Headed to the Championship: Volleyball team shares secrets to outstanding season
MVNU Lady Cougars will enter the NAIA Crossroads League Tournament finals this Saturday after an almost-perfect season. Taking Goshen College in the quarterfinals with a 3-0 victory, the team advanced to the semifinals with enthusiasm. Wednesday’s semifinal match against Grace College ended in a 3-1 victory.
The Lady Cougars are now gearing up to take on Indiana Wesleyan University on Saturday. IWU is the only team to defeat the Lady Cougars this season.
MVNU coach Paul Swanson said his Lady Cougars have surprised everyone.
“They have definitely overachieved,” Swanson said. “They have gone above and beyond. It has been awesome to watch them go from underdogs to 32-1. It has been very impressive.”
So what is the secret to the Lady Cougars’ success? Swanson attributes the incredible season to a mixture of three things.
First, Swanson credited strong leadership from his returning players, who have worked hard to improve this season. He also recognized the strong class of freshmen who continue to meet his expectations.
But most of all, the Lady Cougars have truly become a family, Swanson said.
“We have exceptionally good team dynamics and cohesion,” Swanson said. “They love to do everything together — practice, compete, travel, encourage one another and do devotions. The team chemistry is very strong.”
Freshman Emily Rahe agreed. “It may sound cliché, but this team really is a family,” she said.
For those looking on, the family environment is evident in the constant encouragement and joy exhibited by the Lady Cougars. From praying with one another during chapel to eating and laughing together in the cafeteria, the Lady Cougars have become an unbreakable unit.
The upperclassmen are extremely proud of the chemistry the team has developed. Lone senior Marlowe Beatty said she has made it her personal mission to lead by encouraging and supporting her team.
“As the only senior, I think the biggest pressure is that I want to be a positive leader for my team,” Beatty said. “I want to encourage and challenge them on and off the court.”
Rahe said the welcoming environment created by Beatty and the other upperclassmen has played a big part in developing team unity.
“Coming into this team is like nothing I have ever experienced,” Rahe said. “There is no selfishness. Everyone wants everyone to play their best, and our main goal is to glorify God every time we play.” The team claims another secret to their success is coach Swanson.
The players hold him in the highest regard and attribute much of their achievements to his leadership and coaching. Beyond his contagious love and expertise of the game, he reminds his players of the long-term priority of their faith over the present importance of a match.
“We are extremely blessed to have such an amazing coach,” Beatty said. “Coach Swanson is one of the best men I know. He always reminds us that, ultimately, our faith is the most important thing.”
Junior Carolyn Beatty said Swanson is a great motivator who the players don’t want to let down.
“We want to make him proud,” she said.