By, Colbi Howser Communications and Sports Information Intern
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Full Schedule | Bracket) For the fourth time in program history the Cougars of No. 4 Columbia (Mo.) took home the title, sweeping higher ranked Missouri Baptist, 3-0, in the final of the 2015 NAIA Volleyball National Championship.
Conference rivals in the American Midwest Conference, the two teams have only met in the national Championship once in 2005 resulting in a Cougar win, 3-1.
Outside hitter Penny Liu was named the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball National Championship Most Valuable player for her play at the event. The Nanjing, China native tallied 75 kills ranking her 11th in the national championship.
As a team Columbia ended the night hitting .308 with 44 kills and a team national championship high 13.5 blocks, while Missouri Baptist was limited to a .156 attack percentage. The final set ended 25-21.
“We worked all year to overcome a lot of things,” said Columbia head coach Melinda
Wrye-Washington. “We went through a lot of peaks and valleys, a lot of roller coaster rides, through injuries and sickness to make it here tonight.”
In set two, it was a close battle with neither team significantly pulling ahead, Missouri Baptist took a four point lead against the Cougars, but Columbia came roaring back in the end to take a four point advantage ending the match with a block against the Spartans.
“This group persisted, they never gave up on each other. Their character in practice and the ability to invest in everything they did, physically, mentally and emotionally and invest in their training and have the character to persist through everything that happened to them over the season.”
Mallory Dillon and Haley Pouliezos were both named to the National Championship All-Tournament Team for their performance throughout the week. Both players were a bright spot for a Missouri Baptist team appearing in their first title match. Junior Pouliezos registered a match-high 19 digs to help her team to 53 total digs on the night and also captured National Tournament Libero of the Year honors.
With the loss, Missouri Baptist ends the year with a 39-5 record.
“We have so many new players on the roster. The investment aspect of this team is one I have never had in coaching,” Coach Wrye-Washington said. “They have invested in each other and I am in awe of each one of them for being able to do that.”
2015 NAIA Volleyball National Championship All-Tournament Team
Alyssa Mason, Biola (Calif.)
Sierra Porter, College of Idaho
Sashiko Heredia, Columbia (Mo.)
Polina Severina, Columbia (Mo.)
Lauren Schneidtmiller, Georgetown (Ky.)
Logan Drueppel, Hastings (Neb.)
Carol Siqueira, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)
Makenzie Montano, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)
Priscilla O’Dowd, Midland (Neb.)
Mallory Dillon, Missouri Baptist
Haley Pouliezos, Missouri Baptist
Sarah McKinney, Vanguard (Calif.)
Jennifer Krentz, Viterbo (Wis.)
Natalie Geidel, Viterbo (Calif.)
Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball National Championship Most Valuable Player: Penny Liu, Columbia (Mo.)
Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball National Championship Coach of the Year: Melinda
Wrye-Washington, Columbia (Mo.)
NAIA Volleyball National Championship Team Champions of Character: Biola (Calif.)