy and (Makokha),” Wefwafwa said. “That’s why I played so aggressively. I’m surprised I only had 18 kills.”
Senior Shana Aubrey said there was another reason the Bearcats stayed close.
“We underestimated them,” Aubrey said. “But eventually we pulled up our socks and got the job done.”
The largest stretch of Cougars dominance came in the third game, when the Cougars went on a 12-2 run.