Leopards end their season with 5-set win over Occidental

La Verne freshman outside hitter Noelani Soma (16) splits the ball between Tiger blockers in Saturday’s matchup against Occidental at the Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards fought hard in their final game of the season, winning in five sets. They now enter the off-season to prepare for their nontraditional volleyball season in April. / photo by Jingyao Liang
La Verne freshman outside hitter Noelani Soma (16) splits the ball between Tiger blockers in Saturday’s matchup against Occidental at the Frantz Athletic Court. The Leopards fought hard in their final game of the season, winning in five sets. They now enter the off-season to prepare for their nontraditional volleyball season in April. / photo by Jingyao Liang

Sarah Van Buskirk
Assistant Sports Editor

The women’s volleyball team finished its season strong by defeating the Occidental Tigers, 3-2, Saturday at Frantz Athletic Court.

The Leopards finished the season 10-13 overall and 6-10 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. The Leopards ranked seventh in SCIAC, tied with Caltech and just above Occidental and Redlands.

“This game was a depiction of our season in a nutshell,” freshman outside hitter Ha’ani Untalan said. “There were ups and downs and it was a difficult year but we still managed to push through at the end.”

While the last game of the season was senior night for the other sports programs at La Verne, women’s volleyball skipped out, currently having no seniors on the team.

“We are not graduating anybody so we anticipate the return of all of our players,” head coach Jeff Hendershot said.

The Leopards started out strong, holding the Tigers by no more than a three point lead for a majority of the first set. However, late in the set, the score stood at a tie, 15-15, and the Tigers took advantage of the Leopards losing momentum. The Tigers pushed for the rest of the set and stole the lead finalizing the score, 25-22.

In the second set, there were back and forth hits by both teams but the Tigers got the upper hand as they rallied early, 10-5. 

La Verne junior middle back Ayana Mier brought the energy back when she tapped the ball close over the net and dropped it down where the Tigers could not recover. A few plays later, the Leopards were back in it, holding the Tigers to no points and gaining a seven point lead. Mier led her team with 18 kills that game. 

As the rest of the second set progressed, the Leopards stayed in the lead but the Tigers did not give it to them easily. La Verne finished the set on top, 25-18, to tie the match at 1-1.

The Leopards wasted no time getting ahead in the third set as the roles reversed and they were now up, 10-5, over the Tigers. Occidental was forced to take a time out in hopes of recuperating. But as game play started up again, the Leopards continued to hammer down. 

A big play by junior middle back Jasmine Chandler, in which she spiked the ball hard on the Tiger’s side of the court, extended the lead, 11-5. Chandler had six kills against Occidental, playing in all five sets.

Closing in on the third set, the Leopards hung onto the lead. The Tigers creeped back up the scoreboard but could not take over. The Leopards took the third set 25-17 and were now up 2-1 in the match.

The Leopards found themselves ahead in the fourth set, 6-1, but slowed down offensively as the Tigers’ offensive came hard and fast. Occidental tied the set at 7-7 and a few rallies later took the lead, 15-7. 

A Tiger serve went straight into the net giving the Leopards a point and turning it over to La Verne. Their mentality switched after that and they began to show up offensively. Freshman defensive specialist Kiley McGarry gained an ace and a point for her team. The Leopards slowly came back alive after back-to-back-to-back points to close in on the gap, 15-11.

Fighting hard, the Leopards played out the rest of the set but could not gain a lead over the Tigers , losing the set 25-20. The match then was tied 2-2.

The Leopards battled hard as they challenged the Tigers defense scoring point after point. They found themselves up 10-2, only five points away from the win. Both teams continued to rally and the Tigers began gaining points. 

The set stood 14-6 Leopards, only one point away from the win. After a diving dig by freshman libero Madison Smith, junior setter Jordyn Patton set the ball up for junior setter Emily Heldenbrand to spike down into Tiger territory concluding the set 15-6, which allowed the win for the Leopards.

“That game was a great way to end the season,” Heldenbrand said.

The Leopards will continue to work in the offseason as they prepare for next season.

“We will really grind in the off-season with strength training,” Smith said. “I think for next season we will work on our team chemistry and keeping a good mental focus.”

Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at sarah.vanbuskirk@laverne.edu.

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Sarah Van Buskirk is a junior journalism major and the Fall 2022 editor-in-chief of the Campus Times. She has previously served as sports editor and staff writer.

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Jingyao Liang, a junior business administration major and photography minor, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times.

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