With an attack error by Occidental outside hitter Dana Michels closing the third set, the Leopards swept the Tigers off their paws in a 3-0 victory Saturday night at Frantz Athletic Court.
It was the team’s eighth straight victory, keeping them in first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“Its been along time coming,” Jenna Panatier, head volleyball coach, said.
“Our girls have worked extremely hard to balance the physical aspect with the mental aspect and lately,” Panatier said. “They’ve really showed a progression to do so.”
After being down three points at the start of the first set, the Leopards responded with a 10 score run, including three consecutive kills from senior outside hitter Randi Taylor-Toomay.
The Leopards rallied together to close the set with a 25-14 win.
The momentum gained from the first set bled into the second set, which saw the Leopards taking a 25-17 win.
“Once we got a run on them we kept our energy up and kept going and using our togetherness to play,” junior libero Morgan Donohue said. “My favorite part was just seeing all these little girls to come out to watch us.”
Sitting in the stands were a group of young girls from a local volleyball league whose coach brought them out to get inspired by watching college volleyball.
“They have just been good cheerleaders from us and it’s really nice to have to have them here,” said Donohue.
As the third set started the Leopards quickly managed to get a 5-1 lead over the Tigers, featuring more kills from Taylor-Toomay.
As the set dwindled down the Leopards maintained a constant lead.
The last kill of the set came from senior middle blocker Catie Logan.
With two more attack errors from the Tigers, the Leopards clenched a 25-17 win in the third set marking the game victory.
“We just stepped it up big time and just took care of business,” senior setter Kendall Kraiss said.
“They’re one of the top teams in the conference and they took us to four games last time we played them,” Kraiss said. “It was nice to sweep them in three.”
Taylor-Toomay earned 15 kills, with Logan adding eight more.
The Leopards had a total of seven team blocks, compared to the Tigers’ one. ULV also had a total of 44 digs in the match.
“We just came out and took care of business,” Kraiss said. “That’s what we wanted to do and that’s what we did.”
Recent practices have focused on defense, and the results showed.
“Tonight was just another example of them really taking to heart what their coaches are saying, while bonding together as a team and lifting the team together,” Panatier said. “As a coach I can’t ask for anything else.”
The team’s quartet of seniors has see a lot of strife and they’ve had a lot of challenges thrown in front of them, Panatier said.
“I think they have rediscovered their love for the game, the love for their team and the love for their program, and it shows in the way they play,” Panatier said.
The win keeps the Leopards (9-1, 16-2) in first place in SCIAC, just ahead of Cal Lutheran (8-1, 17-4) and Chapman (8-1, 15-4).
As a team the Leopards lead SCIAC in blocks with 133 and opponent hitting percentage with .136.
Senior Kayla Cribbs also leads the conference with 70 blocks.
The Leopards come back for more SCIAC volleyball action against Redlands (2-8, 6-10) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Frantz Athletic Court.
The Leopards will then travel to Chapman to take on the Panthers at 6 p.m. for a Saturday night showdown.
“Our coach taught us to come into the game knowing you’re going to win and that’s what the top team does,” Donohue said.
Karo Chakhlasyan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.