LA VERNE, Calif. — The highly anticipated match-up between top-20 ranked SCIAC schools did not disappoint.
After falling behind 2-1, the No. 15 University of La Verne volleyball team rallied in the fourth set to even match and pulled away in the fifth set to beat No. 17 Cal Lutheran 3-2 in front of a packed house Friday night.
Set Scores: 25-18, 20-25, 15-25, 25-23, 15-10
Season Impact: The Leopards score their second win over a ranked opponent to improve to 7-1 overall and open up SCIAC play with a win. Cal Lutheran falls to 4-6 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
"Our team has amazing heart. The heart and the grit that our team has displayed this year as a collective is stunning, and it's really amazing to coach," said Head Coach Jenna Panatier. "It takes so much heart to be able to do what they did and you can't teach that."
The Leopards were led by Kelsie Sievers who finished the game with 10 kills and seven block assists. Delaney Lynch finished with a team-high 12 kills with Marisa Rojo adding 10 kills of her own. Katelyn Winiecki finished the game with eight total blocks.
After falling behind early in both the second and third sets, the Leopards battled in the fourth to a 10-10 tie after Rojo slammed down a kill off an assist by Madison Maynes. The Leopards would not trail the rest of the set. La Verne jumped out to an 18-14 lead after Natalie Barragan connected with Sievers for one of her 10 kills.
The Regals called a timeout to try to slow the Leopards' momentum, but the Leopards kept on the attack with a pair of kills by Lynch and Sievers to even the match 2-2.
Early in the fifth, both squads traded points with the Regals taking a 6-5 lead. But momentum turned in favor of the Leopards when Sievers tied the game 6-6 with a huge kill, leading to a 6-0 run by La Verne.
The Regals won the next two points, but before Cal Lutheran could gain any more confidence, Winiecki stepped up with a huge solo block to keep the energy with La Verne. An attack error by the Regals and another kill by Rojo sealed the comeback for La Verne.
"They utilized what we've been practicing, that's what they did tonight. They took what we've been practicing and they put it into motion," said Panatier.
Lynch got off to a hot start for the Leopards, putting down five kills on six attempts in the opening set. The first set opened with both teams firing back at each other and neither able to manage a lead of more than a couple points. But the Leopards finally took control midway through the set, going on a 6-1 run aided by an ace by Natalie Barragan to pull ahead and eventually take the set.
Darrah Jones had a big game for La Verne, totaling six kills and 12 digs. Kristen Sanchez finished the game with 23 digs and Madison Maynes led the team with 23 assists. Barragan dished out 19 assists to go with two aces. Senior Alexia Balistreri finished with five kills and four block assists.
Next Game: The Leopards hit the road for their second SCIAC game of the year tomorrow when they travel to Redlands to face the Bulldogs at 2 p.m.