The University of La Verne women’s volleyball team gained its season’s first wins with three of four victories at the Pacific Coast Classic Tournament last weekend in Claremont.
“We’re everybody’s target, everyone is going to play their ‘A’ game against La Verne because we set the standard in the region,” ULV head coach Don Flora said.
The squad found a temporary home during the Supertents construction at the Rains Center at Pomona College. Although on unfamiliar territory, the squad was cheered on by many ULV supporters.
ULV earned a seventh place preseason national rating in the College Sports Television/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Top 25 Coaches Poll released Aug. 24, while West Region rivals Cal State East Bay (formerly Cal State Hayward) ranked 11th in the poll.
The Leopards pounced on their rematch with East Bay defeating the Pioneers, 3-1(30-28, 30-19, 29-31, 30-22) on Sept. 9.
Freshman Brianna Gonzales dominated the court with an 18-kill performance.
Other Leopard leaders included sophomore Jodi Lindsay with 11 kills and senior Mandy Sedia with 10 kills.
ULV gave Pacific Lutheran no chance with a four-game domination, 3-1(25-30, 30-22, 30-25, 30-19).
Senior Courtney Rollins led the Leopards with 12 kills. Gonzales contributed eight kills while sophomore Tiona Hobson added six kills and four block solos.
The Leopards administered 13 total team blocks and 61 digs against the Lutes.
La Verne swept past Whitman with a victory, 3-0 (30-19, 30-25, 30-15). Rollins again tallied a team-high of 12 kills.
The Leopards came shy of a clean tournament sweep with a single defeat from National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics rivals Vanguard, 3-0 (18-30, 27-30, 24-30).
The squad opened their 2005 season with a narrow defeat, 3-2 (30-24, 25-30, 30-26, 27-30, 11-15) against East Bay on Sept. 8 in Claremont.
The Pioneers inched on top of ULV hitting .240 and gathering 76 digs while the Leopards hit .237 and tallied 68 digs for the night.
ULV started the match strong taking the first game with 14 team kills and hitting .243, evenly competing with the Pioneers who hit .242.
“For our first game I think it’s a lot about us playing together and learning how to gel together and I think we did a lot of that tonight,” Sedia said.
The Leopards played a strong opening performance with Sedia leading with a match-high of 16 kills.
Rollins and junior Kimberly Fitzsimmons tallied 14 kills apiece.
Junior Lauren Friestad led the squad with a team-high 15 defensive digs.
The teams fought back and forth until the match rested on the final game. Unfortunately, ULV could not seal the victory hitting a .059 average while the Pioneers hit .353.
“With East Bay, it’s a huge rivalry and people forget that this is match six for them and it’s match one for us,” Flora said. “But it’s a rivalry and we’re learning what that is because we have a bunch of new players and they have bunch of new players.”
ULV claimed the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in 2004 and finished third place in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III standings.
Opening their 2005 season, the Leopards lost five starters and gained many new faces.
“We held them well for being so young,” Friestad said. “We only have two seniors and most of us are sophomores, but I ?think we handled them well.”
Last season, the Leopards defeated East Bay for the West Region Championship.
The rivals have battled for the top spot in the West Region over the past four seasons, ranking in the No. 1 and 2 slots.
“It was intense playing East Bay, I know a lot of us had the jitters because they are such huge rivals, but they are in the same boat we are,” Sedia said. “They lost a lot of their seniors and we lost a lot of our starters, so we knew it was going to be a good game going in.”
The team has big goals for their 2005 season, including winning the SCIAC championship. They plan to make a national presence for themselves and hopefully win nationals.
The squad will travel to St. Louis for the Washington Invitational starting at 5 p.m. tonight. The invitational ends Saturday.
The Leopards will face intense competition against highly ranked Trinity University (Texas), Washington University (Mo.) and Juniata (Penn.) at the tournament.
The competitors that the Leopards will be facing at the tournament have also received high rankings in the CSTV/AVCA Division III preseason poll with Trinity ranked sixth, Washington in first and Juniata in second.
After returning home from the road trip, ULV will begin SCIAC competition at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in Claremont against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
Nicole Knight can be reached at email@example.com.