by Brice Nixon
Editor in Chief
In its biggest match of the season, the University of La Verne women’s volleyball team came up with one of its best performances to beat its rival and toughest opponent the last few years.
“They were definitely our toughest match,” said La Verne senior outside hitter Amy Brummel, who had a match-high 12 kills. “But we always play better against the toughest people.”
The Leopards, still undefeated (22-0, 11-0), topped Cal Lutheran University in three games on Saturday, 15-8, 16-14 and 15-11. The Regals (15-7, 8-2) were the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) champions the last two years and four of the last five. La Verne won SCIAC in 1997 and finished second every other year since 1995.
After winning the first two games, the Leopards surrendered seven straight points to start the third game. But several Cal Lu mistakes allowed La Verne to overcome the deficit.
“We made a lot of mistakes when they were getting points,” said Brummel. “But I think we just knew all along that we weren’t going to let them have it. We wanted to really beat them in three. And when they were ahead we still stepped up to the plate and really grabbed it.”
Brummel had two kills, and juniors Sue Whitcher, opposite, and Stacey Lupu, middle blocker, each had one as the Leopards turned an 11-9 deficit into a 14-11 lead. Six sideouts followed before La Verne closed out the game and the match, 15-11.
“The first game we didn’t play great,” said Cal Lu coach James Park. “But the last two games we took the lead and we should have put them away. We haven’t been able to put teams away when we have the chance.”
In the first game, the Leopards fell behind early but then outscored the Regals 14-4. During that run, Whitcher contributed five kills for La Verne.
Led by two aces from junior setter Ryan Winn (four aces), the Leopards jumped out to an early advantage in the second game. But the lead changed hands several times before La Verne came out on top. ULV sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Kennedy was key to the Leopards’ win. She came up with several important kills in the match, including the game winner.
A kill by Kennedy (10 kills) gave the Leopards a 12-10 lead. But two attack errors from the Leopards allowed the Regals to take a 13-12 lead. But twice Brummel came up with kills for sideout that kept Cal Lu from adding to its total as La Verne scored four of the last five points.
“I thought La Verne just outplayed us at the crunch time,” said Park. “They played well but every time we come in here we crumble. We make a lot more mistakes.”
The Leopards are ranked No. 2 in the NCAA West Region and 11th in the nation. With three games left in SCIAC play, they are close to clinching their first conference title since ’97.
“I feel a sense of satisfaction to beat them three times in one year,” said ULV head coach Don Flora. “They tried to adjust to us, we kept doing our job, and we made some adjustments back that proved that we are the best team in Southern California in Division III.
“We’re the best team in SCIAC. This proves it. It makes a statement in conference because now we have the opportunity to go undefeated. That’s our goal.”
Flora also said the match and the high level of competition is crucial in getting ready for the playoffs.
“This is a really important preparation that we can play two nights in a row at a high level and that we can beat teams that we need to beat handily,” said Flora. “We are getting better. And that’s the key.”
Brummel agreed with Flora on the importance of the win.
“This is a huge thing for us,” said Brummel. “When we get into Regionals we’ll be facing teams like this. We need this kind of play because we haven’t seen it otherwise.
“But we have to know that they’re going to be even better than this. And we have to step it up even more.”
Brummel also said there are some differences this year, as compared with years past.
“The difference, I would say, would have to be the experience with this team. We do have a lot of freshman. But we’ve got good freshman this year. And I think we just have the experience and the practice and the determination to really beat them this year.
“I would have to say the difference is we just wanted it this year.”
Brummel also pointed out that “everybody has confidence in each other. I have full confidence that any person can back the other person up. And that’s why we’re going this far.”
On Tuesday, ULV kept its undefeated record in tact by beating visiting Redlands 15-3, 16-14 and 15-9. Kennedy led the Leopards with a match-high 10 kills and three aces. Brummel and Whitcher had nine.
The day before the Cal Lu game, the Leopards defeated Pomona-Pitzer in four games, 15-6, 15-12, 9-15 and 15-5. Junior middle blocker Adriana Contreras had a huge game for La Verne, racking up a match-high 19 kills. Brummel had 12 kills and Whitcher had nine. Kennedy and Lupu contributed seven apiece.