The women’s volleyball team falls to Redlands in the fifth set.
The Leopards’ underdog run in the West Regionals came to an end Saturday night with a five-set loss to Colorado College.
La Verne came into the tournament as the lowest ranked seed but stormed through both Pacific Lutheran and Redlands to reach the finals, only to come up one set short in the final game, ending its season.
In its first round game against the Pacific Lutheran Lutes, the Leopards were able to drop the No. 2 seed in four sets.
“We kept our energy up throughout the match and executed at important times,” said senior Ashley Morgado who had seven kills on a .417 hitting percentage.
The first set included 10 ties and could have been won by either team, but the Lutes won four out of the last five points to secure the victory 25-23.
“They beat us in the first and so we knew we needed to come back strong,” Morgado said.
La Verne came storming back in the second set, opening up a 17-11 lead and never relinquishing it, winning 25-18.
It took extra points for the Leopards to win the third set, 27-25.
Senior Crista Jones had a kill to break the 25-25 tie and then served an ace to put La Verne up two sets to one.
The third set momentum carried over into the fourth as the Leopards dropped the Lutes, 25-19, and advanced to the semi-finals against Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Redlands.
“We were able to keep our head in it. It gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow night’s game,” said junior Anna Calmer who posted 14 kills in the match.
Leading the way for the Leopards was Jones with 23 kills to go along with 20 digs.
The Bulldogs were a familiar opponent for the Leopards, who see them twice a year in conference play.
The Leopards were able to roar past Redlands in a thrilling five set match, 25-21, 25-16, 21-25, 23-25, 15-12.
Jones paced La Verne in kills with 29, Calmer contributed 14 kills and 17 digs and junior Chelsea Sleight tallied 40 digs.
The win propelled the Leopards into the West Regional final against the Tigers of Colorado College.
The Tigers set the pace early with a 25-19 victory.
The set remained even early, nine ties throughout, until Colorado won five out of the last seven points.
The Tigers’ momentum was short lived when ULV took an early 4-1 lead only to have Colorado come back to tie it 9-9.
It was not enough to derail La Verne who ended up evening the match 1-1 with a 25-20 victory.
Third sets have been a struggle throughout the year for the Leopards, but Saturday night proved differently.
A hot start by La Verne opened up an 8-2 lead, which was never relinquished.
The fourth set could have secured the victory for the Leopards but Colorado mounted a late surge to keep the match alive.
Only down 18-20, the Leopards could not find late set momentum and surrendered five out of the last six points to lose which forced a fifth set showdown.
It looked promising early for the Leopards, opening a large fifth set lead 7-3, but the Tigers came back, winning six straight points and then six out of the last seven to complete its comeback victory.
“I don’t think that was the highest level of volleyball we had played in the last few weeks, but it’s hard to sustain that level of play for so long,” head coach Marlon Sano said.
“Ultimately we just had some breakdowns in our serve and receive,” Sano said.
Jones and Sleight earned All-Tournament Team honors.
“This group has done a really remarkable job,” Sano said.
“They have stayed really resilient. A lot of people wrote us off a long time ago but the players worked incredibly hard and we made a great run,” Sano said.
Jones earned SCIAC Player of the Year as well as American Volleyball Coaches Association First Team All America honors for the second consecutive year.
It is the ninth straight year La Verne has had a representative on the AVCA team.
Kevin Garrity can be reached at email@example.com.