by Reginald Miller
and Christine Owen
Proving that it can still compete against Division I schools, the University of La Verne men’s volleyball team trounced Harvard University on Monday night in the Supertents. The Leopards won in four games, 15-11, 9-15, 15-4 and 15-11.
Although he emphasized his happiness with the win, head coach Jack Coberly said he felt his team could have played more proficiently to “get it done a little better in fewer games.
“The win was good, but I didn’t like how we earned it.”
Coberly said fatigue may have played a part in his team’s overall performance during the Harvard game. The team had just returned from a road trip Sunday, and had been up at 6 a.m. the past two mornings.
“I don’t know if we were a little flat because of that, but at least we were starting to execute, we were starting to dig the ball and cover and do all the basics right,” Coberly said. “That’s all we really have to do right now for the last two matches of the season.”
Contributing to the winning effort against Harvard, senior captain and outside hitter Dave Spegon collected 23 kills and five service aces. Senior setter Matt Wright also fueled the team’s performance with 50 assists.
“I think both Dave and Matt deserve more recognition than they get. They are both exceptional players and lead the team extremely well,” said freshman opposite Jake Swann. “Matt set a great game. Dave hit .318, which is huge for an outside hitter who gets 44 sets.”
Coberly said the rotation of players in different positions was a key part of the Leopards’ win.
“I thought that Agke Grow, coming in tonight, taken out of libero, carried the team. He simply carried the game,” Coberly said.
Grow, who was switched to outside hitter during the third game, had five blocks and five kills.
“Agke is an incredible blocker and came in and blocked well when we needed him to,” Swann said.
Another player Coberly praised was freshman Shane Haldeman, who played libero when Grow was rotated.
Coberly said, “Shane came in as the libero and did a good job. He was real excited and pumped, and that’s what the position is. It’s like going absolutely berserko and digging everything, and that’s what you’re supposed to be – a digging machine.”
Despite severely spraining his ankle during Saturday’s match, Swann played Monday with his ankle heavily bandaged. He had the second highest number of kills (18) and blocks (four), along with sophomore middle blocker Tom Hilton, who also had four blocks.
“Jake played really well with his hurt ankle,” Hilton said. “Dave played extremely well, Nate [Silva] and Agke played well. We had a lot of guys stepping up.”
Although there were not hundreds in attendance on Monday night, Coberly said he was pleased that fans were there to encourage the team.
“Especially when you don’t have a winning season, it’s nice to know that kids will still show up and support the team,” Coberly said.
Saturday, the team traveled to Stockton to face Division I University of the Pacific Tigers.
“It seems like a hard place to play. It’s a five-hour drive to get up there,” said assistant coach Morgan Coberly, “but in the past we’ve always played them really well.”
Keeping consistent with their tough schedule, the Leopards started strong against the Tigers, ranked No. 15 in the Division I polls, matching them point-for-point in the first game until a momentum shifting injury took the wind out of the Leopards’ sails.
With the game tied at 12 in the first game, Swann went down with a severe ankle sprain.
“Once Jake got injured we stayed quiet and we stopped playing well,” Coberly said. “That carried over into the second game.”
The Leopards eventually surrendered the first game, 15-12.
“It made it difficult,” said team captain Spegon, “to lose someone like Jake who’s probably the kill leader on our team. You can’t stay afloat basically.”
The Leopards were visibly outsized by their taller opponents and lost the next two games as well, 15-8 and 15-4.
“It’s hard to play defense behind a small middle blocking team like we have, especially when we play teams that have huge middle blockers like UOP,” Spegon said.
Statistically, the Leopards were led in kills by Spegon, who had 15. He also registered a team-high 11 digs. Wright led the Leopards with 31 assists.
The Leopards play their second-to-last game of the season tonight when they host UC Irvine, ranked No. 18 in Division I, at 7 p.m. in the Supertents. ULV closes out the season Wednesday when they host 12th ranked Cal State Northridge.