Volleyball finds encouragement despite tough loss

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Author: Ryan Whalen

The women’s volleyball team (2-4 overall, 1-1 SCIAC) started conference play this weekend with back-to-back matches against the University of Redlands Friday night and Pomona-Pitzer Saturday night. It captured a 3-1 victory over the Panthers but struggled late in their 3-2 loss to the Sagehens.

After dropping their first set of the match against Redlands, Occidental seemed to find their stride, as hitter Claire Strohm (sophomore) headlined the Tiger attack with a match-high 22 kills and three serve aces. Strohm’s teammate Amanda Herold (sophomore) also had a strong night, adding 13 kills and a serve ace, while setter Sarah Beene (senior) had a team-high 28 assists.

Defensively, Strohm again led the Tiger effort, tallying 21 digs and recording two blocks. Upperclassmen Tiareh Cruz (junior) and Kandace Korver (senior) also pitched in with 17 and 14 digs respectively.

The Occidental squad tried to carry the momentum from its dominant win over Redlands into its first home matchup of the season the next night, in which they attempted to shut down the Sagehens’ attack.

“Their outside hitters hit a lot of shots,” head coach Heather Collins said. “They are very crafty, but they also have power, So we were designing our defense around that and we did a great job in the beginning, and they ended up subbing out one of the hitters.”

Following their game plan, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead in the first set, with Herold recording four kills while Strohm and Allie Sundara (first year) recorded serve aces.

Occidental appeared to keep up its strong start at the start of the second set, as they jumped to an early four point lead at the start of the set and extended that to an 18-10 lead a few minutes later. However, the young Tigers seemed to lose focus, as a string of mistakes allowed the Sagehens to close the gap and eventually take the set 26-24 .

“I think we made a lot of unforced errors, a lot of personal errors that we could have easily controlled, and they just kind of kept adding on top of each other and it is kind of hard to come back from that deficit,” Strohm said.

Despite their stumble in the second set, Occidental came roaring back, racing to another early four-point lead in the third set. Similar to the first set, Herold paced the Tigers offense, as she slammed home eight kills with a .467 hitting percentage during the set. However, Occidental again struggled to put away the set, until Strohm sealed the set with a blast from the outside to give the Tigers a 2-1 game lead over Pomona-Pitzer.

Although they dug themselves into an early 5-0 hole, Occidental was able to pull within one point of the Sagehens three different times during the fourth set — but each time, they were unable to capitalize. The fourth set ended up coming down to the wire, with Herold just missing a kill attempt long and allowing Pomona-Pitzer to tie up the match.

“When we get nervous we tend to tense up and not talk to each other, and that is something that we need to work on and have more effective communication, especially when it comes to crunch time,” Korver said.

In the final set of the game, the Sagehens’ attack appeared to expose the Tiger defense, as Pomona-Pitzer established an 11-2 lead and never slowed down in capturing the fifth and deciding set of the match. With an impressive attack throughout the first few games, the Occidental offense fell flat in the final set, as they were only able to muster six points.

“Our serve receive really ended up being the deciding factor of the whole match,” Collins said. “Our serving was pretty good the entire night, but our serve receive, we really struggled with that, and that did not allow us to run our offense and get a rhythm.”

Although the Tigers struggled late in their match against the Sagehens, Collins believed the young team showed it has a lot of potential if they can limit their mistakes.

“Our goal is always to be top four in the conference so we can go to the conference playoffs, that is what we are kind of looking at right now,” Collins said. “But getting better everyday and bouncing back from today will be our focus for the next week.”

The Tigers will look to bounce back when they take the court against the University of La Verne this Friday at 7 p.m. in Rush Gymnasium.

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