Nov. 13, 2009

REDLANDS, Calif. - The Pacific Lutheran volleyball season came to an end Thursday night in a 3-1 opening-round loss to the La Verne Leopards at the NCAA Division III West Region tournament at the University of Redland's Currier Gymnasium.

With the loss, the Lutes finish the 2009 schedule with a 20-7 record, their second consecutive 20-7 finish and their third in the last four years.

After winning the first set, 25-23, the Northwest Conference champion and No. 2 seed Lutes dropped the next three sets, 25-18, 27-25, 25-19, to a NCAA tournament-tested La Verne team that came in as the region's No. 7 seed. Northwest Conference Player of the Year Kelcy Joynt led PLU with 19 kills in the match, but it was not enough as the Leopards (22-13) pulled away in the second and fourth sets.

The first set was the closest of the four with 11 ties and five lead changes. La Verne built a 17-14 lead, only to see the Lutes chip away to tie it at 21-21. With La Verne on top 22-21, the Lutes used kills by Kelsie Moore and Erin Bremond, plus a block by Bremond and Amber Roberts, to score three straight points. After the Leopards cut their deficit to one point on Randi Toomay's kill, Bremond pounded down her fifth kill to give the Lutes the opening set.

Through the first set, Joynt led the Lutes with seven kills, followed by Bremond with five, and Moore with three, while Sarah Beaver delivered 15 assists.

All-America outside hitter Crista Jones, who had seven kills in the opening set, collected nine kills in the second set as the Leopards opened up an early lead and then held off a PLU challenge. With the score tied at 3-3, Jones tallied a kill, followed by three consecutive La Verne blocks, a problem area for the Lutes throughout the match. Soon the Leopards held a 10-3 lead, but PLU managed to cut its deficit to 17-15 when Katy Tauscher and Joynt stuff Jones at the net. La Verne came right back with a 4-0 run to put the set away.

In the pivotal third set that saw eight ties and three lead changes, the Lutes let a 24-22 advantage slip away. The Lutes raced out to a 7-3 lead as Amber Roberts opened the set with two kills. Roberts was playing in place of PLU All-America outside hitter Beth Hanna, lost for the season on Oct. 31 with a knee injury. Roberts collected five kills in the set as PLU rallied from a 17-15 deficit to pull within one point of the crucial third set victory. The Leopards turned the tide on consecutive kills by Jones, Anna Calmer and Ashley Morgado, and after Moore's kill made it 25-25, Jones put down a kill and finished the set with an ace.

La Verne used a 6-1 surge to break away from a 13-13 tie in the fourth set and they never led by less than four points the rest of the way. Of the six points that came during the set-changing run, three came on PLU attack errors and another on a service error.

Joynt, who missed the last two regional tournaments because of knee injuries, finished with 19 kills and a .261 attack percentage. Three other players finished in double figures in kills for PLU - Moore with 12, Bremond with 11 and Roberts with 10. In addition, Roberts hit a solid .360 in the match. Beaver finished with 52 assists, Joynt led all players with 22 digs and Bremond finished with four block assists for PLU.

After hitting .441 in the first set, the Lutes could not maintain that form and finished the match with a .203 attack percentage compared to La Verne's .244.

Jones finished the match with 23 kills, followed by Calmer with 14 and Toomay with 12. La Verne was particularly tough at the net, finishing with 17 block assists, including five by Morgado and four from Kendall Kraiss.