ULV clinches national title

Campus Times
April 30, 1999


Sophomore Alex Lienert hits through the block of a Clarke College defender and chalks up one of his 52 tournament kills. Lienert hit .404, had 11 blocks and 18 defensive digs on the tournament, which earned him the tournament MVP. Lienert consistently led La Verne throughout the season in every offensive category.

by Damien Alarcon
Sports Editor
photography by Ian Gratz

Two words: National Champions. Few groups or individuals across the country can earn such an honor, role or title.

Last weekend, the University of La Verne men's volleyball team earned that title after defeating D'Youville College of Buffalo, N.Y., in the 1999 Molten Division III Invitational Volleyball Championship match in four games, 16-17, 15-6, 15-3, 15-13.

The tournament was held at the Kehl Center of Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa.

"This is as good as it gets. We were here last year and we didn't quite finish," said sophomore outside hitter Alex Lienert. "We didn't want to come back and lose again and that pushed us through."

The team finished as national runner-up in last year's tournament, falling 3-1 to Juniata College (Pa.).

Head coach Jack Coberly, who is in his second season as ULV's coach, expressed the emotions he had following the match.

"I just went blank. I never envisioned how it would be to coach a national championship team," he said. "My first initial reaction was pure numbness."

D'Youville (32-3) entered the night coming off an upset victory, after knocking off the No. 1 seed, Juniata, 3-2, in Friday's opening semifinal round match. La Verne (12-11), the No. 2 seed, defeated the tournament host, Clarke College, in three games, 16-14, 15-3, 15-11.

Approximately 600 people were in attendance at Saturday's championship match, as the Spartans opened with a quick 4-0 lead with attack errors from Lienert and seniors Chris Peterson and Sean Douglas. The Leopards had trouble spiking the ball within the boundaries. Lienert and Peterson picked up the slack and each collected a kill to bring the score to 4-2.

The Leopards managed to tie the game at seven with an assisted block by junior setter Matt Wright and sophomore middle blocker Jason Kolodge. From then on, there was no more than a two-point difference.

With the game tied at 16, Spartan outside hitter Jeff Rosowski had the game winning kill from an assist by his brother, setter Gregg Rosowski.

"[After the first game] we fell down and started thinking about where we were playing defense and covering," said, Peterson. "Once we settled down, we knew we'd be OK."

La Verne took total command of the second game. After a Gregg Rosowski kill to bring the Spartans within two, behind a 6-4 Leopard lead, La Verne quickly pulled away, extending the lead to 14-4. The Spartans displayed miscommunication as they stood and watched a set by Gregg Rosowski fall to the ground to give ULV the win.

After a Marc McCabe kill to give DYC a 1-0 lead, the Leopards completely destroyed the Spartans in a lopsided match. D'Youville could not contain the La Verne offensive attack. Douglas ended the game with two consecutive service aces, giving La Verne the 15-3 third game win.

Realizing that defeat was in its midst, DYC put together a tough performance in the fourth game, but were plagued with a game total of seven service errors. La Verne once again rallied from a 6-2 deficit to take a 13-7 lead.

Jeff Rosowski's block and three kills, in addition to three La Verne attack errors, tied the game at 13. Nine consecutive sideouts followed before a kill from junior outside hitter Luis Cruz gave La Verne a 14-13 lead. Spartan Ben Rowell's attack error concluded the game and match.

Peterson had 14 kills and 10 digs while Cruz collected 11 kills and 10 digs. More impressive was Lienert's 33 kill performance.

In La Verne's semifinal round match on Friday night, the Leopards had to overcome the energetic fans in addition to the players of Clarke College. With 1,000 in attendance, the Crusaders were cheered on as they gathered the opening four points of the game. La Verne scored a couple of points before sinking deeper in the ditch. The Crusaders lead advanced to 8-2 because of unforced errors made by the Leopards.

La Verne rallied again and tied the game at 14. Kolodge made a kill for the lead and a block for the win, 16-14.

"When you're up 8-2 and still lose, that takes the air out of you," said Kolodge. And for the following two games, the Crusaders played into La Verne's control.

In both the second and third game, La Verne dominated to a 15-3 and 15-11 win, in front of a silent Clarke crowd.

Coberly recognized, not only the starters, but the bench for contributing to the weekend's victories.

He said, "[Senior] Jeff Pang made some keys blocks for us that were very important. [Sophomore] Agke Grow came in and terminated two games for us against Clarke. [Junior] Dave Spegon came in when we needed good defense and he brought a lot of energy to the court. Those people that didn't start have real important roles and that needs to be emphasized."

In the consolation match, the Crusaders of Clarke defeated Juniata College in three games, 15-7, 16-14, 14-12.

Before the championship trophy was given to the Leopards, Wright and Peterson received All-Tournament honors. Lienert earned the Tournament MVP award.

"It was like taking a monkey off our back from last year's loss," said Jason Flick. Coberly's son, Morgan, and Flick served as the assistant coaches. The two were members of last year's squad. Coberly credits them for the squad's success.

"My congratulations to La Verne and their outstanding season and their players. They proved, this weekend, that they are the best Division III team in the nation," said DYC head coach John Hutton.

Coberly said, "This championship will be a vehicle for good exposure for the University and our program."

Junior Matt Wright shows sophomore Jason Kolodge proper blocking technique, as he turns his hands in and penetrates to deny a D'Youville hitter the chance to side out. Kolodge obviously knew how to block, he had 12 of his own. Wright only managed two block assists in the championships, but he recorded 108 set assists throughout the tournament.

Sophomore Jason Kolodge gets pumped up after recording one of his nine blocks against D'Youville.

Junior Dave Spegon, senior Chris Peterson, sophomore Alex Lienert, senior Sean Douglas and junior Matt Wright celebrate after winning their third game, 15-3, against D'Youville. La Verne did not have one attack error and hit .652 in the third of the four-game match.

Senior co-captain Chris Peterson tries to put the ball away, as sophomore Jason Kolodge covers up. Peterson still managed to collect 14 kills in the championship match and had 13 the previous day against tournament host Clarke College. These stats earned Peterson a place on the All-Tournament Team.

Coach Jack Coberly instructs his team during a time out in its final game of the season. Since Coberly took over as head coach, the men's volleyball team has finished second and first in the nation among Division III schools.

Senior co-captain Sean Douglas displays his platform in order to return a serve from D'Youville in the first game of the match. Although Douglas was served to almost every time, he only had one service return error. After the match, Douglas said, "This is how we've expected ourselves to play all season, and we finally peaked at the perfect time."

After the final point is scored against fourth-ranked D'Youville College, which earlier upset top ranked and defending champion Juniata College, the La Verne team pours onto the court in celebration. Clarke College, host of the tournament, and 600 Iowa residents witnessed the University of La Verne men's volleyball team capture its first Division III National Championship, coming only two years after it went 3-24.