After an intense game against Cal Lutheran, La Verne fell short 3-1 at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference semifinals Thursday night.
The Leopards had previously beaten the Regals twice during the regular season, before the unexpected defeat on post-season play.
“We had our ups and downs but we played our hearts out,” senior middle blocker Alexia Balistreri said. “We lost, but I’m still proud of my team.”
Cal Lutheran scored the first point in the first set, but La Verne quickly grabbed the lead, 5-1. Blocks from Balistreri and kills from junior middle blocker Kelsie Sievers forced the Regals into a time out, with the Leopards still leading 11-6.
The Regals quickly caught up and tied the Leopards, 16-16. The two teams kept scoring back and forth, neither team able to extend the lead past one point.
Senior outside hitter Marisa Rojo scored the final two points that allowed La Verne to win the first set, 25-23.
The Leopards held a short lead in the second set, 3-1, but were quickly overtaken by the Regals, who maintained a four point lead the majority of the game. The Leopards tried to prevent the Regals from scoring, but they kept missing their blocks. They slowly caught up towards the end of the set but fell short two points, allowing Cal Lutheran to win the second set, 25-22.
“I think we remained positive,” Rojo said. “We did have a little time where we were a little frantic, but we stayed aggressive.”
The third set had a similar scoring between the two evenly-matched teams; each team took turns holding a one point lead over the other. Cal Lutheran gained momentum halfway through the set, maintaining a four point lead over La Verne.
The Leopards remained aggressive, but could not get a lead over the Regals. The third set went to Cal Lutheran, 25-20.
La Verne took the lead early in the final set, 10-3, with Balistreri scoring four kills while Rojo went on a serving run. The Leopards remained aggressive and would not let the Regals gain any momentum.
The Regals caught up in the later half of the set and tied the Leopards, 17-17. The Leopards fought back with kills from Rojo and Balistreri and eventually gained a two point lead, 20-18.
Both teams tied again at 23-23, but Cal Lutheran scored the last two kills and won the game 25-23.
“We all remained positive, especially this last game here,” Rojo said. “We all wanted to win, we all were going for the ball. It just didn’t go our way, but we played one hell of a game.”
The loss greatly affected the morale of the team, but head coach Jenna Panatier is still proud of her team despite the results.
“I’m really proud of the way that they played all year. We’ve had to overcome a lot of hard things that most teams never have to overcome,” Panatier said.
“The fact that we were able to do what we did with what we had to go through, and be able to host the first round of conference, that’s a testament to the heart of my team.”
Mulan Novilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.