Volleyball trio plays final contest in Kornegay Arena tonight
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 2, 2005 2:01 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- The most-successful senior class in women's athletics history at Mount Olive College plays its final home match tonight against in-state rival Pfeiffer University at Kornegay Arena.
And what a career Heidi Busch, Colby Mangum and Sara Christie have had.
Volleyball hadn't received much recognition on campus and had earned little respect against NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference competition. In fact, the program had produced few winning seasons except for 1997 when it won the conference title.
Since the trio's arrival, the Trojans have risen from a middle-tier CVAC team to among the Atlantic region's elite. They've posted a school-record 105 career wins and counting; 63 conference wins and counting; most victories in a season (30, 2002) and so far most CVAC wins in a season (17, this year) -- just to name a few.
All that success has occurred despite two coaching changes and injuries too numerous to count.
"We have accomplished so much, broken so many records on the court and grown as individuals off the court," said Mangum, an outside hitter from Wilmington. "Our records speak for themselves and I believe having the success we have had despite some turbulence is an accomplishment within itself.
"There have definitely been some bumps in the road, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger ... although I know that I speak for all three of us (seniors) when there were times we wondered."
Mangum can't forget her freshman campaign when Mount Olive collected 30 wins and got shut out of the NCAA Atlantic Regional. None of the three seniors care to remember the next season, which ended on a heartbreaking loss in the CVAC Tournament semifinals. Once again, the NCAA denied extending the Trojans a postseason bid.
A slight improvement in non-conference competition helped Mount Olive bolster its NCAA resume last season. The Trojans played in weekend tournaments against teams from the perennially-strong Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, which led to much-needed region wins.
Although their appearance ended quickly, a 3-0 loss to Indiana (Pa.) University, the trio had added another accolade to their impressive collegiate careers.
"Going to regionals was incredible and hopefully we'll go this year, and make a better showing," said Mangum.
Mount Olive (24-6, 17-1 CVAC) experienced a significant obstacle in mid-September when Christie tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during practice. The Trojans had just three days to work with a new setter, freshman Mallory Peavler, and skepticism began entering their minds.
With Christie out, could they find a new rhythm and continue their sterling play? Peavler answered the challenge and led Mount Olive to key home wins as Christie rehabilitated her injury.
Christie stubbornly refused to accept a possible season-ending injury. The Champagne (Ill.) native wanted to graduate with Busch and Mangum.
"(When) I found out it was my ACL ... that was where a decision needed to be made," said Christie, who sustained an ACL injury as a sophomore, but finished out the season. "I had to really put things in order. I think most people, after hearing about my knee, assumed that my season was over. This made me want it even more.
"I've never been accused of being a sensible person when it comes to how bad I want something. I'm stubborn, so I made the decision that I would continue to play with a torn ACL."
Christie has been infallible since.
She's moved into the top 30 all-time on the NCAA Division II career assists list with 5,733. She holds the single-season assist record (1,666) and will depart as the career leader.
Remarkably, Christie's assists didn't frequently sail toward Busch on the outside this season. Opposing teams, aware of the two-time All-American's power, threw double blocks which forced the Trojans to become more flexible in their offense.
With Christie at the helm, Mount Olive has effectively used the slide kill and combinations from the middle to keep the focus off Busch. Still, the Ft. Wayne (Ind.) native has managed to rack up some impressive numbers during her four-year stint.
Busch ranks ninth all-time in NCAA Division II play with an astounding 2,359 kills. She is the first player in CVAC history to surpass the 2,000-kill mark and has -- undoubtedly -- rewritten the Mount Olive record books.
"I did not expect to be where I am now," said a modest Busch. "The biggest adjustment has been to have to overcome adversities. In high school, everything was pretty much laid out for me.
"Here we have had to adjust to new coaches, new styles of play, new players and overcoming injuries. Every year, it was something new, but we've made it."
None of the players can pinpoint exactly how their respective abilities have improved on the collegiate level. However, each said that learning from teammates, coaches and watching other teams provided initiative to improve their play.
But the trio's biggest contribution has been leadership. At times when the team has played to its opponent's level, they've been there to elevate the pace and turn the match in their favor.
"I've felt like we were expected to lead from our freshman year, not just as seniors and I think that I could not have asked for better people to learn to lead with," said Mangum. "Sara is a natural-born leader who motivates and Heidi leads by her example. I think that I balance somewhere in the middle and between the three of us, I'm really proud of the way I feel we lead this team."
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