Leopards vie for title

Senior outside hitter Jason Flick hits over the block of the Pride's swinger Corey Romanak as junior Chris Peterson sets up for the ball. / photo by Ryan Sones
Senior outside hitter Jason Flick hits over the block of the Pride’s swinger Corey Romanak as junior Chris Peterson sets up for the ball. / photo by Ryan Sones

by J.R. Gonsalves
photography by Ryan Sones

As the University of La Verne men’s volleyball team prepared for the Division III championship match against Juniata College last Saturday, victory was on the team’s mind.

However, the problem for the Leopards (12-12) was that Juniata (13-16) was thinking the same thing. The Leopards fell to the Eagles in four games, 15-13, 8-15, 15-9 and 15-13.

Jack Coberly, men's volleyball head coach, congratulates senior Jeff Pang, freshman Agke Grow, freshman Alex Lienert, junior Sean Douglas and the rest of his players in a team huddle after the loss to Juniata College for the national championship. La Verne advanced to the finals after defeating last year's national champion Springfield College, host of this year's Molten Division III Men's Volleyball National Championship. / photo by Ryan Sones
Jack Coberly, men’s volleyball head coach, congratulates senior Jeff Pang, freshman Agke Grow, freshman Alex Lienert, junior Sean Douglas and the rest of his players in a team huddle after the loss to Juniata College for the national championship. La Verne advanced to the finals after defeating last year’s national champion Springfield College, host of this year’s Molten Division III Men’s Volleyball National Championship. / photo by Ryan Sones

“They are a good team,” said senior middle blocker Jason Flick, who led La Verne with six block assists.

The Leopards started slow, while being outscored 4-0 in the beginning of game one.

“Their serving was very tough,” said head coach Jack Coberly.

The Eagles served tough, but ULV had more serving aces, seven to Juniata’s six. However, the Eagles passed better than the Leopards which helped their sideout game tremendously.

La Verne came back to tie the score at four, but every time the Leopards made a run, Juniata came back with a run of its own.

“We have not played consistent all season,” said Coberly. “That has been our problem this year.”

In game two, the tide changed for the Leopards as they started the game with a run of their own. Every player contributed to the offense, and the Leopards hit .592 as a team.

Game three started much the same as game one, with La Verne finding themselves down early 3-0. The Eagles never looked back as they cruised to a fairly easy 15-9 victory.

Senior outside hitter Ryan Allen, La Verne's kill leader for the year (282 kills), adds one of his 12 on the night against Springfield's outside hitter Brad Skarupa. Great hitting throughout the night secured a victory in the semifinal (15-6, 15-2, 15-3) against last year's national champions at the semifinals of the 1998 Molten Division III Men's Volleyball National Championships. / photo by Ryan Sones
Senior outside hitter Ryan Allen, La Verne’s kill leader for the year (282 kills), adds one of his 12 on the night against Springfield’s outside hitter Brad Skarupa. Great hitting throughout the night secured a victory in the semifinal (15-6, 15-2, 15-3) against last year’s national champions at the semifinals of the 1998 Molten Division III Men’s Volleyball National Championships. / photo by Ryan Sones

The fourth and final game started with a flurry. The game was close until the Leopards scored five straight points, and the match looked to be headed into a fifth game.

La Verne, however, would relinquish the lead. After the Eagles went ahead and the Leopards caught up to tie the game at 13, ULV made two straight hitting errors to end the match and its hopes of a Division III National Championship.

The match “was too streaky,” said senior setter Morgan Coberly.

The Leopards did come away with a second place finish in Division III volleyball. To get to the final match, La Verne had to play Springfield College, the defending National Champions.

Friday night, La Verne outhit the Pride (15-11) and won the match 15-6, 15-2 and 15-13. The Leopards were facing an ex-teammate in sophomore middle blocker James Klimkoski and junior opposite hitter Peter Murray, who is the Division III leader in kills per game with 5.25.

The problem for Springfield was that Murray was not a factor in the match. He hit .156 with nine kills. The leader in kills and hitting percentage was Klimkoski, .545 and 14 kills.

Game one started with the Leopards going on a 5-0 run. The major reason for the run was the passing of junior outside hitter Sean Douglas.

Freshman outside hitter Alex Lienert attends a seminar on good defense as junior outside hitter Chris Peterson, who led the Leopards in all but one defensive category this year, unearths another dig against Springfield's Pride at the place where volleyball got its start in 1884 by William G. Morgan. Peterson's efforts earned respect from all coaches at the tournament and was voted to the all-tournament team along with teammate senior Morgan Coberly. / photo by Ryan Sones
Freshman outside hitter Alex Lienert attends a seminar on good defense as junior outside hitter Chris Peterson, who led the Leopards in all but one defensive category this year, unearths another dig against Springfield’s Pride at the place where volleyball got its start in 1884 by William G. Morgan. Peterson’s efforts earned respect from all coaches at the tournament and was voted to the all-tournament team along with teammate senior Morgan Coberly. / photo by Ryan Sones

“My role is to faithfully pass and keep our tempo up,” said Douglas, who contributed to the match with four digs.

In games one and two, the Leopards were untouched by the Springfield block, tallying 26 and 16 kills, respectively. However, after blowouts in the opening games, the Pride came out in game three and played the Leopards tough.

“We were unsure of how they [La Verne] would respond after the serving contest at the end of game two,” said assistant coach Rob Sneider.

The Leopards responded well. Game three started out tied at 6-6. But La Verne was outhit in game three, .390 to .288, and the Pride also matched the Leopards’ kill total at 22.

“We knew that going into this match that we had never reached our full potential,” said junior outside hitter Chris Peterson, who led La Verne in kills with 16, hit .448 and added two digs.

It all comes down to this. Nearly 1,000 hours of practice, hundreds of rolls of white athletic tape and countless twisted ankles later, the Leopards' starting six await the sound of the referee's whistle to start the National Championship match before "Old Glory" as a scratchy version of national anthem blares throughout the wooden gym. / photo by Ryan Sones
It all comes down to this. Nearly 1,000 hours of practice, hundreds of rolls of white athletic tape and countless twisted ankles later, the Leopards’ starting six await the sound of the referee’s whistle to start the National Championship match before “Old Glory” as a scratchy version of national anthem blares throughout the wooden gym. / photo by Ryan Sones
Head coach Jack Coberly calms the nerves of his team during a time-out reiterating the basics that enabled the team to contend for the national title. Before the time-out the Leopards were outscored 6-1 by Juniata College. After the time-out the Leopards went on to take the second game from the Eagles. Coberly took on a struggling volleyball program and ran it to the national playoffs in his first year with help from new assistant coach Rob Sneider (second from right). / photo by Ryan Sones
Head coach Jack Coberly calms the nerves of his team during a time-out reiterating the basics that enabled the team to contend for the national title. Before the time-out the Leopards were outscored 6-1 by Juniata College. After the time-out the Leopards went on to take the second game from the Eagles. Coberly took on a struggling volleyball program and ran it to the national playoffs in his first year with help from new assistant coach Rob Sneider (second from right). / photo by Ryan Sones

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