A complete team effort by the Leopards led to a 3-0 sweep of the Occidental Tigers on Oct. 21 at Frantz Athletic Court.
“We fought very hard to gain that confidence and successful mentality that helps us play to our standard,” freshman outside hitter and right side hitter Mya Ray said.
After surrendering the first point of the first set, the Leopards took control and did not trail again in the set. Senior middle back Kari Esseff had five kills and a service ace in the first set alone and tallied seven kills, one service ace and four blocks in the game. The Leopards took set one, 25-17.
Some early uncharacteristic mistakes put the Leopards in a 7-3 hole to start set two. A timeout called by the Leopards settled them down and allowed them to get back to their game plan.
“I think we just had enough with it and were like, ‘Hey we need to just get back on the court and do what we do best,’” Esseff said.
The Leopards and Tigers went back and forth from there until the Leopards caught fire and turned a 15-11 Tigers lead into a 18-17 Leopards lead. Ray came up huge and got all of the last five points for the Leopards to win set two, 25-20.
Ray finished the game with 14 kills, one service ace and two blocks.
“We are showing a good ability to be down and to be able to kind of reset and come back and just be focused,” head coach Jeff Hendershot said.
Set three was a hard fought set by both teams that included a lot of back and forth action. The Leopards had a 6-3 lead that slipped to a 7-7 tie, and from there the largest gap in the score was two until the Leopards took a 20-17 lead. The Tigers called a timeout and started to come back and made it a one point game at 22-21. But three straight Leopards points sealed the deal and the Leopards won set three, 25-21, to complete the match sweep.
On Oct. 14, the Leopards went to Pasadena and swept Caltech, 3-0. The Leopards then traveled to Pomona-Pitzer the next day but got swept, 3-0. Then on Oct. 18, the Leopards beat the Whittier Poets, 3-1, at the Graham Athletic Center. On Saturday, the Leopards took on No. 24 UC Santa Cruz at home but lost a heartbreaker, 3-2. Lastly, the Leopards traveled to Redlands on Tuesday and swept the Bulldogs, 3-0.
The Leopards only have two games left of the regular season and are hoping to make a push for the playoffs.
“We just need to focus on our side of the net and really just keep up with that competitiveness that we have been working on all season,” senior middle back and right side hitter Ayana Mier said.
The next match for the Leopards is at 7 p.m. Friday against Cal Lutheran at Frantz Athletic Court and it is also senior night as it is the last home game of the regular season.
The team closes out its season with a trip to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Leopards are now 16-8 overall and 10-4 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
Jack Janes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack Janes, a senior journalism major, is sports editor of the Campus Times and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine. He is also a staff photographer for both publications. He previously served as a Campus Times staff writer.