by Matt Paulson
After failing to convert on three match points in the fifth and deciding game of Monday’s match, the University of La Verne men’s volleyball team was handed its first loss in its last four matches by the entirely international squad of Concordia College in New York.
After splitting the first four games of the match, the Leopards and Clippers would need a 15-point, win-by-two fifth game to decide the night’s victor.
When the game was tied at 15 apiece, Concordia outside hitter Jesus Perez smashed one of his 18 kills on the evening to get Concordia to match point.
ULV would not lie down, as senior middle blocker Dave Engle answered back with a kill, tying the game at 16.
Concordia junior setter Rafael Diaz disagreed with the call, and he voiced his opinion to the referee, prompting the referee to hand Diaz a yellow card, giving ULV a point to take the lead and get to its first match point.
Unable to capitalize on this match point and the two to follow, ULV opened the door for Concordia as the Clippers took the lead at 20-19. Concordia did not waste any more time, ending the fifth game, 21-19, and the nearly two-hour match, 3-2.
The inability to finish a game has plagued ULV this season. The three missed opportunities to win the match in Monday’s fifth game were evidence of this.
“It’s our demeanor that we’re OK with a lead,” said Morgan Coberly, associate head coach.
Instead of just sticking with its opponents, as ULV did against Concordia, the Leopards must learn “to beat them into the ground,” Morgan Coberly said.
Earlier, after winning the first game in the match, the Leopards then lost two straight to the Clippers by scores of 30-24 and 30-21.
“(In those games), we dug ourselves too big of a hole to come back,” said senior libero Shane Haldeman.
The five-game loss to the Clippers, whose roster displays only two players below 6 feet 4 inches tall and none from the United States, was due mainly to ULV’s inconsistency.
When playing a team with players of the Clippers’ stature, ULV, who holds an obscene height disadvantage, must play solidly, wait for the Clippers to make their inevitable mistakes and capitalize on those mistakes. Monday, the Leopards did not achieve this.
“Our problem was that we gave them so many errors,” Morgan Coberly said. “We didn’t give them a chance to get cold.”
Sophomore opposite Dwayne Wibeto, who earned the position when senior setter Scott Alley was called to active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, has stepped up his game immensely in the past week. Wibeto led ULV in the match with 16 kills on 32 attempts for a hitting percentage of .219. He also contributed defensively with four digs and three blocks.
“It’s nice to finally see him progress to a level of confidence,” Engle said.
Wednesday night, ULV took on No. 4 ranked Vassar College of New York in an important Division III match.
Led in the first game by three Wibeto aces, ULV looked to be in control of the game-one momentum.
But the Brewers rallied back to win the game, 30-28.
In game two, the Leopards came out storming as they rode three consecutive blocks to a 7-2 lead.
But inconsistency crept in. The Leopards let Vassar back into the contest. Unable to recover from this Brewer comeback, ULV dropped the second straight game to the Brewers, 30-28.
Game three was the closest of the match, with the two sides trading points until the game was tied at 26.
Vassar, led by senior Jesse Lam, won two consecutive points take the lead, 28-26. This deficit proved to be insurmountable, as the Brewers finished off ULV, 30-27, in the third game and 3-0 in the match.
Wednesday’s loss marks the first time ULV has been defeated by a Division III team since dropping last year’s National Championship match to Springfield College in five games.
Friday night, Wibeto led ULV from the service line against Eastern Mennonite of Virginia, as one bicoastal rivalry was laid to rest when the Leopards defeated the Royals, 3-0.
In game one, ULV had earned a 14-11 lead when Wibeto came to the service line.
Wibeto and ULV pieced together a seven-point run, which was highlighted by Wibeto’s two aces.
The Leopards went on to win the first game, 30-20.
Wibeto’s night was far from complete. In game two, he came to the line with the score tied at five. The pride of Hanford then tallied two more aces to help the Leopards take a two-point lead. Wibeto’s two aces proved to be all the cushion ULV would need to pull out the second game, 30-26.
In the third game, Wibeto stepped to the line, and once again, got the best of the Royal defense, boasting an additional two consecutive aces. These final two aces in the third and final game of the match brought Wibeto’s evening total to six, setting a new school record of aces in a match, breaking assistant coach Jeff Pang’s old mark of five.
“Dwayne went off,” Engle said. “He did unbelievable in aces.”
Later in the third, the Coberly coaching duo subbed in nearly an entire squad of back-ups. At 27-21, with ULV leading, freshmen Adam Hilton and Jason Haldeman received looks. Jason Haldeman and Hilton joined freshman middle blocker Ben Paine, senior opposite Jay Chapman and sophomore outside hitter Elliot Naito, who were already in the match.
With only two of the night’s starters left on the floor, Shane Haldeman and freshman outside hitter Matt Cornell, Eastern Mennonite put together a 3-1 run, forcing Jack Coberly to call a timeout.
After giving up one more point to the Royals, ULV answered back, winning two consecutive points, capped by a Hilton dump, to win the game, 30-27, and the match, 3-0.
ULV’s second team performance in the third game, though it was enough to send the Royals away with a loss, did not impress Morgan Coberly.
“It still needs to be cleaner,” he said.
The Leopards will attempt to close a two-match losing streak at 7 p.m. today in the Supertents against Newman University.