LA VERNE, Calif. — Destinee Sales and the No. 21 University of La Verne volleyball team played their best volleyball in the last three sets against No. 6 Cal Lutheran to take a 16-25, 17-25, 26-24, 25-22, 15-11 win on Friday night at Sports Science and Athletic Pavilion.
La Verne improves to 10-1 in SCIAC (16-3 overall) to move to the top of the conference standings while Cal Lutheran takes its first SCIAC loss of the season to move to 9-1 (19-3 overall). It is La Verne's first win against Cal Lutheran since 2008.
"It feels amazing," La Verne head coach Jenna Panatier said of the win. "It's one of those wins that you train for and work for and you leave in the hands of the athletes. And they did exactly what was needed for it to happen."
Sales played the best match of her career to lift the Leopards from a two-set deficit. She put away a career-high 17 kills—including an incredible 13 in the final three sets—as the Regals limited Brittany Yaxley and Kelsi Robinson to just .043 hitting combined. Sales added five blocks and two digs.
"Destinee had the game of her life," Panatier said. "That's what a good teammate does. In a team sport, it's not about one player. And when one player struggles, the team holds them up and that's exactly what happened today."
La Verne grabbed a 14-8 lead in the third set on the strength of four early kills by Sales, but the Regals climbed all the way back to tie the set at 24-24 and looked to use the momentum to claim a sweep. But Yaxley came up with the two of her biggest plays of her game as she knocked down a kill and combined with Kelsi Robinson to seal a 26-24 win for the Leopards.
The fourth set started out similarly as La Verne jumped out to an early lead but the Regals chipped away at it and used a 4-0 run to take a 17-14 lead. Then with the set tied at 19-19, Sales recorded the next three La Verne points to get the Leopards a 22-21 lead and the Regals committed three errors, give the set to La Verne.
Sales checked in after the Regals took a 4-2 lead in the fifth set and took control. She gave the Leopards a 6-5 lead with a kill and converted two straight attempts to give the Leopards an 8-6 lead at the turn.
It was all La Verne from there as it rode the energy from an electric crowd to win its biggest regular season match in years.
"Our team is so thankful that we have a Leo family on and off the court," Panatier said. "It's not just the girls in the uniform or the coaches on the sidelines. It's the fans in the stands who come together that complete our family."
Despite being held to .070 hitting, Yaxley came through when it mattered as she put down the final two kills of the match for La Verne in addition to her late third set heroics. She finished with 14 kills and 12 digs.
Tiffany Mancuso picked good spots for attackers with 42 assists and added four big service aces.
There won't be much time to bask in the thrilling win for La Verne. The Leopards travel to No. 10 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps tomorrow as they try to remain on top of the SCIAC standings. First serve is at 6 p.m.