(Above): Junior setter Leslie Flores sets the ball for a kill in the first game for the Leopards. Flores recorded 45 set assists and 16 digs. The Leopards defeated the Washington Bears in three games (30-18, 31-25, 30-27) yesterday at the Salem Civic Center. (Below): The La Verne women's volleyball team came together to cheer and celebrate their victory over Washington, which had only one loss on the season prior to yesterday’s match.
SALEM, VA.—The University of La Verne women’s volleyball team came into yesterday’s NCAA quarterfinal matchup looking to avenge three previous losses to Washington University in St. Louis.
And avenge they did. The Leopards used a dominating team performance as they steamrolled the Bears, 3-0 (30-18, 30-25, 30-27), in front of 450 people at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va.
The Leopards jumped out to a 16-10 advantage in game one and never looked back.
The Leopards never trailed by more than two in any game.
“Our passion to play the game was there,” head coach Don Flora said.
“The pressure was really on the Bears,” he added.
The win over Washington would not come without some dramatics when junior outside hitter Kimberly Fitzsimmons fell to an ankle injury sustained during warm-ups.
The injury caused Fitzsimmons to watch the match from the bench.
“Kimmy is a major component of what we do on this team,” Flora said.
Flora also noted how the team used her injury as a rallying tool and described how important she can be in rotating with players off of the bench when rests are needed.
Washington swept the Leopards twice in the last two years in the NCAA semifinals and once earlier this year when the Bears rallied from a 2-0 deficit to earn the victory.
“We really knew that we could beat this team,” Flora said.
“It was either win today or go home,” he added.
As sweet as the victory was for the Leopards, it was a bittersweet ending for a Washington team that came into the game with a 35-1 record and a No. 3 ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
Their only blemish was a late season loss to No. 1 Emory University, a loss that could have stymied the Bears’ momentum and confidence going into the playoffs.
“The way the season ended will not tarnish what we have accomplished up to this point,” Washington head coach Rich Luenemann said.
La Verne’s early leads in games one and two seemed to suck the wind out of the sails for the Bears, as they never completely responded.
“Down after two games, we still expected to win in five,” Luenemann said.
“We have the confidence to come back but we can’t get out of holes like that,” he added.
ULV senior opposite Courtney Rollins and freshman outside hitter Brianna Gonzales each tallied 11 kills while teammates Mandy Sedia and Jodi Lindsay added 10 a piece.
The Leopards hit at a .243 clip and held the Bears to a modest .109. La Verne also collected 18 team blocks to Washington’s four.
The win over Washington improved ULV’s record to 24-8 on the year and advanced them to tonight’s semifinal match between the winner of the
Wisconsin-Whitewater and Emory match.
Washington drops to 35-2 on the year and fails to reach the semifinals for only the first time in the last three years.
Steven Falls can be reached at email@example.com.