Author: Ryan Whalen
The Occidental volleyball team (10-5 overall, 4-3 SCIAC) continues to produce offensive firepower on the court. The Tigers stand at the halfway point of their conference schedule and so far are in a four-way tie for third place with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), Whittier and Pomona-Pitzer.
The squad opened SCIAC play a little over two weeks ago with back-to-back shutout victories over Caltech and La Verne before suffering its first conference loss to Whittier in a five-set nail biter. The Tigers then split their last four conference matches, defeating Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands while losing to CMS and conference-leader Cal Lutheran.
With only 13 players, Occidental has a notably smaller roster than its fellow SCIAC teams. Although its lineup does not allow for much depth, the unit has managed to perform among the SCIAC’s upper echelon.
“The team has done a great job so far this season, and the team has really fought through every match,” head coach Heather Collins said.
The majority of the Tigers’ success stems from a potent offensive attack. Three black and orange outside hitters — Stephanie Gann (senior), Alyssa Mort (senior) and Dana Michels (sophomore) — have already amassed over 150 kills apiece. Michels eclipsed the 200-kill mark against the Bulldogs and currently leads the team with 210, a vast improvement from her 112 last season.
Meanwhile, setter Jessie Altman (senior) has acted as the cohesive glue for the attack, recording 457 assists in slightly more than a half season. While the black and orange offensive machine has been running at full blast, libero Madyson Cassidy (senior) has been the backbone of the defense, keeping points alive with 323 digs to date.
With the conclusion of last night’s match against SCIAC powerhouse Chapman — the contest was in progress at the time of publication — the Tigers have now faced each conference opponent once and have a week to prepare for the second half of the league season.
“Our challenge is to hold strong against the teams we defeated earlier this season and to be more strategic against
the teams we [lost to] in order to come out as one of the top three teams in SCIAC,” Michels said.
The final week of play poses as the largest hurdle Occidental will have to clear in order to claim a top-three league spot. The women are tasked with facing both Chapman and CMS, two of the three teams that have either a better record or hold a tiebreaker against the Tigers.
“If we can figure out how to have consistent energy and urgency, I think we will have a great rest of the season and prove ourselves in the conference,” Altman said.
The team will take on two non-conference opponents over fall break in a Saturday doubleheader. They host UC Santa Cruz at 1 p.m. and La Sierra at 7 p.m. at Rush Gymnasium.
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