The Leopards fell short 3-1 in a point-for-point match against the Occidental Tigers Tuesday. The team played hard and had its moments, but broke under pressure resulting in a Tigers victory of 25-21, 21-25, 25-21 and 25-19.
Junior outside hitter Tiffany Johnstone opened up the first point of the match with a kill. However, Tigers outside hitter Stephanie Gann consistently dished it right back to Leopards defense.
“We played as well as we could,” junior team captain Kendall Kraiss said.
The Leopards had to play some catch up but were able to tie the game at 9-9. Strong hits at the net gave La Verne a lead, but small defensive errors would place the ball right back into Occidental’s hands shortly after.
“We had to use a different defense, players are hurt so it took us a little time to adjust,” sophomore defensive specialist Morgan Donohue said.
The women picked up their defensive stumble later in the game but Occidental’s steady momentum helped them keep the lead, closing the first set 25-21.
Junior outside hitter Randi Taylor-Toomay opened up the second set with an immediate kill, following right after came kills by junior middle Catie Logan giving the Leopards a quick lead of 3-0.
“We came into the second game really strong,” Logan said. “We were playing great defense and our passing was on.”
This time around it was the Tigers that scrambled on the court as the Leopards front row shut it down offensively. Great digs by the back row and solid blocks at the net made the Leopards unstoppable in the second set.
“Without the communication and the eyes of the back row putting the ball away is nearly impossible,“ Taylor-Toomay said.
Taylor–Toomay not only lead the Leopards in kills for the night but also caught her season high of 19 kills during the match.
Tigers took a timeout down 21-11 hoping to shake up the Leopards but it did not work, and the Leopards had the second set in their grasp up 24-14.
“We were able to utilize the defense well,” head coach Jenna Panatier said.
However, the women may have eased up too soon.
Although ten points down at game point, the Tigers stayed focused and came back 24-20.
Their efforts were ended by an overpass that was swatted by Leopards middle blocker Rachel Bailey ending set two at 25-21.
Momentum from the second set started the Leopards off with a 5-3 lead in the third.
“We stayed together and talked the whole time,” sophomore setter Krystal Castellanos said.
Although the players demonstrated great communication and teamwork from the start, the Tigers rapidly begun to illustrate the same.
There were back to back ties between the two teams, setting the crowd on a rollercoaster of emotions between excitement and anxiousness.
Impressive shots were made by Bailey under pressure in tough ball placements at the net, but defensive errors on serve receive gave Occidental a lead that lead them to a 25-21 triumph.
“When you make mistakes your team needs to come together and support one another, and we do a good job at that,” Bailey said.
In the fourth and final set the Leopards and the Tigers were neck and neck once again, both playing great offense and defense.
The Leopards gained a lead but hard hits to the back court from Tigers middle blocker Aly Fritz and outside hitter Logan Boyer-Hayse put Occidental at the advantage.
Leopards got into passing trouble at a crucial part of the match.
“Our serve receive broke down,” head coach Panatier said.
The Tigers closed the last set of the match 25-19.
“We just have to learn from it and move on, we have more important games coming up,” Kraiss said.
La Verne holds a 15-11 overall record and a record of 5-6 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, and are up against Pomona-Pitzer at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Frantz Athletic Court.
Alyssa Cole can be reached at email@example.com.