The Leopards rallied to complete a three set sweep of the Puget Sound Loggers on Sept. 9 at the Frantz Athletic Court.
Do not let the sweep fool you though, all three sets were close games that featured a lot of lead changes. The Leopards had to scratch and claw their way to this victory with a full team effort.
“We got to know that we can be down or be up and still maintain and work through it and find a way to win,” head coach Jeff Hendershot said.
After battling back and forth in the beginning of the first set, the Leopards found themselves in a 14-9 deficit until freshman outside hitter Mya Ray connected with a big kill that gave the Leopards momentum that led to four consecutive points and an 18-17 lead. Ray would go on to have 14 kills for the night.
Then a diving dig by senior setter Jordyn Patton sparked a long rally which ended with the Leopards taking a 19-18 lead and they did not look back. After some more back and forth scoring, the Leopards took set one, 25-22.
By set two there were a few rows of students in attendance that were getting into the game and were very vocal. All of them would yell in unison “U-L-V” as the Leopards set the ball for each other every time. The home side stands went crazy every time the Leopards got a point and even mixed in some playful trash talking toward Puget Sound.
“Loud gyms definitely hype up the people on the court and sideline,” Ray said. “Hearing the rowdiness pushes us to keep working and it positively impacts our mood or mentality.”
Set two was not much different because the deficit for either team was never greater than three. It was a dog fight and the Leopards were able to overcome it with the help of their energy. Along with the students in attendance, the Leopards’ bench was increasingly getting louder as well. After every point the Leopards scored, and the bench was ready with a team celebration and chants to increase the intensity while Puget Sound could not help but surrender a hard fought set, 25-22.
After trailing 3-1 to start the third set, the Leopards took control and would only trail Puget Sound once more as they coasted to a 25-18 set win to complete the sweep.
The Leopards won the third set with the help of senior middle back Kari Esseff nailing down four out of her five kills of the night in the last set.
“I knew that I just had to connect well with my setters and do my job on the court and take care of business,” Esseff said.
Also having big nights for the Leopards was senior middle blocker and right side hitter Ayana Mier, who had 16 kills in just 28 attempts for a .464 kill percentage.
The Leopards improve to a 4-1 record as they carry their momentum to San Antonio, Texas, this weekend for the Trinity Invitational.
“The vibe in the locker room is pretty energetic but also very focused,” Mier said. “Our practices have been challenging to say the least but we are all focused and working really hard every day to better ourselves and each other.”
The next home game for the Leopards is the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener against Redlands at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Jack Janes can be reached at email@example.com.