The women’s volleyball team is looking for a comeback season under new head coach Jenna Panatier.
After the release of the team’s head coach Marlon Sano at the end of last year’s season, all are hoping that Panatier can restore the team to its former glory.
With Panatier now at the helm, both returning and new players are learning and adapting to a new style of coaching and practicing.
“It is a new start for all of us,” defensive specialist and libero Mika Chan said.
“It is a new coach and a new system. I think everyone is trusting the coach and the staff and believing in the coach and each other.”
“We’re all adapting to the new coach and new players and we’re all embracing (the experience),” junior setter and three-year team veteran Kendall Kraiss said.
The team began a rigorous training schedule before the start of the fall 2011 semester to prepare for their first tournament, the Pacific Coast Classic, where the Leopards finished with a 2-2 record.
La Verne took home victories against Simpson and Berry while facing defeats to Augsburg and Wartburg.
“We did triple days Friday, Saturday and Sunday the weekend before school started. It’s tough, fast-paced,” Kraiss said.
Although the practice schedule has been rough on the players, the hard work is paying off.
“We’ve had really productive practices,” Chan said.
“They are really determined to get it right,” Panatier said.
After missing out on a trip to the NCAA Championship Tournament last season for the first time since 1999, the team is setting high goals and expecting the best from themselves for the upcoming season.
“We want to win SCIAC and make it to the NCAA regionals and the championships,” said Kraiss, who was awarded Second Team All-SCIAC honors for her play in 2010.
“We want to play as a team and compete better and be more consistent.”
Chan is beginning her fourth season on the team and is setting a personal goal to be her best.
“I am in my senior year and I want to go all out,” Chan said.
When it comes to the coach’s goals, Panatier simply wants to empower her athletes to be their best and see them reach their full potential.
“I think they are a dedicated group of women who will settle for nothing less than excellence,” Panatier said.
Panatier has an optimistic outlook for the volleyball team’s season and cannot wait to watch it unfold.
“They are going to be fun to watch, I’m excited,” Panatier said. “I think I’m excited because they’re excited. Their passion is contagious. Everyone who comes to a game is going to catch it.”
The Leopards are looking to improve on last season’s overall record of 19-11.
In SCIAC play, the team earned an 8-6 record, placing them in a tie for third place.
The women’s volleyball team has earned three NCAA Division III titles and 22 SCIAC titles in its history.
Before coming to La Verne, Panatier gained expertise at the NCAA Division I level as head coach at Colgate in New York for four years and as an assistant coach at Lipscomb in Tennessee.
She also spent four years as head coach at Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Occidental.
The Leopards resume play Friday at 12:30 p.m. at Cal Lutheran against Puget Sound (Wash.), the first of four contests they will play this weekend in the Cal-Lu-Fornia Invitational Tournament.
La Verne begins SCIAC play with three straight away contests, opening on Sept. 22 at Caltech before traveling to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Sept. 24 and finishing on Sept. 27 at Occidental.
The Leopards’ SCIAC home opener will be at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 against Cal Lutheran at Frantz Athletic Court.
Allison Lavelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.