Most top-ranked volleyball teams dominate lesser squads and play tighter matches against stiffer competition. Columbia College, the No. 3 team in the NAIA, is an exception.
The Cougars defeated No. 2 seed McKendree 30-16, 30-17, 30-10 Saturday to win their 12th consecutive American Midwest Conference Tournament title. The win came after allowing 62 points against the tournament’s fourth seed, Missouri Baptist.
“This is how we normally play against top-10 teams,” coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said. “Our fans just haven’t seen much of it because we haven’t played top-10 teams here at home.”
The Cougars will see higher-ranked competition at the Region V tournament Friday and Saturday at the Arena of Southwell Complex. Possible opponents include Central Methodist and Lindenwood, both of which defeated the Cougars on Oct. 2 at the Lindenwood Classic.
“We played not well against them so we’re looking forward to playing them,” senior setter Tracie Ford said.
The Cougars, who have a first-round bye, play in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday. If they win, they play at 1 p.m. Saturday in the championship match.
The Bearcats’ 43 points were the fewest the Cougars gave up in the AMC tournament. The Cougars had at least a six-point lead in every game and never relinquished it.
“Today we wanted to come out and play our game,” Ford said. “We wanted to come out and stomp whoever lined up on the opposite court against us.”
The Cougars started Game 1 with a 6-0 run and finished with 16 kills to the Bearcats’ five.
Freshman middle blocker Nancy Sikobe returned to the service rotation after being taken out halfway through the match against Missouri Baptist. Wrye-Washington said Sikobe’s increased playing time was a key.
“Part of our strategy was to limit Tricia Winters, whom they run about 75 percent of their offense through,” Wrye-Washington said. “Tricia didn’t like seeing Nancy out there because Nancy does such a good job of containing the middle.”
Sikobe finished with one block and the Cougars finished with 17, almost twice as many as they had in their first two tournament games combined.
“Our block was studly today,” Wrye-Washington said.
Senior outside hitter Jacqueline Makokha said the Bearcats’ passing was the key to Columbia College’s strong block.
“Their passes were not effective so we were able to anticipate where we needed to be to get the block,” Makokha said.
The Bearcats built a 5-4 lead in Game 2, but after a McKendree service error, the Cougars scored four straight points on tipped kills to open locations on the Bearcats’ side of the court.
McKendree forced a sideout to narrow the Columbia College’s advantage to 9-6 before recording another service error. The Cougars followed with three more tip kills to take a seven-point lead.
The lead went back and forth at the start of Game 3. After the Cougars’ forced a sideout with a 6-5 lead, sophomore outside hitter Doris Wefwafwa took over, serving 11 consecutive service points, including two aces, to give the Cougars an 18-5 advantage.
“I wanted to show them they weren’t coming back in the last game,” Wefwafwa said. “Plus, we’d overheard that our serving wasn’t good, so I wanted to show that it was.”