Photo by Shane Rodrigues
CLAREMONT, Calif. — The University of La Verne volleyball team roared back from a two-set deficit to stun No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 20-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-21, 15-10, on Tuesday night at Roberts Pavilion.
La Verne improves to 19-4 overall and 10-2 in the SCIAC. CMS, considered a top national championship contender who received seven first-place votes in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III poll, is tagged with its first loss of the season and falls to 18-1 and 10-1.
The Leopards are now squarely in the mix for an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship tournament. La Verne's resume includes four wins over AVCA top-10 teams (Hendrix, Washington-St. Louis, Cal Lutheran, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps), including two over top-five (CLU, CMS).
La Verne also has a good chance to move into the Top-25 next week. The Leopards received 94 votes in the poll released today, just one spot shy of the rankings.
The Athenas led wire-to-wire to take the first set. They then started the second on a 5-0 run and looked to be in cruise control. But the Leopards found their mojo in the middle of the second set as they went on a 14-5 run to take a brief lead in the frame and got better as the match went on.
The Leopards battled back and forth with the Athenas to start the third and grabbed a 22-18 edge with a 5-0 run aided by four attack errors by the Athenas. CMS mustered one more run to force a deuce but Cassie Thompson and Tiffany Mancuso registered back-to-back kills to prevent the set from prolonging further.
It was all La Verne from there as the Leopards found their attacking rhythm which in turn forced the Athenas into sloppy attempts. The Leopards rattled off a 7-1 run late in the fourth set and brought it home as they forced error after error by the Athenas.
To put an exclamation point to their improvement over the course of the match, it was the Leopards who nearly led wire-to-wire in the decisive fifth set. CMS matched La Verne point-for-point for the first 10 points of the set but the Leopards went on an incredible 6-0 run to take a 11-5 lead and never looked back. It was a picture perfect run. Marisa Rojo started it with two straight kills, Delaney Lynch took the baton and put away two more and Mancuso punctuated it with two straight service aces.
La Verne hit .146 in the first two sets but hit .294 over the last three. CMS, on the other hand, got worse, hitting .325 in the first two and .186 in the final three.
It was a complete team effort from the Leopards. Mancuso turned in another all-around performance, dishing out 53 assists, putting down two aces, making five blocks and getting nine digs. Kristen Sanchez recorded 20 digs and and gave out four assitst. Thompson put away 19 kills on .306 hitting and Kelsi Robinson had 15 at a .432 clip. Lynch (13) and Rojo (12) also reached double-digits in kills.
La Verne hit .230 on the match as a team and recorded 11 total blocks.
The Leopards are back in action on Friday at home against Occidental.