|Volleyball conquers SCIAC|
|Posted Nov. 3, 2006|
Break out the band and confetti, it’s official.
The University of La Verne, under the tutelage of head coach Don Flora, has won its seventh straight Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship, defeating the Cal Lutheran Regals, 3-1 in front of a raucous Frantz Athletic Court crowd Oct. 27.
“It feels really good,” Flora said. “You can now exhale a little bit and say, ‘Wow, I’m proud of this team.’”
In a match that resembled more of an epic war battle than a college volleyball game, the Leopards showed their prowess for fighting off defeat on multiple occasions.
With Cal Lu opening game four with three straight service aces by senior defensive specialist Jessica Hagerty and leading 29-22, the game appeared all but won for the Regals.
The pace of the match made it seem like a game five was just around the corner, and then the Leopards decided to strike.
After a service error by Cal Lu freshman middle blocker Crystal Evans, the Leopards were given the stage for their improbable comeback.
ULV would then score the next eight points, with the capper being junior opposite Jodi Lindsay’s team-high 19th kill for the 31-29 game four and match victory.
“I think my heart dropped,” senior outside hitter Kimberly Fitzsimmons said. “To do this senior year is awesome.”
The Leopards had to scrap their way to an identical 31-29 score in game three.
That game was back-and-forth until the Leopards scored the last three points on an over-hit ball by Cal Lu sophomore outside hitter Summer Plante-Newman and kills by ULV senior middle blocker Megan Powers and sophomore outside hitter Brianna Gonzales.
“I think it’s great preparation for regionals,” Gonzales said. “It makes us realize that we won, but we need to be more disciplined in some plays and lessen our errors.”
“Those (NCAA Western Regional) teams don’t just roll over,” senior setter Leslie Flores said. “We now know we can push through.”
With last Friday’s game being the last home game of the season, the five seniors on the team, Powers, Fitzsimmons, Flores, libero Lauren Friestad and middle blocker Adriana Quezada, were recognized in a pre-game ceremony.
The ceremony included the athletes’ parents, and each player received a bouquet of flowers and a framed set of game-time photographs.
Shortly after the ceremony, the freshman ULV baseball players, wearing green and orange body paint, made their grand entrance with “G-O L-E-O-S” on their chests.
Throughout the match they would lead the crowd to the chants of “Go Leos,” “Charge,” and “Your team hates you,” which was directed at Cal Lu players who made mistakes during the match.
“This is a baseball tradition,” freshman Brian Bockstahler said. “With the game being this exciting it made our job easy.”
Despite the electricity in the air from the pre-game activities, the Leopards had a hard time staying ahead in game one, ultimately losing 30-28.
However, the Leopards did have an injury to deal with.
With La Verne up, 10-6, early in the game, freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Crista Jones tweaked her ankle around the net and had to be subbed out.
She would later return to the game and contribute seven kills in the match.
“Crista hurt her ankle more than she let us know,” Flora said. “We expect her to be ready for the playoffs and against Redlands.”
The Leopards would respond to take the next three games, winning game two by a score of 30-20.
The Leopards were able to record five service aces in that game, with two apiece by Friestad and junior defensive specialist/libero Katherine Randall.
“There was a lot at stake for both teams,” Flora said. “I think there was just a lot of tension, that doesn’t help passing skills.”
Regals All-SCIAC senior middle blocker Mo Coverdale finished with a match-high 32 kills, followed by teammate Plante-Newman with 23.
Even now that the conference title is in the sole possession of the Leopards, Flora doesn’t plan on resting up and essentially conceding their final regular season game to Redlands on Thursday.
“We’re going to fine tune for the playoffs,” Flora said. “Players will get some opportunities and we’re going to work on our rotations.”
The players, as it seems they always do, back Flora up 100-percent on the decision.
“Tonight was exciting but we still have a lot to go,” Friestad said. “We still have regionals and we still have the (NCAA Division III) playoffs.”
The team has only lost one game this season, to Juniata College from Pennsylvania.
ULV's SCIAC championship is the 20th overall in the history of the volleyball program.
La Verne has captured 10 of the 20 SCIAC titles awarded in the last 15 years.
The NCAA Western Regionals begin for the Leopards on Nov. 9.
Kevin Zeni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.