The women’s volleyball team dominated in its Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener Tuesday night with a 3-0 sweep over the Redlands Bulldogs.
“What we talked about is playing to our standards, regardless of what is happening on the other side of the net,” head coach Jeff Hendershot said. “We have our metrics and our ways we want to play and do it and we did mostly our way but there is always something to get better at.”
The Bulldogs got off to a quick 3-1 lead in the first set after some Leopard mistakes. But the Leopards settled down and got back to their game as they put up nine straight points to take a 10-3 lead, thanks to three straight aces by sophomore libero Madison Smith. The lead would extend to 18-6 before the Bulldogs called a timeout to try and reset, but they could not handle the Leopards as senior middle back Kari Esseff got the kill to end the set, 25-12.
The Leopards picked up right where they left off in the second set, taking an early 8-3 lead. Freshman middle back Olivia Rueckert and freshman outside hitter Mya Ray teamed up for a huge block to keep the momentum going. Rueckert would go on to have four kills, one solo block and two block assists and Ray would have eight kills and two block assists. Some costly mistakes by the Bulldogs kept them from getting back into it and the Leopards ran away with the set, 25-16.
With the Leopards taking a 2-0 set lead, the home side crowd started to get rowdy. With just about the entire stands on the home side full, Frantz Athletic Court got loud quickly. The Leopards came hot out of the gate and took a 10-3 lead and with every point, the crowd jumped to their feet and rooted on their team. Thunderous chants of “Let’s Go Leos” rained down as the Leopards continued to pour it on to the Bulldogs.
Freshman outside hitter Nalani Young nailed down all four of her kills in the third set to help the Leopards win the set in dominating fashion, 25-9, to complete the sweep and improve to a 7-3 record on the year.
“We are super pumped,” senior middle blocker Ayana Mier said. “We feel like this preseason has gone on forever so now we are really into the thick of it.”
The Leopards also just got back home from a trip to San Antonio, Texas, to play in the Trinity Invitational last weekend. They left Texas winning two out of the four games played. On Sept. 16, they beat Texas Lutheran, 3-2, and Southwestern, 3-1. Then on Saturday, they dropped their games against Trinity and Juniata, both by a score of 3-0.
“Definitely felt nice to come out with our first conference win to set the tone and expectations for us as a team going into conference play,” Rueckert said. “But it is also a nice reminder that it will only get harder and we have to keep pushing ourselves and each other.”
The Leopards will travel to face Cal Lutheran, who has a 5-6 record, Friday at 7 p.m. and will come right back to face No. 1 nationally ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at home at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Going toe-to-toe against the No. 1 team in the nation is obviously a big challenge but the Leopards feel ready to compete.
“Picking up our competitive energy could definitely go very well with Claremont so it is exciting,” Ray said.
Next week, the Leopards will head to Orange County to face Chapman on Tuesday and will be home when they take on Caltech on Sept. 30.
Jack Janes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.