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In the athletic world, a national championship title is the perfect ending to a season. This year, both the Clearwater Christian College women’s volleyball and women’s soccer teams clinched the title in exciting final games at the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championships held in Kissimmee, Florida. But at CCC, the teams are proud of more than just a championship title.
Lady Cougars Soccer
Last year, the Lady Cougars women’s soccer team ended their season with a disappointing 7th place finish at the National Tournament, but did not allow it to affect their spirit. In his final pep-talk, Coach Mark Bates encouraged the team to not be disheartened. “We’re close, I know it may not feel that way right now, but we’re close.” After charging the team to not give up, he began recruiting for the 2012 team, while strengthening, training, and conditioning the upper classmen.
As is the case with anything, hard work and resolution paid off. With the most successful season in Lady Cougar’s soccer history, the 2012 women’s soccer team won 18 games, finishing with an exciting championship win of 4-1 over defending champion, Baptist Bible College. During regular season play, the Lady Cougars outscored their NCCAA DII opponents 61-2, with 12 shutouts. The final 2012 game was the icing on the cake.
Lydia Twigg, senior English major at CCC, has played for the Lady Cougars all four years of her college career. Before the final game, she said, “Today is the final game of my soccer career. I’m so thankful to have been on Clearwater’s team for the past four years, and I’m so proud of my team. This is our year, Cougars! Let’s play our hearts out. A2TGOG!” Together with her team, Lydia has taken A2TGOG as her motto—All to the Glory of God. Living with this type of focus will help the ladies of the CCC women’s soccer team to face the uncertainty of the future with their heads held high.
Ultimately, the success of the 2012 Clearwater Christian College women’s soccer team does not lie in the hands of the players, coaches, or fans, but in the hands of God. Shortly after the 2012 national championship game ended, Coach Bates again held a final pep-talk, but this time he prayed, “Let those who boast, boast in the Lord.”
Lady Cougars Volleyball
With an incredible record of twelve national titles, seven of which are consecutive, the Lady Cougars volleyball team is a force to be reckoned with. During the three-day tournament, CCC went undefeated in pool play against rival teams. The championship game, played against Maranatha Baptist Bible College, was an even match, but CCC won 3 sets to 1 to secure the national title.
Truly a well-oiled machine, the Lady Cougars have a reputation of greatness within the college volleyball community. Coach Vickie Denny attributes this to the blessing of the Lord upon their hard work. “I am reminded of what Joshua 1:8 says about success: ‘This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.’ While not perfect, this is what I have tried to do over the years; I have tried to make God’s Word the focus and pointing my players to the Word.”
Clearwater’s overall record this season was 41-6 with a .872 win percentage. The Lady Cougars went undefeated against NCCAA II colleges and also had several big wins over NCCAA I, NAIA, NJCAA, and NCAA III programs. Other highlights of the year were winning over Hillsborough Community College (NJCAA I) who were nationally ranked 14th and also beating Florida College and Southeastern twice.
The Lady Cougars were led by senior Richelle Bucklin, leading the hitters with 21 kills. Scoring 18 kills, Amanda Bucklin also made an impact on the game, while setter Sarah Wild led the offensive attack with 43 set assists. According to Coach Denny, “The fact that we had a balanced attack helped us during the entire tournament. Every team was keying in on Richelle, so it was great to see the other players step up and take charge.
“We are very thankful for the great year that the Lord gave us. After graduating Hall of Famer, Emma Kile from last year’s championship squad, we had big shoes to fill. The senior and junior players really stepped up big for us and made solid contributions. The amount of improvement seen on this year’s squad from the start of our season to now was tremendous and I am excited to see what the Lord has for us next year as we seek to bring in more quality young ladies who love the Lord and love the sport of volleyball,” said Coach Denny.
A Legacy of Excellence
The successes of the various Cougar sports are directly linked to the quality coaching teams that lead athletes to not only excel in athletics, but also in the classroom and in life. One of the most well-known coaches at CCC, Dr. Vickie Denny reached a career milestone during the 2012-2013 season.
On September 18, 2012, Coach Denny knocked out her 900th career win. This win places Dr. Denny in an elite group of coaches; according to the NCCAA, as of the women’s volleyball coaching records through 2011, only seven active coaches in the NCAA have achieved their 900th win.
“I am blessed by God to have the opportunity to do what I love to do in a Christian setting with some great people,” she said. “The relationships over these years with not only my players, but parents, faithful fans, other coaches, and even officials have been extra blessings from God in my life.”
Coach Denny, Professor of Exercise and Sport Science and Teacher Education, and Chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at Clearwater Christian College, also serves on the board of directors of the NCCAA. A contributing writer to the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) journal “Volleyball ACE Power Tips,” Dr. Denny has taught volleyball clubs and clinics across the world, most recently on a mission trip to Cameroon, Africa.
When asked about her success on the court, she answered, “God blessed me with some incredible Christian young ladies who not only were great athletes, but also who had a heart for God. These players were willing to commit and dedicate themselves to our program and capture the passion I have for using their sport for God’s glory. My wonderful husband, Lou, has been such a help and encouragement over the past 14 years together. I am not sure he realized what he was getting into, but he has been such a blessing from God in our ministry together with volleyball.”
Mr. Mike Touma, athletic director at CCC said, “Success in the arena of athletics is measured in many different ways. The most obvious and common is wins and championships. Coach Denny has excelled in both of those areas far beyond what most any coach would even dare imagine for themselves. I congratulate Coach Denny on her 900th win, a number that is staggering to consider and that puts her into an elite group regardless of the sport. The dedication, consistency, and integrity it takes to achieve that number is truly astounding. The 900th is a representation of years of dedication not only to the game, but also to the young women that God brought into contact with Coach Denny and her desire to see them pursue God and use volleyball to further His kingdom.”
God Has Been Good
At the end of the fall sports season, the Cougar athletes and coaches can truly say, “God has been good.” The college has seen incredible feats of athletic prowess, fought back against tough opponents, and clinched the national titles in two sports. Through it all, the CCC family echoes the motto of the women’s soccer team: A2TGOG!!
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