After coming out to a quick start, the volleyball team dropped its home opener for the 2011 season to the Chapman Panthers 3-1 at Frantz Athletic Court.
The Leopards jumped out to a 13-4 lead in the first set before allowing Chapman to battle back to a 20-19 until an attack error by Panther junior middle blocker Kate Ferrin sealed the first set victory at 25-21.
“I think we came out loose and calm,” junior middle blocker Catie Logan said. “Our communication was higher in the first set than the last three and that’s a huge key to our success.”
After the first set success, La Verne quickly jumped out to a 4-1 lead to open the second, finished by a kill by junior setter Melanie Titterud.
Chapman roared back to secure a 20-13 lead with the help of a 6-0 run before claiming the set, 25-17.
“The girls are proud of their school,” first year head coach Jenna Panatier said. “They’re trying too hard to make their school proud and when that happens they lose focus of what is happening on the court.”
The third set opened with a point for the Leopards but the Panthers dominated the rest of the set to come away with another 25-17 win and added pressure for the Leopards to win the next two sets.
The fourth set remained even early on until another 6-0 in favor of Chapman allowed the visitors to pull away to a 25-14 fourth set and game victory.
Chapman played like a well-oiled machine throughout, finishing with 37 kills, a .121 hitting percentage and 74 digs.
The Leopards finished with more kills than the Panthers at 40 alongside a .037 hitting percentage and 71 digs.
“Chapman played extremely well,” Panatier said. “They were focused and determined.”
Despite the strong efforts of the Panthers, La Verne created opportunities to keep themselves in the game.
Breakdowns in communication and a lack of touch on the ball proved to be their demise.
“I think it was just scoring,” junior setter Kendall Kraiss said. “Our finishing was a little off. Communication and staying steady throughout, not having ups and downs.”
“I think we tried to do too much,” Logan said. “We were swinging at balls but in the wrong spots and it led to errors.”
The loss marks the end of preseason play for the Leopards, who have room for improvement.
The team knows what needs to be done to make the corrections and take one step to closer to their goal of winning the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and to claim a NCAA postseason berth.
“I think our mentality,” Logan said. “As soon as we get a shank or out we lose control. It is a big key for our success or failure and it’s good because it is not a physical skill, it’s easy to fix.”
It appears as though the Leopards already have a head start on making those improvements.
“Just forget about it,” Logan said. “Don’t dwell on it.”
Fortunately for La Verne, they square off with Chapman once more this season at 3 p.m. on Oct. 7 at Frantz Athletic Court during the Leopard Invitational, which runs Oct. 7 and Oct. 8.
With the loss, La Verne fell to 6-5 overall and began conference play Thursday night with a contest against the Caltech Beavers at Caltech’s Braun Gymnasium.
The Leopards continue with another SCIAC contest against the Athenas of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 6 p.m. Saturday at Ted Ducey Gymnasium.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.