The crowd in the bleachers stomped their feet and teammates on the sidelines cheered as the Chapman volleyball team starters made their way on to the court Oct. 24. As soon as Chapman senior setter Jessica Blum tossed the ball in the air and made the first serve, the gymnasium fell silent.
Senior libero Sara Utsugi said one of the team’s goals every season is to have an engaged bench.
“Our team is awesome,” Utsugi said. “They’re so loud and so into it. They’re our biggest fans.”
Despite the energy, the Panthers lost three out of five sets to California Lutheran University (Cal Lutheran), ending their four-match win streak.
Freshman setter Sophie Srivastava said Chapman was put off by Cal Lutheran’s strength as a team.
“Cal Lu’s a really good team and I think that a lot of us were a little frazzled by it,” Srivastava said.
By the second timeout of the first set, the score was 11-3 with Chapman in the lead.
Utsugi said winning the last match against Cal Lutheran increased her confidence, but Chapman began to approach the game with a more neutral mindset after seeing their opponent’s strengths, she said.
“We felt pretty confident because we beat Cal Lu at home, which is a big deal for us,” Utsugi said. “But everyone’s been getting better and you can never take anyone too easily.”
Chapman won the first set 25-23, after a hard kill from Lumsden. With the scores close at 22-24 in the second set, Cal Lutheran players in the back row crouched down, anticipating the last serve.
Lumsden served the ball, and after a back and forth volley, Cal Lutheran won the second set 25-22.
Chapman tried not to let losing the second set get to their heads, Utsugi said.
“Our focus was definitely just playing our own game,” Utsugi said. “We wanted to have a clean and fun game, and it was a fun game, but we could clean it up a little bit.”
Chapman started the third set in the lead.
As Chapman was nearing the 25th point, a serve from Blum sent the ball over the net. Once it came back over, a kill from Srivastava ended the set 25-23.
“I felt calm, and I think that’s partially due to Sarah Utsugi, the libero, because she kept us grounded and made sure that we had a good attitude,” Srivastava said.
Cal Lutheran fought back in the fourth set. The score was 14-10 by the first timeout of the set, with Cal Lutheran in the lead.
A serve from senior opposite hitter Lindsey Johnson gave Chapman an offensive advantage, and after a foul serve, Cal Lutheran took the advantage back, winning the fourth set 19-25.
Head coach Mary Cahill said she expected a different outcome.
“I thought we should have won the fourth game and been done,” Cahill said. “It’s hard to come back when you lose the fourth set.”
With both teams tied at two sets each, senior outside hitter Courtney Justus got Chapman their first point in the fifth set with a block.
Cal Lutheran won the 15th point after a Chapman block went into the net, winning the set 15-13. Cahill said she knew the game wouldn’t be easy.
“They started off a little rocky in the conference, but I know they’re always a good team,” Cahill said. “I knew it’d be a battle.”
This game was the Panthers’ second time playing five sets this season. Utsugi said she expected a win.
“Especially the fifth set — we were excited going in because we love playing game five, and usually we don’t lose,” Utsugi said. “The whole time we felt in control and, again, they just played a great game.”