Volleyball makes it to SCIAC Tournament semifinal

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Author: Ryan Graff

Tigers narrowly miss at-large bid to NCAA Tournament after loss to Cal Lu

With a thunderous and perfectly-placed kill straight down
the line, California Lutheran outside hitter and SCIAC Player of the Year Kylie
McLogan (sophomore) abruptly ended the Occidental volleyball team’s season
and brought tears to the eyes of the Tigers as reality set in that some among
them had donned the black and orange for the final time.

“We
went into the match with an aggressive mentality that we were going to leave
our hearts on the floor. And that is exactly what we did,” said Stephanie Gann (junior),
who had 10 kills, hit .474 and was one of the most emotional Tigers after
Thursday’s loss to the No. 8 Regals in the SCIAC Tournament semifinal match.  “Though the match ended with tears, ultimately, that game was a celebration. It
was a celebration of how far we’ve come as a team and, most importantly, of our
seniors.” 

Captain Logan Boyer-Hayse (senior), who recorded a team-high
13 kills and hit .393 in her swan song, will leave Occidental as one of the
best Tiger volleyball players ever statistically. As a wide-eyed first-year in, she brought high aspirations and the desire to contribute to Rush
Gymnasium. She spent the next four years jumping out of it on her way to a
legacy of 1,607 kills and accolades that include a Second Team All-SCIAC award, three First Team All-SCIAC awards, a Third Team All-American selection and a First Team All-American
selection.

“While we can get caught up in the stats of games, awards given or win-loss records, to me the numbers cannot tell the true story of what this
team has achieved over the past four years,” Boyer-Hayse said. “And as I
look back, what I am most proud of is having the incredible honor of being a
part of the Oxy volleyball team at such an exciting, dynamic, and pivotal time
in the history of the program.” 

But, according to head coach Heather Collins, it is what
Boyer-Hayse brings to the team off the court that truly sets her apart from her
predecessors. Despite only being at the helm of the team for the last two
seasons, Collins has seen the Tiger continually grow and develop her
skill set, reaching the pinnacle of her game this year with 337 kills, 278
digs, 30 service aces and 25 total blocks. She also ranks in the top 20 in the
nation with 4.05 kills per set.

“Logan has had a tremendous career here at Oxy,” Collins said. “She is a gifted athlete and will go down as one of the best in Occidental history. She is a great person who will be successful in life.”

Other seniors departing the program this year are Emily
Repsher and Kasey Rose. Repsher had a pair of digs against Cal Lu and
solidified herself as a staple on the service line for the Tigers over the last
four years. Rose, who recorded eight kills and seven digs on Thursday, finished
the season second in kills with 284 and led the squad with 32 service
aces. 

“Having the opportunity to play competitive volleyball the
last four years has been a pivotal part of my collegiate experience, both
academically and athletically,” Rose said. 

Occidental, who lost 3-1 to the Regals in both of their
head-to-head match-ups earlier this year, entered the playoff match as the only
SCIAC team that Cal Lu had not swept at least once in the regular season. This
is not the case anymore, as the Regals defeated the Tigers in three straight
sets.

The black and orange doubled-up the Regals early on, jumping
out to a 10-5 lead in the first set and looking as if they finally had
Cal Lu’s number. Megan Olayinka (sophomore) teamed up with Dana Michels (first-year) on a key block, giving Tiger fans a look into the crystal ball at
the future of the program. Michels, who ended the contest with a team-high two
blocks, went on to record consecutive kills to give the team the five-point
lead. But the Regals won six of the next seven points to tie the set at 11
points apiece before taking back the momentum and winning the set 25-21.

Set two saw much closer competition with ties at 13, 18 and 20.
Gann and Jessie Altman (junior) were the one-two punch on a big block early in
the set and Gann and Michels recorded clutch kills down the stretch. Occidental
appeared in the driver’s seat when it tied the match at 20, capitalizing on a
Regal service error. However, the ending of set two was reminiscent of set one,
with Cal Lu winning five out of the next six points to once again claim a 25-21
victory.

The train came off the tracks for Occidental in the
third-and-final set, starting off with a 10-2 disadvantage. But they were not
to be counted out. The Tigers roared almost all the way back, coming within
four at 18-14 on the shoulders of a Boyer-Hayse kill off an overpass. That
would be the closest margin in set three, however, as Cal Lu would go on to
defeat the Tigers 25-20.

Although we played well at times, we always seemed to be a step behind Cal Lutheran,” Collins said. “Too many unforced errors and an undisciplined block caused us to play catch-up the whole match.”

Occidental (19-10 overall, 9-7 SCIAC), missed last year’s
mark of 22-9 overall and 11-3 in the SCIAC as well as their goal of surpassing
last season’s SCIAC Championship and trip to the second round of the NCAA
Tournament.

“We had a successful preseason this year leading into conference,” Collins said. “However, we did not find a way to step up against the top three teams in the conference who all ended up being in the top 25 AVCA poll and making it to the NCAA tournament. Our focus this spring and next year will be on bringing in a few strong middle blockers and outside hitters to fill some key roles, while striving to teach our student-athletes to step up in stressful situations and take charge when the going gets tough.”

After beating the Tigers, Cal Lu went on to sweep Chapman to earn the SCIAC Championship title. During the NCAA Division III Tournament Selection Show on Monday morning, Cal Lu, Chapman and La Verne earned trips to the postseason while Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) and the Tigers narrowly missed at-large bids.

Despite this, the outlook for next season is optimistic. The
Tigers will return a
pair of rising sophomores who have already made names for themselves in the
Occidental lineup. Setter Sarah Beene (first-year) saw significant playing time
as a supplement to Altman and finished the year with 434 assists and a .312
hitting percentage. 

Additionally,
hitter Michels came on strong this season, finishing in the top five on the
team with 112 kills and one block behind leader Aly Fritz (junior) with 56.
“It
was a great experience playing with veteran collegiate athletes because it’s
such a different experience than high school and club,” Michels said. “Next
year, I’m pretty excited to not play middle and be able to play defense and
contribute on a more well-rounded level.”

On the other end of the
spectrum, the
Tigers will return six seniors for the 2013 campaign,
among which will be libero Madyson Cassidy (junior), who ranks in the top 20 in
the nation with 5.75 digs per set. The loss to the Regals was bittersweet for
Cassidy, as she led the defensive charge with 14 digs and also found out
earlier in the day that she had won her third consecutive Second Team All-SCIAC
selection.

Other returning seniors will include setters Hana Hunt and
Jessie Altman—the latter finishing 2012 with a team-leading 674 assists—and
hitters Alyssa Mort, Fritz and Gann.

“[The
returning seniors] have all grown so much together these past three seasons and
we realize that [next year] will be our last season playing as one unit. That
gives us so much motivation to play our absolute best at all times,” Gann said.
“We have big shoes to fill and we are more than ready to take it on.”

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