Author: Ryan Whalen
Posting an overall record of 14-7 (8-3 SCIAC), the Occidental volleyball team has climbed to second place in SCIAC standings and established itself as one of the most successful Tiger fall sports.
The squad’s dominance this season has stemmed from its explosive offense, as three of their outside hitters have already tallied more than 220 kills.
The backbone of the black and orange’s offense comes from the hands of starting setter Jessie Altman (senior). With six games remaining, Altman has already recorded 699 assists, surpassing her total of 674 from all of last season. She is currently fourth in the SCIAC for assists per set with 9.20.
Head coach Heather Collins, who has been at the helm of the Occidental program since Altman’s sophomore year, named Altman one the team’s captains prior to the beginning of 2013, recognizing the setter’s importance both on and off the court.
“As a setter on the court, [Altman] is like a quarterback, an extension of the coaching staff,” Collins said. “Aside from running the offense, she keeps the team together and calm.”
Off the court, Altman has garnered the respect of her teammates, working hard both in season and out of season while also continuing to perform well in the classroom.
“[Altman] has been such a great friend both on and off the court,” fellow captain Stephanie Gann (senior) said. “Playing with her for the past four years has been such an honor.”
Altman’s accomplishments have come in the face of perpetual nagging injuries that have forced her to sit out of games or play at less than 100 percent.
“Staying healthy has definitely been one of the biggest team challenges this season,” Altman said. “Especially because we are playing with a smaller roster.”
Altman was limited with a hand injury earlier this season but still participated in the Tigers’ match against SCIAC-leader Cal Lutheran. Though playing with tape around her right wrist and fingers, she gutted out a match-high 28 assists.
“She puts her team first and she works hard,” Collins said. “She wants to be out there all the time to play hard for the team.”
Those who have benefited most from Altman’s standout career over her last four years while donning the black and orange have been several Occidental hitters.
Logan Boyer-Hayse ‘13 was a perennial All-SCIAC selection and All-American, while current teammates Gann, Dana Michels (sophomore) and Alyssa Mort (senior) have become some of the most consistent hitters in the conference. All three have registered over 220 kills on the season.
Even in the midst of close games, Altman is able to rise above the pressure and make the best possible offensive decisions, giving the Tigers a decisive advantage when faced with a difficult opponent.
“Her sets are always so consistent, and we can always count on her,” Gann said. “The great thing about Jess is that she is so smart and so confident in what she does.”
Despite being one of the premier setters within conference during her tenure, twice finishing in the top three for most assists in a season, Altman has never been given any postseason accolades.
But that may change this season, as Altman is currently ranked fourth in the league in assists per set.
However, Altman is more focused on team-oriented goals than personal honors.
“We want to prove that, even though we are incapable of going to the playoffs, we are still one of the top teams in the conference,” she said.
Altman and the Tigers look to improve upon their second-place SCIAC standing with three conference games this week. The contests include Friday’s home game against Pomona-Pitzer in which the black and orange can complete a season sweep of the Sagehens.
“If we just stay confident and aggressive, I think we can beat anyone,” Altman said.
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