The women’s volleyball team blew out Redlands on Saturday night at Frantz Athletic Court. The team’s sharp back row kills helped the Leopards sweep the Bulldogs, 3-0.
Junior setter Emily Heldenbrand said La Verne’s motto motivated her team to perform well after their win against Caltech on Friday.
“We always say take one point at a time,” Heldenbrand said.
In the first set, La Verne built up an early lead, 14-3.
Freshman libero Madison Smith said the team’s five-point serving run and Redlands’ mistakes helped the team maintain their lead.
“Keeping that momentum, executing the ball and making sure to keep the ball in play to let the other team make mistakes really helped us,” Smith said. “Just throughout that first set we really had energy and momentum because we were so pumped to be far ahead of Redlands.”
Redlands attempted a comeback by scoring three points in a row. This led head coach Jeff Hendershot to call La Verne’s first timeout of the game.
“Sometimes we get overwhelmed and anxious when a team goes on a run,” Heldenbrand said. “So we started freaking out and then he called a timeout, he told us to take a deep breath and sideout.”
At the end of the first set, the Bulldogs were holding onto a thread and had another three-point serving run after the Leopards waited to execute their last point to finish the game.
But then freshman right side hitter Ha’ani Untalan jumped high to execute a fast kill on the line to secure a win for the team.
“I felt proud of my team because the job couldn’t have gotten done without them and their contribution,” Untalan said. “At that point, I was pumped and was ready to get back and win another set.”
The Leopards won the first set, 25-17.
During the beginning of the second set, there were two early ties. But the Leopards fought back to break the tie and maintain control of the ball, running their lead to 7-2.
“We just continued to push through,” Untalan said. “We didn’t let the points dwell in our heads because volleyball is a game of mistakes so every new point is a new slate.”
Smith said the team had to quickly turn around the momentum of the game in their favor.
“We really shifted our mindset and started taking more aggressive swings, and covering more ground on defense,” Smith said.
At the end of the second set, the Bulldogs’ defense forced the Leopards to commit a volley for the last three points of the set.
Heldenbrand said although she gets nervous, she reminded herself that her team could stop Redlands’ offense.
“I’m glad that my team pulled through and had the same mentality,” Heldenbrand said. “We are not going to let them get another point. ‘We are not going to lose’ is the mentality my team and I had.”
La Verne did not lose and executed another win in the second set, 25-15.
The Bulldogs started executing their kills and challenged the Leopards to tie 12 times throughout the third set.
The Leopards suffered many offensive mistakes, which made it hard for them to get ahead of Redlands.
“We had a lot of errors hitting out of bounds and hits on the net. It was more of a timing issue and difficulty reading Redlands’ blocks,” Smith said.
Junior outside hitter Ayana Mier continued to lead her team with 16 kills but she partially blamed herself for offensive mistakes.
“A lot of hitters, including myself, were trying to get big kills,” Mier said. “In stressful times during the game, we can’t focus on executing big kills. We have to play the game we have been playing rather than trying to go outside of that and trying to make big moves.”
The final three ties at 18, 19 and 20 were intense with two long volleys.
The first volley ended with junior middle back Kari Esseff’s kill and a touch by one of the two back row Redlands’ players, who were struggling to get to their feet from the previous volley. This ended with a tie at 18 points.
The next volley for the Leopards to tie the game, at 19 points, ended with Redlands’ attack error and handing over another point to La Verne. The last tie at 20 points ended with Redlands’ point after a touch on La Verne’s offense.
Untalan said getting past the multiple ties near the end of the game was rough, but La Verne knew what they needed to do in the final points of the game.
“It was just that one point we had to push through the fatigue, tiredness, and soreness of our bodies,” Untalan said. “But at that point, that is the breaking point of knowing that we know that we are getting better as a team.”
Untalan finished the game with seven kills and 12 digs.
“I was kind of excited because it was a chance for us to fight back and push through,” she said.
Heldenbrand said her coach stressed to the team not to worry about the score during key game changing moments, but to focus on how their team should be executing hits.
“We all came together in the huddle and said that we really need to focus right here in this game,” Heldenbrand said. “That motivation to not go to the fourth set made us focus better, connect better, to end it in the third set.”
The Leopards robbed the Bulldogs of the third set in a sweeping win, 25-21.
“Thank you to my team, my coach, and everyone who comes and supports the games,” Untalan said. “It really means so much more to us than you know to us to have people support the team.”
The win was La Verne’s third in its last four conference matches, including road wins against Whitter and Caltech.
The team advanced to 7-8 overall and 3-5 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Leopards lost to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in straight sets, 3-0, on Tuesday night, but they will host Chapman in a pivotal game at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Leopards are currently sixth in the SCIAC standings and Chapman is sitting in the fourth spot that the Leopards are trying to catch.
Jaydelle Herbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org