By Erik Shull
The MVNU Lady Cougars volleyball team has started the 2012 season behind the leader- ship of its five strong seniors. However, the impact of these women can be seen on more than just the volleyball court.
MVNU’s seniors – Lauren Percival, Paige Hagans, Kaylee Hewitt, Haley Nofzinger and Gina Porto – will be missed in the years to come, not only for their skills on the court, but for their positive attitudes and leadership skills as well.
Gina Porto, from Tipp City, Ohio, leads the team in attacks this season with a percentage of .340.
She also has the team lead in blocks with 36 so far for the season.
Choosing MVNU was not an easy decision for Porto.
“As a senior in high school, I had never heard of MVNU, but as my college search got desperate, I turned to Google to expand my options,” Porto said. “I found a couple Christian schools in Ohio and emailed the volleyball coaches. I guess Coach Swanson liked me, and he was pretty much the reason I decided to com- mit to coming to MVNU.”
Porto has been a friend to her fellow players and talks about her experience as a col- lege athlete.
“It has been a better college athletic experience than I could have ever dreamed for myself,” Porto said. “The Lord sure knew what he was doing when he brought me to MVNU and to the volleyball team.”
Porto plans on graduating in December and traveling over- seas to do mission work in the spring.
Her long-term plans involve working in health care and attending further schooling to become a physician’s assistant.
Porto’s experience at MVNU would not have been the same without the friend
ships that she made during her years on the volleyball team.
“Every girl on my team is a best friend and sister,” Porto said. “They bless me every day, and I definitely share a lot more with them than a sport. I love them all more than they will ever know.”
Lauren Percival, from Elyria, Ohio, leads the team in assists with 2,862 in her career. Percival came to MVNU for one purpose.
“Honestly, I came to play volleyball,” Percival said. “My older sister played volleyball here, and I knew Coach Swanson was a great coach, and I wanted to play for him. I liked the small Christian cam- pus. It was an added bonus that MVNU has a great sci- ence program and that was the field I wanted to enter.”
Percival’s future plans involve attending graduate school to become a physician’s assistant.
“I am in the process of applying to schools now, so fingers crossed, I will be con- tinuing my education in the fall,” Percival said.
Percival is the current floor captain of the team, and even
with this leadership role, she has not forgotten her team- mates and the impact that they have made on her.
“I would say to all of my senior teammates that I have loved every moment we have played together. I have been so privileged to be able to play alongside them,” Percival said. “Time has flown by, and I wish them the best of luck in the future. I will always be there if they ever need me.”
Paige Hagans, from West Salem, Ohio, is in only her sec- ond season on the team, but she has cherished every moment. She originally came to MVNU because of the Christian environment but didn’t expect to play any college sports. She doesn’t regret join- ing the volleyball team though.
“I am beyond blessed that God opened up this door,” Hagans said. “My teammates and Coach Swanson are all amazing people and a joy to be around.”
Hagans’ future plans are undecided as of now; however, she wants to make a difference with her career.
“I would like to work in the field of accounting,” Hagans
said. “I would like to work with an organization that is in business for a cause about which I am also passionate.”
Even though Hagans is fairly new to the team, her fellow teammates have welcomed her openly.
“(Paige) is an incredible girl, and I just love having her on the team,” said fellow senior Kaylee Hewitt.
Kaylee Hewitt, from Alanson, Mich., leads the team in digs per game with an aver- age of 3.9. Hewitt first heard of MVNU through her mom.
“I came across MVNU when I was looking for a school to play volleyball at,” Hewitt said. “I knew I wanted to play NAIA, but had never heard of MVNU. I decided to come visit MVNU after my mom recognized Coach Swanson’s name on the web page. She had played for him on an Athletes in Action trip in Japan. It is a small world!”
Hewitt’s future plans are still in question; however, she is open to whatever God has in store for her.
“I have always felt a call to go into missions, and I am praying about teaching
abroad,” Hewitt said. “The beauty of being in education is I can teach anywhere. My plan is to follow wherever God calls me.”
Hewitt’s love of volleyball is matched with her love of her teammates and friends.
“I have been blessed to have spent four years with Gina, Lauren and Haley,” Hewitt said. “It has been amazing to see how their lives have changed so much over the
four years and they are all fab- ulous individuals. We were also blessed to have Paige join the team, and I will say it has been wonderful getting to know her on a deeper level.”
Haley Nofziger, from Wauseon, Ohio, knew that she belonged at MVNU after meeting the coach and team before her freshman year.
“Coach took me in from the first day I visited, and I knew great things would happen on and off the court,” Nofziger said. “My faith, skills in volley- ball and school have grown so much since freshman year. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Nofziger plans on moving to Columbus after graduation.
“I have hopes of getting a retailing job for experience and then gradually working my way into becoming a bridal con- sultant for a career,” Nofziger said. “But whatever God plans, I’ll follow in pursuit.”
She has grown close to her teammates throughout her four years as a Cougar.
“Every year we grow as a family, in both leadership and respect,” Nofziger said. “Without these girls, I couldn’t have become the player I am today and I cherish them more than rubies.”
Nofziger has no regrets as she leaves MVNU and the memories that have been made during the years.
“MVNU has been more than a school to me,” Nofziger said. “It’s been my home. It’s been such a wonderful ride here, and I’m honored to be a Cougar! Go Cougs!”