Coming off an exhausting road trip in which they faced three nationally ranked teams in St. Louis, the University of La Verne women’s volleyball team swept Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the opening conference match, 3-0 (30-26, 30-25, 30-26), Tuesday night at Ducey Gymnasium in Claremont.
The Leopards entered the game carrying an impressive 50-match win streak within Southern California Intercol-legiate Athletic Conference play.
The streak dates back to October of 2000.
In the first game of the match, the Leopards started slow out of the gate, possibly signs of fatigue after tough matches this weekend combined with traveling to St. Louis.
“We always start out a little slow,” senior opposite Courtney Rollins said. “But I think we played at a good level.”
Rollins finished the game with a team high 10 kills.
Head coach Don Flora acknowledged the fatigue his team may have faced but appeared very happy with his team’s performance.
“We were a little tired from the weekend,” Flora said. “That is a good team over there (CMS), they will be even better when we see them again in a month.”
The Leopards never had a lead more than five in the first game and the Athenas came within two points late, 28-26.
“We were just getting the kinks out,” Flora said.
After a 9-5 run that ended game two, ULV began game
three with an 11-2 run which seemingly put the Athenas away.
Claremont did close the lead to 24-20, but never was closer after that.
“We made a few mistakes but we were still able to recover,” freshman outside hitter Brianna Gonzales said.
Gonzales tallied five kills and three digs for the Leopards.
Junior outside hitter Kimberly Fitzsimmons compiled five kills and eight digs and junior outside hitter/middle blocker Megan Powers had four block solos.
Junior libero Lauren Friestad added 12 digs.
The Leopards improved to (5-4, 1-0) on the season.
The match was the first of seven consecutive SCIAC contests that will be played on the road.
The Sports Science and Athletics Pavilion in La Verne is currently under construction which has caused the team to backload its conference schedule in hopes that home court can be ready by Oct. 18, their first conference home game.
Flora, along with his team, have continuously downplayed the construction to their home floor which causes them to play most of their first half schedule on the road.
“We try to prepare as well as we can for whatever is given to us,” Gonzales said.
Last weekend, ULV traveled to St. Louis to participate in the Washington University Invit-ational tournament. The Leopards defeated Trinity University (TX), ranked No. 13 in the nation, in five games before falling to No. 1 Washington University (MO) in five games and No. 2 Juniata College (PA) in four games.
Despite the losing record on the road trip, the experience against top ranked opponents can only prove positive to a team that starts two freshmen and lost five starters from last year's squad.
“We really learned how to play within this team,” Flora said.
“It is really neat to see a group support each other the way we do.”
Gonzales acknowledged that the team’s rigorous preseason schedule would benefit the team.
“I think its great we played them in preseason,” Gonzales said. “It showed a lot about ourselves and it raises a new standard.”
The University of La Verne will take part in a day-night doubleheader today. The first game will be a SCIAC match at 2:30 p.m. against Cal Tech in Pasadena. The Leopards will then travel to Orange for a 7:30 p.m. non-conference match against Chapman.
Steven Falls can be reached at email@example.com.