Women reflect on winning season

Hannah Burton
Staff Writer

As the season has come to an end, the women’s volleyball team had a competitive year, maintaining momentum through endurance and passion on their way to success and reaching the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship.

The Leopards finished with a 22-7 overall record, including a 12-game winning streak.

This season, head coach Jenna Panatier said the team’s main goal was to stay together and work as a family to be successful, focusing not only on athleticism but the mental endurance that comes with it.

“We have the physical aspects that are required to be good, but we also need the mental aspects, the emotional aspects, the psychological aspects. And you have to have the spiritual aspects as well, because without belief or faith in yourself or faith in your team, you can be as physically talented as possible but you’re never going anywhere,” Panatier said. “I think that really helped us with our culture, too.”

Senior setter Tiffany Mancuso said she wanted to be a part of a team that was close and not divided.

“It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work,” she said. “It was definitely probably the best season that I’ve had out of all four years, not just because I was a senior and captain but just because of the team itself and the group of girls that we had.”

This season, players were able to come together as a unit.

“If this team was all about rewards, we wouldn’t have been very good, we wouldn’t have gotten to the NCAA,” Panatier said. “It can’t be a ‘me’ mentality. It has to be a ‘we’ mentality.”

The women traveled to Texas to compete in the first round of the NCAA Championship against No. 7 Southwestern on Nov. 11.

Although the team fell 3-2 in the match, Mancuso and senior middle blocker Kelsi Robinson said they had a positive experience.

“La Verne has a history of dropping out at the end of the season and we usually don’t perform as well, and this season we really turned it around and we finished strong,” Robinson said.

Robinson was named to the 2016 American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III Third Team All-America.

Panatier said Robinson remained focused by not checking stats, ultimately leading her to have a successful season and be an example to her teammates.

The women were able to learn from each other and build their relationships.

Panatier said that the seniors helped solidify the culture of the team through their hard work and dedication.

“You can’t pay for that kind of stuff, you just get lucky, and I’ve been really blessed,” Panatier said.

With a successful season to look back on, the women have worked to leave behind a positive legacy.

“People aren’t going to remember our record, people aren’t going to remember what we did on a day-to-day basis, but they are going to remember the people we have on this team,” Panatier said.

“They’re are going to remember how they made them feel, how they were excited to come to the games, how afterward our athletes embraced them and gave them hugs and thanked them for being there, that’s going to be what they remember,” she said.

Hannah Burton can be reached at hannah.burton@laverne.edu.

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