Saturday was a big night for Leopard volleyball as it faced off with the visiting Whittier Poets in senior Mika Chan’s final home game at La Verne. The Leopards fell in a sweep, 25-13, 28-26 and 25-23.
Going into the match the Leopards and the Poets were both tied for fourth place in the conference, but it was the Poets that won the final spot in this weekend’s Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament.
“I’m going to miss the girls more than anything, it’s been a rough four years,” Chan said.
The Leopards took some time to generate a rhythm during the first set of the match as they struggled with passing and closing blocks on the Poets top gun hitters.
Poets outside hitter Alayna Rigo set an early 6-3 lead with powerful serves that could not be returned.
A deep corner shot by Randi Taylor-Toomay broke the streak and put the ball back into their possession.
In return, Poets outside hitter Malia Montero was swinging shots that the Leopards could not pick up.
Soon after the Poets were up 15-6.
Smart plays by middle blocker Catie Logan at the net and tough digs by Chan gave the Leopards opportunities to catch up but the Poets could not be stopped, ending the first set 25-13.
Chan set the tone of the second set with an ace. The Leopards were much more alive and stayed neck and neck with the Poets the whole time.
Good hitting at the net by outside hitter Tiffany Johnstone and middle blocker Rachel Bailey won an 8-6 lead.
“We worked on our shots,” defensive specialist Morgan Donohue said.
The Poets started to look flustered as the Leopards shut it down at the net with blocks.
Logan and Kayla Cribbs, who played opposite for the night, were putting up a steady block that the Poets could not break through.
The whole team was fired up and took a huge advantage over the Poets at 19-14.
But crucial calls made by the referee put the Poets right back in the game at a tie of 20-20.
The once enthused fans became anxious at the end of the set as both teams fought hard for every point.
The end of the set featured back-to-back ties and game points until the Poets were able to get a piece of the Leopards block, taking the win at 28-26.
The start of the third set was intense again as both teams scrapped for the ball and were tied at 10-10.
The Poets stayed consistent but the Leopards started to get themselves in trouble with net coverage and balls being served out.
The Poets got a lead at 12-10 and from that moment the Leopards started to fall apart.
The Leopards took a timeout down 21-17, and were able to throw off the server and gain back possession after a kill by Taylor-Toomay.
From then on the Leopards were back in the game.
However, it was Rigo that ended the game with rapid kill to the center of the court, defeating the Leopards 25-23.
“Very tough loss,” head coach Panatier said. “We made a lot of good strides this year… We’re going to go out strong.”
The Leopards did just that at Tuesday’s game at Redlands, sweeping the Bulldogs 3-0 for the second time.
La Verne concluded it’s 2011 SCIAC season 7-7.
Alyssa Cole can be reached at email@example.com.