By Kay Hurd
La Verne Athletics Communication
CLAREMONT, Calif. — The No. 19 University of La Verne volleyball team took the first set but couldn't hang on and fell to No. 4 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 27-29, 25-23, 25-19, 25-16, in the semifinal of the SCIAC Postseason Tournament on Thursday night at Roberts Pavilion.
La Verne slips to 22-6 overall but despite the loss, it should stay squarely in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA National Championship. The Leopards have built a strong resume that includes four wins over AVCA top-10 teams, including two over top-5 teams.
The Leopards were in the exact same situation each of the past two seasons, losing in the first round of the SCIAC Postseason Tournament, and ended up on both sides of the fence. The Leopards earned a bid in 2014 and were one of the first few teams out last year.
The NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Selection Show will air at 9:30 a.m. PT on Monday, Nov. 7 on NCAA.com.
"It's always tough to lose, but I'm really proud of our team," La Verne coach Jenna Panatier said. "Our exemplary culture has enabled a 22-6 overall season record that will hopefully continue on into the NCAA championships."
The Leopards got off to a good start and earned a thrilling 29-27 win in the first set as it fought off four deuces and a set point. A Kelsi Robinson kill got the Leopards serving for the set at 24-23, but the Athenas scored two in a row to bring the set point back. Delaney Lynch put away two kills to help the Leopards stay a step ahead and back-to-back kills by Cassie Thompson and Kelsie Sievers ended the first set in favor of Leopards.
La Verne got out to an early lead in the second set, but the Athenas rattled off a couple of small runs to grab a 13-10 lead and eventually stretched it out to 21-17. A pair of kills by Lynch brought the Leopards within 23-22 but CMS took the set on kills by Nicole Kerkhof and Shelbi Stein.
The Athenas hit .375 in the last two sets while limiting La Verne to just .105 to claim the last two sets.
Tiffany Mancuso tallied her 1,000th assist of the season in the third set on a short set to Robinson and finished with 44 assists on the night.
Robinson and Lynch led the Leopards 13 kills apiece, and Marisa Rojo added 12.
Stein led all players with 18 kills for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
The first round of the NCAA National Championship begins on Friday, Nov. 11.