Volleyball Wins Thriller at Whittier

Volleyball Wins Thriller at Whittier

WHITTIER, CA — For anyone a fan of comebacks, Tuesday's volleyball match between the Leopards and Poets was a must-watch.

The University of La Verne volleyball down team battled from a 24-18 deficit in the fourth set, and won a dramatic fifth frame to beat the Whittier College Poets 3-2 Tuesday night.

Freshman Ayana Mier and junior Pi'ikea Clemens both notched career-high kills in the match and helped the Leopards improve to 10-6 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

The Poets fall to 8-9 overall and 3-3 in SCIAC competition.

Set Scores: 25-20, 20-25, 22-25, 27-25, 19-17

How It Happened

After winning the opening set, Whittier rallied and took the next two sets from the Leopards. The Poets jumped out to a big 11-1 lead in the fourth and looked like they'd send the Leopards home with a disappointing result. 

La Verne kept battling but couldn't quite make up the deficit, and the Poets brought up match point after a kill by Katelyn Popoff put Whittier up 24-17.

But then the Leopards started to roll. Mier got the comeback started with one of her 27 kills in the match and attack errors by the Poets got the Leopard within striking distance. 

A kill by Clemens and error by Popoff cut the Whittier lead to 24-23. Mier stepped up again and knocked down back-to-back kills to put the Leopards up 25-24. 

Whittier got a break off a La Verne error but Mier closed out the set with two more kills to close out the improbable comeback and force the fifth set. Mier notched six of her kills during the stretch.

In the fifth set, Mier kept the Leopards rolling, slamming down her sixth kill of the set to tie the frame 15-15.

The squads traded points but Haley Celaya took charge for La Verne and knocked down three kills to set up match point with the Leopards leading 18-17 lead.

Clemens put the game away off an assist from Emma Estigoy to complete the five-set victory.

"Whittier called a timeout at 24-18 and we just said there's no reason we can't win," said Interim Head Coach Jeff Hendershot. "We've said from the start that to be a contender in our conference we have to win on the road in hostile environments. We did that tonight."

Stat Leaders

What might even be more impressive than Mier's 27 kills was the efficiency of her attacks. The Pomona native finished with a career-high .466 hitting percentage to go with three blocks and two digs.

Mier is on a hot streak; the freshman hit .455 in a four-set win over Cal Lutheran last Saturday.

"She was a rockstar. The whole gym knew she was getting the ball and she terminated anyways," said Hendershot about the star newcomer. "It was a marquee performance for her and something I think we'll see more of in the future."

Clemens had an outstanding all-around night for La Verne. To go with her career-high 18 kills, the transfer added 19 digs, three assists, two digs, and one ace.

Not to be outdone reigning SCIAC Specialist of the Week Madison Maynes notched a career-high 57 assists with 22 digs, two kills, and one block.

Estigoy finished with a game-high 29 digs, dished out two assists, and served a pair of aces. Freshman Emily Heldenbrand had a huge game defensively, totaling a career-high 22 digs.

Celaya, a sophomore, finished with nine kills, six digs, two blocks, and two aces. Freshman Noelle Blumel added 11 digs.

The La Verne squad features 10 underclassmen but the Leopards have played well beyond their years. After starting the season 1-3, La Verne has gone on a 9-3 run and currently sits in a tie for second place in the SCIAC.

"Age has no bearing on this team's fight and will to win. When they want it they're going to get it," said Hendershot.

Next Game

The Leopards return home this Friday for a huge 7 p.m. match against first-place Chapman. The Panthers are coming off an exciting five-set win over No. 4 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. 

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