CLAREMONT, Calif. — For a moment, it looked as if the University of La Verne volleyball team would fold under the pressure of a 2-0 deficit on the road against one of the best teams in the nation.
But the Leopards never gave up and claimed the last three sets to upset No. 18 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 17-25, 16-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-13, on Friday night at Linde Activities Center.
"Our team never gave up," La Verne head coach Jenna Panatier said. "This match was a textbook example of 'heart.'"
With the win, La Verne (16-3, 8-2 SCIAC) moves into a second-place tie with the Athenas (17-5, 8-2 SCIAC) in the SCIAC standings and gets a firmer grip on one of four SCIAC Postseason Tournament tickets.
CMS cruised through the first two sets—leading wire-to-wire in the second—and seemed to have La Verne dead to rights. But the Leopards took 10 of the first 15 points in the third set put a seed of doubt into the Athenas' minds and kept them at an arm's length, leading by five or six for most of the set. CMS made a late little run to get within three, but La Verne held on to win the set, 25-22.
The teams traded points to start the fourth, but La Verne looked to have wrestled the momentum to its side when it made one of its mid-set runs capped off by a Kylie Cooke-Cassie Thompson block to grab a 20-14 lead.
But unlike most teams La Verne beat this season, CMS dished it right back. The Athenas responded immediately with a 7-0 run to take a 21-20 lead. But the Leopards never faltered and ended the set on a pair of kills by Kelsi Robinson and Brittany Yaxley to send the match to the deciding set.
La Verne started the fifth set 13-9, but CMS' Audrey Breitwieser made it interesting with four straight kills to knot the score at 13-13. But Robinson and Destinee Sales immediately turned the momentum back in La Verne's favor with a block and Yaxley put down her 19th kill of the match to complete the comeback.
All along, La Verne bench was on its feet and never stopped the chants and dances for which they became known. "I am most proud of our bench," Panatier said. "Those women fed our court players with the energy we needed to pull out the win.
The Leopards recorded 10 total blocks in the final three sets and finished with 12 for the match. Robinson led the way with 10 block assists and Sales was in on six.
Yaxley's 19 kills was a team-high and the junior pitched in nine digs and two aces.
The Leopards return to action on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Frantz Court against Redlands.