Rock Bridge senior signs on with Cougars volleyball

Thursday, February 16, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:33 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Columbia College volleyball coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said she has known Kristen Stevens since the Rock Bridge senior was in ninth grade. The two worked together many times at summer camps and local volleyball clubs such as Club COMO and Vipers 18. Stevens also job-shadowed the coach for a school assignment when she was a freshman. Wrye-Washington said Stevens sat next to her on the bench and learned firsthand what it was like to be a coach. Stevens will return to that bench next year as a player on Wrye-Washington’s team.

The pair were together Wednesday at Rock Bridge to formally announce the beginning of their coach-athlete relationship. Family and friends of Stevens gathered with them in at the school to support Stevens decision to accept a volleyball scholarship to Columbia College.

Stevens has played volleyball for three years at Rock Bridge and was the team’s first libero, a defensive specialist. Rock Bridge volleyball coach Beth Newton said that Stevens was “probably the hardest worker on our team,” which was one of the reasons Wrye-Washington was interested in Stevens.

“She just never quits,” Wrye-Washington said. “When you have a player like that, it sets an example for the rest of the team.”

Stevens said she is excited to play at Columbia College but a little sad about leaving her teammates. She said the group has grown close, noting that one of the players decorated all of the team members lockers for Valentine’s Day. Stevens said that none of her former teammates will be accompanying her to Columbia College but that she does expect to see some of them on the opposite side of the net next year.

Stevens also recognizes that volleyball at the college level will be more intense.

“There will be a higher level of competition,” she said. “So I know I’ll have to pick it up.”

Minutes before signing an agreement to play for the Cougars, Stevens blushed as Wrye-Washington recounted how far Stevens has come as a player.

The young volleyball player had come to her, frustrated because her coach at the time thought she was only powerful enough to serve underhanded. Washington told Stevens to hold the ball above her head and throw it over the net. When Stevens did so, Wrye-Washington said, “See, you’re strong enough to get it over the net.” It was only a matter of time before Stevens began serving overhanded in games.

It’s moments like this that makes Wrye-Washinton confident that Stevens will succeed at Columbia College.

“She has the athletic skill, ability, and a drive that will be an asset on the court and in the classroom,” Wrye-Washington said. “If someone tells her she can’t, she just tries harder. So maybe (next year) somebody will tell her she can’t.”

— Megan Greiner

MU WRESTLING: Junior Matt Pell was named Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week for the week of Feb. 13.

Pell beat No. 9 Travis Paulson of Iowa State 6-2, which helped lead the Tigers’ upset of the No. 7 Cyclones. Pell is ranked No. 5 at 165 pounds for a Tigers squad that is ranked No. 10 in the nation. He is 27-3 this season.

MU MEN’S GOLF: The Tigers finished fourth at the Matlock Classic at the Grasslands Golf and Country Club in Lakeland, Fla. They finished seven shots behind winner Florida Southern.

Senior Ben Scott tied for second in the individual standings with a three round total of 219. Junior Shawn Jasper tied for 15th (225), and senior Chris Mabry finished tied for 19th (226).

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