The La Verne women’s volleyball team hosted the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens on Tuesday. But honoring the team’s three senior players came first.
The match started with the senior ceremony for setter Yesenia Lopez, opposite hitter Madison Bradley and outside hitter Brianna Gonzales.
The players were met on the court by their parents and received flowers and a gift from the coaching staff.
After the ceremony, it was time for business.
La Verne took a quick 3-0 lead, thanks in part to sloppy play from the Sagehens.
From there, it was a no contest game as La Verne extended its lead to 7-1 without looking back.
“We had a lot of energy from the beginning because we were all really excited,” Gonzales said. “The last time we played Pomona, we kind of let them stay even with us, so we knew we had to make even fewer mistakes this game and dominate from the beginning.”
A block by Bradley put the Leopards up 19-10 and was followed by a kill from Gonzales.
Junior middle blocker Ashley Morgado finished the game off with two kills, giving La Verne the 25-11 win.
“We kind of hammered them in game one,” head coach Don Flora said. “I think that’s kind of a tribute to our team’s excitement, and they were fired up to play for our seniors. Madison Bradley came off the bench and gave us a really good match.”
The fans could definitely tell that the team was ready to support its senior players.
Crisp play and unrelenting determination was the theme for game one, and would be for the entire match.
The Sagehens came out in game two trying to redeem themselves.
With help from sophomore setter Erin Saliba, the game went back and forth as the Sagehens showed more life and concentration.
The Sagehens were able to pull ahead in the game 8-6, but their lead would not last for long, as another block from Bradley followed by a kill and another block from Gonzales tied the game at 14.
A time out taken by the Sagehens only led to their return to sloppy play as La Verne took a 19-16 lead.
“We just knew that we were kind of getting a little too excited, a little too anxious, which kind of threw off our calm, and our mentality,” Gonzales said. “They had some really good rallies and were defending a little better and passing a little bit better.”
La Verne looked a little more distracted in game two, allowing the Sagehens to tie it up at 20, and lost two lengthy rallies during the match.
Pomona-Pitzer failed to take advantage as their shoddy play gave the game to the Leopards, 25-23.
With one more game to win to take the match, La Verne returned to their dominating state from game one, taking a quick 4-0 lead.
A kill from Morgado to give the Leopards a 7-1 lead forced the Sagehens to take another timeout.
Rebecca Villanueva, sophomore outside hitter for La Verne, chipped in with a kill of her own to make it 11-3.
“It’s one of those things where we played really clean,” Flora said. “We’re keeping the pressure on our opponent. In a tough game, we don’t take off the pressure. And it’s hard to keep playing at that high level, and we do, and I’m proud we keep that level.”
From there, the Leopards never let up.
Three kills from Gonzales and a block from Morgado gave the Leopards game point until Villanueva finished the Sagehens off with a kill to take the game and match, 25-10.
“It was good to see the seniors play,” said John Ausman, a senior social science major. “They accomplished a lot, and it was good seeing them play like they used to. I thought they looked like a different, better team.”
Gonzales finished the match with nine kills, Morgado finished with eight kills.
Crista Jones and Anna Calmer both scored seven kills. Libero Chelsea Sleight finished with 22 digs, and the Leopards out-blocked the Sagehens, 9-1.
La Verne will host Caltech at Frantz Court on Saturday at 11:30 am.
Alex Senyo can be reached at email@example.com.