The Columbia College volleyball team set the record straight during its first match of pool play at the NAIA National Tournament.
After beating Missouri Baptist University twice in the regular season – including on Sept. 9 when the two-time defending national champion Spartans were ranked No. 1 in the country – the Cougars fell 3-1 to MBU in the American Midwest Conference Tournament championship on Nov. 12.
The tough title-match defeat inside the Southwell Complex dampened spirits after CC’s undefeated run through AMC action in the regular season and a perfect start to the league tournament, including sweeps over Lyon College and Stephens College to reach the final.
But the motivated Cougars didn’t have to wait long for a chance at redemption.
Just 18 days later, CC rolled to a 3-0 victory over MBU to open the national tourney in Sioux City, Iowa, as part of three consecutive postseason victories over ranked opponents.
“After beating Missouri Baptist twice during the regular season and then falling to them in the AMC championship match, the girls really took it upon themselves to raise their level of play, and their determination to be better after that was extremely noticeable,” said head coach Allison Jones-Olson. “At the national tournament, we were playing some of our best volleyball of the season.”
CC defeated No. 22 Ottawa University in the NAIA Opening Round on Nov. 19, then won its NAIA Tournament pool with victories over 12th-ranked MBU and ninth-ranked Viterbo University (Wisc.).
The Cougars (29-11) rode the wave of momentum to the national quarterfinals, where they lost to the eventual national champion, University of Jamestown (N.D.).
|FALL SPORTS IN REVIEW|
|Cougars volleyball headlined an impressive fall sports season at CC. Volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and cross country all reached their respective NAIA competitions with a total record of 61-18-5 (.756 winning percentage). In AMC play, they combined for a record of 25-1 (.962).|
CC is currently in position to win its sixth straight AMC President’s Cup as the top athletic department in the conference.
CC’s Rocket League eSports team won the Collegiate Rocket League Fall National Championship.
The Cougars were battle-tested from the start this season, playing four ranked opponents in their first six matches and opening the year with four losses in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Entering September, CC held a record of 2-7, a challenging situation the Cougars used as fuel.
“We faced some tough competition in Florida to start the season,” Jones-Olson said. “I was really happy with the way the girls turned things around from that and we were able to finish the season strong with some really impressive wins.”
The Cougars rattled off winning streaks of 10 and 14 matches, respectively, and went 10-0 against AMC opponents in the regular season.
Junior setter Luisa Ferreira was a guiding force, recording 1,483 assists on the season (10.75 per set) while playing in all 40 matches. The Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, native also finished with 481 digs and 43 aces.
“Luisa really stepped into more of a leadership role this season,” Jones-Olson said. “She was more vocal, she raised her level of play and she carried a big workload for us.”
CC raked in a plethora of conference accolades, with Jones-Olson being named AMC coach of the year, Kandace Cook honored as assistant coach of the year and right-side hitter Allana Capella (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) chosen as freshman of the year.
Capella, junior outside hitter Ellie Rockers (Jefferson City, Missouri) and graduate student middle hitter Danielle Prior (Sao Paulo, Brazil) joined Ferreira on the All-AMC first team. Sophomore middle hitter Abby Massengill (Lee’s Summit, Missouri) and sophomore outside hitter Sude Gundogan (Istanbul, Turkey) were All-AMC second-team selections.
“As the season progressed, we started to believe more in ourselves, which took our volleyball to another level,” Prior said. “We ended the season at a very important spot, proving not only to others but also ourselves what we are capable of doing.”
Cougar women’s soccer wins fourth straight AMC title
CC women’s soccer reached 17 victories for the sixth time under head coach John Klein, going undefeated in AMC action to secure its fourth straight regular-season conference title.
The Cougars (17-3-2, 8-0) won the AMC Tournament and never lost a match on their home field.
Their season ended with the program’s 10th all-time NAIA National Tournament appearance.
Senior defender Brooke Schneider (St. Charles, Missouri), senior forward Jewel Morelan (Wentzville, Missouri) and junior defender Emilia Zolesio Fernandez Blanco (Buenos Aires, Argentina) were selected to 2022 NAIA All-America teams.
Schneider was named to the second team, while Morelan and Zolesio Fernandez Blanco received honorable mentions.
Cougar men’s soccer wins AMC Tournament
CC men’s soccer won at least 15 matches for the fourth consecutive season under Klein, claiming the AMC Tournament championship and reaching the NAIA National Tournament.
The Cougars (15-4-3, 7-1) avenged their lone AMC loss of the season when they defeated 12th-ranked Williams Baptist University 2-0 in the league tournament final as part of an 11-match winning streak that extended into the 12th national tourney appearance in program history.
CC beat Indiana Wesleyan 3-1 in the NAIA first round before losing a heartbreaker in the second round, falling 2-1 to No. 5 Georgia Gwinnett on a goal with two seconds left in double overtime.
Five CC runners compete at NAIA meet
Alexander Dukes (Mexico, Missouri) was the AMC individual men’s champion for the fourth straight year – the first runner in conference history to achieve that feat – while Will Cherrington (Columbia, Missouri) was the AMC freshman of the year.
Dukes, Cherrington and junior Carter Brocato (Owensville, Missouri) each finished in the top 10 in the AMC meet at Cosmo Park in Columbia before Dukes’ 80th-place finish paced the CC trio and all other AMC runners at the NAIA National Championship in Tallahassee, Florida.
Junior Jada O’Donnell (St. Charles, Missouri) finished fifth in the AMC women’s meet to lead CC, followed by fellow juniors Emma Homfeldt (Jefferson City, Missouri) and Grace Brinkmann (Columbia, Missouri), who also earned all-conference honors. O’Donnell and Homfeldt advanced to nationals.
CC student-athletes honored as Scholar-Athletes
Nearly 30 CC fall student-athletes were recognized as 2022 Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
The recognition honors athletes who achieved at least a 3.5 cumulative grade-point average, appear on the eligibility certificate for their sport and have attended one full year at their institution.
The following are the Cougars’ fall 2022 NAIA Scholar-Athletes:
Women’s cross country
Men’s cross country