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La Verne goes 2-2 at Leopard Invitational tournament

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Sophomore outside hitter Ashlyn Cross smashes a ball past Elmhurst setter Katie Rueffer Saturday. The Leopards lost to the Blue Jays of Elmhurst, 3-0, right after Elmhurst had defeated Clarkson. / photo by Hunter Cole

Sophomore outside hitter Ashlyn Cross smashes a ball past Elmhurst setter Katie Rueffer Saturday. The Leopards lost to the Blue Jays of Elmhurst, 3-0, right after Elmhurst had defeated Clarkson. / photo by Hunter Cole

Jolene Nacapuy
Staff Writer

The Frantz Athletic Court stands were full of excitement as fans cheered on their fellow Leopards during the women’s volleyball Leopard Invitational games last Friday and Saturday.

The women’s volleyball team ended the tournament 2-2.

The Leopards lost to Whittier three sets in its first game, beating Clarkson 3-0, lost to Elmhurst 3-0 and beat Whitman 3-0 in their final game of the tournament.

“The tournament was a growth process that required both wins and losses,” head coach Jenna Panatier said. “With this, we are able to understand what needs to be worked on to be great.”

“I feel that we brought our all and improved through the tournament,” sophomore outside hitter Ashlyn Cross said. “It was a learning experience and something we needed.”

In game one against Whittier, the Leopards had a slow start but gained redemption with kills made by Cross and sophomore outside hitter Brittany Yaxley.

Cross and Yaxley combined for 12 of the team’s 31 kills in La Verne’s losing effort.

Blocks by twins junior outside hitter Nysa Allen and junior middle blocker Hope Allen helped the Leopards stay ahead but then fell short. Whittier came out with the win in three sets.

In game two the volleyball team had a slow start in set one with minor mistakes that were adjusted quickly.

Junior libero Anna Suarez made a quick hustling plays to keep the rally going.

Cross was on fire making three back-to-back kills putting the team ahead 17-16.

Cross recorded nine kills in the Leopard victory.

Then Clarkson hit the ball out allowing the Leopards to win the first set.

“I think that we did a really great job of finding a consistent energy throughout the whole weekend and being able to shake off our mistakes,” Yaxley said. “I’m very proud of our progress as a team.”

Yaxley had a team high 15 kills against Clarkson.

Through the next two sets against Clarkson, freshman middle blocker Kelsi Robinson made two straight kills to put La Verne up 16-11 on sophomore outside hitter Aishavina Arasu of Clarkson.

Robinson added nine kills to the Leopards’ efforts as well.

This was followed by sophomore middle blocker Mele Halalilo hitting the ball directly towards sophomore setter Kirstie Shurie of Clarkson twice putting the Leopards up for the rest of both sets.

This win motivated the Leopards for their next game against Elmhurst.

Like the previous game, minor mistakes were made leading to a loss to the Blue Jays.

Senior setter Katie Rueffer, junior outside hitter Sam Szarmach, and sophomore defensive specialist Dana Loncar of Elmhurst dominated with kills going past the Leopards.

La Verne lost in three straight sets.

Senior middle hitters Megan Reynolds and Kaitly Wilkes combined for 21 kills for Elmhurst. Reynolds has a team high 11 kills.

“We need to close matches a little better and stay consistent mentally and don’t let any point go.” Cross said.

In the final game of the tournament against Whitman would need some motivation to win for the Leopards.

La Verne came out to a slow start in the first two sets but Yaxley came out with the determination to win and kept hitting the ball coming out with kills to put the Leopards ahead of the game.

Yaxley lead the team once more with 22 kills.

With the game was tied, 15-15, Halalilo made a block on Whitman’s junior opposite Megan Bafus of putting the Leopards ahead 16-15. Halalilo recorded seven kills of her own.

The Leopards eventually won the first set.

Senior defensive specialist Janelle Lubong Anna Suarez hustled constantly throughout the sets working together to keep the rally going and eventually coming out with the win.

“I feel that we did great throughout the tournament,” Halalilo said. “As long as we keep progressing together, we’ll be great as a team.”

Throughout the tournament, Cross and Yaxley constantly made kills putting up points for the Leopards alongside Halalilo and Allen who blocked hits made by the opposing team.

Cross and Halalilo each tallied seven kills receptively.

“Some key steps would just be to keep working hard in practice and in the weight room and just strive to be better and never be complacent,” said Yaxley. “Keep the energy and excitement we’ve had this weekend and let it carry over into the rest of the season.”

The Leopards faced Pomona-Pitzer in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match at Frantz Athletic Court Tuesday, losing 3-2.

“Key steps into moving forward this season is practice, practice, practice and staying mentally focused from point one to the last point,” Panatier said.

The volleyball team now has a 3-10 overall record on the season and an 0-2 record in SCIAC play.

The Leopards have a doubleheader scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Caltech and followed by a road game at 6 p.m. at Occidental.

Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at

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