Volleyball team hosts Invitational

Katelyn Winiecki, junior middle blocker, makes a kill during the first game of the volleyball match against UC Santa Cruz Saturday at Frantz Athletic Court. Winiecki’s kill scored a point for the Leopards to break Santa Cruz’s lead. At the end, the Leopards squished the Banana Slugs, 3-1. / photo by Dorothy Gartsman
Katelyn Winiecki, junior middle blocker, makes a kill during the first game of the volleyball match against UC Santa Cruz Saturday at Frantz Athletic Court. Winiecki’s kill scored a point for the Leopards to break Santa Cruz’s lead. At the end, the Leopards squished the Banana Slugs, 3-1. / photo by Dorothy Gartsman

Mark Acosta
Sports Editor

The La Verne volleyball team concluded the Leopard Invitational tournament with a 3-1 win over UC Santa Cruz Saturday night at Frantz Athletic Court.

The Leopards came into the game on a three-game losing streak, but were able to get back in the win column in the final game of the tournament.

“We are going through some stuff with our team right now,” head coach Jenna Panatier said. “Mireya (Rojo) was diagnosed with Lymphoma.”

Lymphoma is a blood cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system keeps body fluids free from infection, according to American Cancer Fund.

Panatier said the team found out the news before the game Monday against Whittier.

She said the team is not struggling, but trying to find ways to work through this adversity.

While that has taken some games to figure out, it is still a work in progress but they say they are rallying behind their teammate.

The first set started off good for La Verne as they jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead thanks to an ace by sophomore setter Madison Maynes.

After the quick start, the Leopards faltered with some errors and allowed the Banana Slugs to take control.

The game stayed close and neither team was able to widen the lead.

The set came to a tie at 14-14, and after that point Santa Cruz took the lead and never gave it back.

After a La Verne timeout when they trailed 15-20, the Leopards tried to claw their way back in the set but it would not happen and they dropped the opening set, 25-21.

“We’ve been struggling,” junior setter Natalie Barragan said. “We’ve been going through a rough patch, but we had to go through some losses and hard times to get our stuff together.”

To start the second set, Santa Cruz came out with energy.

The Banana Slugs jumped on the Leopards, 7-4, forcing a timeout.

Coming out, both teams traded points back and forth.

The score was 8-6 when senior outside hitter Marisa Rojo took a pass from Barragan and spiked it into the ground for a kill.

After that, it seemingly woke up the team and gave them the spark they needed.

The Leopards fought back and tied the game 12-12.

But Santa Cruz stayed poised and did not allow the Leopards get too far ahead.

After a kill from senior middle blocker Alexia Balistreri, the Leopards took a 19-17 advantage and forced a timeout from the Banana Slugs.

Three quick points after the timeout by Santa Cruz had them once again in the lead, but La Verne used kills from Marisa Rojo, junior outside hitter Delaney Lynch and attack errors from Santa Cruz to take a 24-23 advantage.

Junior defensive specialist Kristen Sanchez sealed the set victory with an ace and La Verne won the second set 25-23.

“We need to have fun and stay positive,” freshman outside hitter Kiana Valdivieso said.

La Verne started off the third set with great energy that carried over from the previous one.

They were able to get a lead on Santa Cruz early on and held it for the entire set.

The Leopards jumped out to a 16-6 lead and the Banana Slugs called a timeout to regroup. Things did not get any better for them after the timeout as La Verne kept rolling and soon led 21-9.

The Banana Slugs got a few more points to make the set look more respectable, but it was thoroughly dominated by the Leopards.

Balistreri ended the set with a kill, and the Leopards won, 25-13.

The Leopards started the fourth set even better than the third.

They used kills from Marisa Rojo, Balistreri and errors from Santa Cruz to build a 9-2 lead.

Nothing could help the Banana Slugs as La Verne continued to ramp up the pressure.

As the lead was extended to 18-10, the Leopards used a series of kills from Marisa Rojo, Lynch and an ace from Sanchez to get the lead to 24-13.

On the final point of the set, junior middle blocker Katelyn Winiecki and Lynch both rose above the net and denied the Santa Cruz to end the game 25-13.

The Leopards are currently 14-5 overall with a 7-2 record in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

La Verne will continue conference play at 7 p.m. Friday against Redlands at Frantz Athletic Court.

Mark Acosta can be reach at mark.acosta@laverne.edu or on Twitter @Acosta_Mark_.

Dorothy Gartsman
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