Men’s volleyball ‘on the rise’

J.R. Gonsalves, Assistant Sports Editor
J.R. Gonsalves, Assistant Sports Editor

A doormat is not something a team in any sport wants to be recognized as.

For the University of La Verne men’s volleyball team, the doormat reputation they have earned over the past few years has taken a while to be lifted, but slowly and surely, the doormat of the Division I volleyball team is becoming strong.

The Leopards are currently 9-9. A .500 record is very respectable for a Division III school playing at the Division I level.

“Last year there was a comment published about our team by the University of California, Irvine head coach, Charlie Bran, who said his season hit a low when they lost to the University of La Verne,” said head coach Jack Coberly. “When I saw that quote, I was so mad in a team meeting this year and I told the guys that would never happen again.”

As it stands now, San Diego State University and George Mason University are two Division I teams that can no longer make such comments at the expense of the Leopards.

The head coach for SDSU, Jack Henn, was not pleased after a match in the middle of March, when he said that he would never come back and play at La Verne because of the fans. The “fans” as Henn called them, were made up of six students. What Henn sees as a fan problem, most would see as minor nuisance.

Henn was really upset that his No. 15 Aztecs, independent and unranked in Division I volleyball, lost to the Leopards.

“It goes back to last year, when we didn’t know how to win. There was a lot of pressure on is when there should not have been,” said senior setter Morgan Coberly. “This year we have learned how to win and we feel confident playing against any team.”

What coaches like Henn and Bran do not understand is that their programs are no longer superior to La Verne’s. The Leopards have started a new era of volleyball with new head coach Coberly. He brings a new coaching philosophy that has been doing wonders for the Leopards this season.

What the team has figured out is that it can win. The Leopards are not intimidated when facing ranked teams. They accept every challenge that any team brings into their gym.

Since the Leopards faltered at the beginning of the season, they have come alive, winning five out of their last six matches, and they have won three matches in a row.

“We have a lot of momentum, and we feel that we can beat anybody we play against,” said senior Morgan Coberly. “Someone different has stepped up in every match.”

The Leopards never had this much success. The normal season for the Leopards would consist of about three or four wins.

What La Verne has realized since the Division III playoffs were developed is that they do not have to play every Division I team to be good. This La Verne team can beat other Division III teams and gain recognition.

For the Leopards, it has always been about having a tough Division I schedule, but now as the team realizes that the players who can make the Leopards No. 1 in Division I are going to UCLA and Stanford, they can settle for being No. 1 in Division III, a goal that is very much in reach in this very prosperous season.

The Leopards currently have a lot of confidence. No team should ever underestimate them because they have the talent to beat top teams in any division. Now what they must do is find a way to win the Division III national title.

J.R. Gonsalves, a senior communications major, is assistant sports editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at gonsalve@ulv.edu.

J.R. Gonsalves

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