Leopards start strong but fail to stop Athenas

Jack Janes
Staff Writer

The Leopards’ volleyball team came up short when they went toe-to-toe with No.1 ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday. 

It may have been a 3-0 sweep, but the Leopards made every set close and competed with the Athenas all the way to the end. The worst set loss in the match was 25-19.

“I think for us, we played pretty consistent,” head coach Jeff Hendershot said. “We had a few let-ups here and there but we know we are a good team, we just need to play to our level.”

The Leopards got off to a hot start in the first set, taking a 4-2 lead but the Athenas picked up steam and both teams traded points back and forth. The Athenas ran away with it with a score of 21-16 but a Leopards timeout allowed them to settle down and get back in the game. 

The Leopards scratched and clawed their way back to being down by only a point at 24-23 thanks to one of five kills in the first set for senior middle blocker Ayana Mier, who had eight total for the match. The comeback was put to a stop two points short and the Athenas took set one, 25-23.

Once again, the Leopards started off strong in set two getting up to a 6-3 lead after a couple of kills by freshman outside hitter Mya Ray, who ended up with a whopping 12 kills on the day. The Leopards held the lead by a few points for most of the set until the lead reached 18-15. Then the Athenas scored four straight points to give them the lead that they would keep in route to a 25-20 set victory.

Despite being down 2-0, the Leopards never lost their energy and remained loud the entire game. 

“Our entire team was super excited to play such a high competitive team because it brings our level of play up and we know our standard and how well we can play so it was exciting for sure,” freshman middle back Olivia Rueckert said.

The Athenas took control of set three early and did not let up. The only lead the Leopards held was a 16-15 lead that was quickly surrendered. The Athenas would go on to win the third set, 25-19, to complete the sweep.

Facing the No. 1 ranked team in the country is a tough task but the Leopards’ players said they were proud of how they competed.

“It gives us a lot more confidence knowing that we can hang with these teams,” sophomore outside hitter Noelani Soma said. “We know what we are capable of and we have been working really hard in practice and it is exciting to see it paying off.”

The Leopards suffered another close loss the day before against Cal Lutheran, 3-2, in Thousand Oaks. They also faced off against Chapman on Tuesday and brought home a 3-1 victory.

The next game for the Leopards will be at 7 p.m. Friday at Frantz Athletic Court against Caltech.

The Leopards are now 8-5 overall and are 2-2 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

Jack Janes can be reached at jack.janes@laverne.edu.

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Jack Janes is a junior journalism major.

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