|Leopards nab share of SCIAC crown|
|Posted Oct. 27, 2006|
After winning yet another tough match in which La Verne had to battle to close out close games against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the Leopards clinched at least a share of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference crown.
Another win tonight against Cal Lutheran will give the Leopards a 13-0 record in conference play and clinch the conference outright.
ULV swept the Athenas 3-0, but made games one and three interesting before closing them out 30-24 and 30-27. The second game came much easier, 30-16. Junior opposite Jodi Lindsay led the Leopards with 11 kills while sophomore outside-hitter Brianna Gonzales contributed eight kills and a match-high 17 digs.
Prior to the match against the Whittier Poets on Saturday night, La Verne head coach Don Flora said he expected the team to win and to continue doing all the good things they’ve been doing recently.
The team did just that, sweeping their SCIAC foe 3-0 in convincing fashion, 30-19, 30-15, 30-20.
Junior middle blocker Tiona Hobson had a phenomenal game recording 11 kills.
She was backed up by freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Crista Jones with eight kills and senior setter Leslie Flores with 17 digs and 35 assists.
After having spent a weekend in the Midwest for the Illinois Wesleyan Tournament, in which the Leopards lost their first and only game of the season to Juniata of Pennsylvania, it was the Leopards’ turn to host a Midwest team, McPherson of Kansas, in their first match of a doubleheader at noon on Friday.
Though the Bulldogs come from NAIA Division II, their play would pale in comparison to that of the No. 3 ranked NCAA Division III Leopards.
La Verne would go on to sweep their Kansas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe three games to none in front of a crowd of nearly half McPherson supporters.
The Leopards jumped ahead and held on through much of the first game, staking a 26-14 lead before McPherson made a furious comeback. The Bulldogs just caught fire at that point, bringing the score to 28-26, and at one point scoring nine-straight points.
However, the Leopards would close out the game 30-27 with kills by Jones and Lindsay, who led the team in kills with 12 and 10.
“We just needed to pick things up,” Jones said. “We had to take care of our side of the court.”
Though Lindsay was second in kills, her time had to be managed carefully due to a sore shoulder.
“We just need to watch the number of swings she takes,” Flora said.
After toughing out the first game, the rest of the match came easy. The Leopards put away game two, 30-18, in which Jones had two straight service aces, and game three, 30-20. La Verne finished with nearly twice as many digs as the Lady Bulldogs, 80-45.
“It felt really good that we were able to beat them in three,” Jones said. “We had no idea what they’d be like, so we went in thinking as long as we play our game and take care of our side we’ll get the job done and we did.”
Seldom-used sophomore junior opposite Madison “Mad Dog” Bradley came in late in the third game to close it out with the last two points.
“She’s been working hard,” Flora said. “She’s earned the opportunity to get some swings.”
In the second game of the doubleheader at 7:30 p.m., the Leopards were able to experiment with their lineup against the winless Caltech Beavers.
Even with the majority of their starters not playing in the game, the Leopards were able to take advantage of Beaver miscues en route to yet another 3-0 sweep, 30-11, 30-13, 30-13, in SCIAC play.
Throughout all three games Caltech had problems in their service game, including one serve in the first game by junior defensive specialist Anna Spector that hit her teammate in the back of the head.
Other miscues would occur in the second and third games in which Caltech players collided on three separate occasions.
“We’re at a whole different level of competition,” Flora said. “It’s just one of those things where (Caltech) had a tough time keeping the ball in play.”
The Leopards, however, got a strong showing out of junior opposite/outside hitter Allison Dahlgren with eight points accounted for in the first game alone and 14 overall, 10 coming on kills.
“It was awesome, lots of fun,” Dahlgren said. “The ball was just being set really good for me.”
Freshman outside hitter/middle blocker Lia Chun also had a good match recording eight kills.
“It’s fun to get out there,” Chun said. “It’s always good to have a team effort like we did, all the support is great.”
Prior to last Tuesday night’s SCIAC match-up between ULV and the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, former Leopard women’s volleyball player Ryan Winn Bettencourt was honored with a ceremony announcing her induction into the University of La Verne’s Class of 2007 Athletic Hall of Fame.
Whether that was an omen of things to come is debatable, but a current Leopard who seems destined for the Hall of Fame, Jodi Lindsay, came through in the clutch whenever the Leopards needed a big score.
Early in the first game, Lindsay recorded a kill after senior libero Lauren Friestad made a diving dig.
Lindsay would then get another two kills, one in the second and another in the third game, after excruciatingly long and very intense rallies. She finished with nine kills.
“I think we just wanted to go home,” Flores said, regarding winning every long rally point. “We faced some tough teams recently and we just wanted it to be three-and-out.”
Flores played a key role in the 3-0 sweep of the Sagehens, 30-21, 30-25, 30-17, by scoring four kills that were cleverly disguised as sets.
“With two people up I need to be able to put balls away,” Flores said. “It’s a way for me to open up blocks for the hitters.”
While Gonzales led the team in kills with 13, it was Hobson who led the Leopards at the start of the match with six of her seven kills coming in the first game.
“I think things were just coming my way,” Hobson said. “I’m excited to make a difference.”
The Leopards play their final home game of the season at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Cal Lutheran.
Kevin Zeni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.