Author: Tim O’Donnell
Athletics at Division III colleges like Occidental may not have the luxuries of world-class facilities or ESPN coverage that are available to many Division I schools, but the athletes who compete for the college are still talented and equally passionate about their sports.
This fall season will feature seven teams in action— football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s water polo. Each squad participates in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and will face competition from Cal Lutheran, Caltech, the Claremont schools, Chapman, La Verne, Redlands and Whittier. Check out the records of your favorite team, and players to look out for this season:
Football (5-4 overall; 4-3 SCIAC)
Head coach Doug Semones enters his second season at the helm for the Tigers and his rebuilding process got off to a good start in year one. The Tigers, coming off a 2-7 season in 2012, compiled a winning record in 2013 and finished third in the SCIAC. It looked like another lost season when quarterback Tommy Edwards (senior) broke his arm in a week three loss to eventual conference champion Redlands, but first-year quarterback Bryan Scott, now a sophomore, stepped in and paced Occidental to a 4-2 finish with 1,476 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. He was then awarded with the honors of Second Team All-SCIAC and SCIAC Newcomer of the year . Edwards was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA and will be back in the fold for 2014, giving Semones a pair of proven gunslingers under center.
Also returning on offense is First Team All-SCIAC performer, running back Kwame Do (junior), who broke the Occidental’s single season rushing mark in 2013. The Tigers are bringing back their four leading receivers, as well, in Sam Stekol (senior), Davin Bullock (junior), Cordell Harris (sophomore) and Sam Crizer (senior). The team’s top two tacklers, senior linebacker Ross Fiegener and senior defensive back Teran Mahwinney, will suit up again on the defensive end. The Tigers are scheduled to open up the season at home against the University of Puget Sound on Sept. 13 at 1 p.m.
Player to Watch:
Kwame Do (Running back, junior)— Do had a monster sophomore season in which he set the single season record for rushing yards with 1,325. The ceiling may be limitless for the junior, who should shoulder a large portion of the load for a very talented offensive unit.
Women’s Soccer (5-10-2; 4-9-1)
Eight of the ten losses suffered by the Occidental women’s soccer program last season were determined by one goal. This season, despite a few key departures, the Tigers will bring back the bulk of their team.
Former first-year phenoms and Second Team All-SCIAC selections forward Julie Khil (sophomore) — who led the team in goals last season — and midfielder Kylie Takafuji will take the reigns this season for the Tigers on offense, while First Team All-SCIAC selection defender Taryn Ng (senior) will anchor the backline. Other returning starters include midfielders Michaela Tsuha (junior) and Abigail Mitchell (senior) and defenders Stephanie Welty (senior) and Kelsey Hung (junior).
“We’re excited and looking forward to welcoming our first years and returners and to getting on the field,” head coach Colm McFeely said via email. The Tigers kick off against Southwestern (Tex.) at Cal Lutheran on Sunday Aug. 31 at 1 p.m.
Player to watch:
Julie Khil (forward, sophomore)— Khil burst onto the scene in her first season in Eagle Rock, scoring seven goals. With all-time Occidental great Elissa Minamishin gone, Khil will step in as the biggest offensive threat for the Tigers.
Men’s Soccer (3-16 overall; 2-14 SCIAC)
The Occidental men’s soccer program will look to rebound from last year’s eighth-place finish in the SCIAC, despite graduating a group of talented seniors and the team’s captain and top goal-scorer.
The Tigers should have a new look this season, but are expected to still feature returning defender Alex Ayala (senior), who started all 19 games for the squad last season, defender/midfielder Tyler Eng (senior) and defender Thayer Fisher (sophomore). Forward Connor Freeman (junior) will look to take on a larger role on offense after starting nine games last season. The Tigers will also bring back three goalkeepers with starting experience in Theo Atkinson (junior) Tristan Cooper (junior) and Ian Agrimis* (senior).
“[The team has] phenomenally exciting incoming players this year who are joining a very talented group,” head coach Rod Lafaurie said via email. The Tigers are scheduled to travel to Colorado College on Aug. 29 to start the season.
Player to watch:
Connor Freeman (forward, junior)— After the Tigers lost a large senior class, Freeman, who played in all 19 games last year and started nine, scoring one goal, will look to help fill the void left by the previous teams captain’s departure.
Volleyball (17-10 overall; 10-6 SCIAC)
The Tigers put together a successful campaign in 2013, finishing fourth in the SCIAC standings.However, due to past NCAA infractions, the squad was ineligible for the four team SCIAC playoffs. Despite being under NCAA sanction and losing a large class to graduation, the Tigers should still win their share of games thanks to a small yet talented corps of returning players.
Junior outside hitter Dana Michels returns after leading the team in kills last season, as will sophomore starting middle Natalie Dwulet. Defensive specialist Kandace Korver (junior), opposite Megan Olayinka (senior) and setters Sarah Beene (junior) and Tiareh Cruz (sophomore) round out the six returnees. “We have a large incoming class… so, we have a lot of work to do in order to get everyone on the same page and I am excited for the new season and grooming such a young group,” head coach Heather Collins said via email. The Tigers open up against Kean at Claremont on Friday Aug. 29 at 1:15 p.m.
Player to watch:
Natalie Dwulet (middle, sophomore) — It is rare for a first-year to step into the starting lineup, but Dwulet thrived under the pressure. This year, as one of only six returning players, she will take on an even larger role.
Cross Country (men finished third in SCIAC, women second)
A talented trio of seniors will lead the way for the men’s side. John Guzman earned All-American honors as a junior last season, after finishing sixth at the National Championships in his first season at Occidental. He finished first at both the West Regional and SCIAC championship races. Colin Smith finished second behind Aguilar at SCIACs and sixth at regionals. He also qualified for the national championships, but could not participate due to illness. Louis Jochems, an All-West Regional selection, also returns.
The women’s side will also return two All-West region runners in Mel Devoney* (sophomore) and Megan Bull (junior). The cross country teams will bring in a number of highly touted reinforcements this season. “We’re excited about our incoming first-year classes. Both are talented and deep,” head coach Rob Bartlett said. The first meet of the year will be the UC Irvine Invite on Sept. 6.
Runners to watch:
Colin Smith (senior) — Smith’s teammate Guzman stole the headlines last season, but Smith was right on his heels. An unfortunate stomach flu kept him from participating in the National Championships in 2013, so expect to see an extra motivated Smith at meets this year.
Megan Bull (junior) — Bull, who cracked the top 30 at the West Regionals, is one of two returning All-Region runners for the women. Now, as she looks to move up in the rankings, nationals could be in her sights.
Men’s Water Polo (4-24 overall; 3-9 SCIAC)
It has been a difficult stretch of late for the men’s water polo team, as they have lost over 20 games the past three seasons. Thankfully, the Tigers will bring a strong team this season, with second-leading scorer Samuel Akiyama (senior) who tallied 53 goals, 10 assists and 28 steals in 28 games played. Sophomore Matt Munet led all first-years on the squad in goals last season with 13, playing in all 28 games, and should see increased action in his second season. Sophomore goalkeeper Adam Florsheim led the team with 159 saves while splitting time in a three-goalie rotation. One of the other two goalies, junior Joshua Needleman, who notched 70 saves, will also be back, along with veteran attackers Nick Heffner (senior), Patrick Maloney (junior) and Jack Sinclair (senior). The Tigers are schedule to begin play at Whittier on Sept. 6.
Player to watch:
Matt Mulett (Attack, sophomore)- Mulet was a bright spot last year for the Tigers, picking up 13 goals in 28 games as a first-year. With a year of his experience to his name, Mulett should continue his progression and provide a much needed spark to the Tigers’ offense.
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