Author: Ryan Graff
The Occidental women’s volleyball team (21-8) claimed its first SCIAC Tournament Championship on Nov. 5 with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the 15-ranked Cal Lutheran Regals (26-6). With the win, the Tigers earned themselves an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III postseason tournament that begins on Nov. 11.
The Tigers earned a trip to the SCIAC final with a commanding 3-0 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) on Nov. 3, forcing a rematch of their Oct. 21 win over Cal Lutheran that ended the Regals’ 17-game win streak over the Tigers.
Occidental got off to a strong start in the final, capturing the first two sets with scores of 25-21 and 25-22, respectively. Kasey Rose (junior) hit .327 in the match, which she complemented with a game-high 19 kills and 29 digs.
After Occidental jumped to the early 2-0 lead, the Regals mounted a comeback and took the two ensuing sets 25-23 and 25-16. The Tigers entered the fifth set with their backs against a wall, needing a spark to pull out the tiebreaker. In a nail-biting fifth set, Occidental returned to mid-season form, beating the Regals 15-8 win to earn the SCIAC crown. “After what seemed to be a downward spiral through the third and fourth sets, we were able to recover and put past mistakes behind us in order to start the fifth set strong,” said captain Logan Boyer-Hayse (junior). “It was really unbelievable and we are very excited to play this coming weekend.”
While Rose provided the heroics with five points in the final set, the Tigers’ victory was a sound team effort. Katie Wiese (first-year) led the charge from the underclassmen by hitting .414 with 16 kills and a team-high two blocks. Setter Jessie Altman (sophomore), who has been touted as one of the SCIAC’s elite setters, recorded 50 assists in the contest while Boyer-Hayse added 15 kills and 20 digs. “I think that this was huge for this team. Everything seemed to flow really well, and I think that this came from solid serve receive passing. Maddie [Cassidy] passed nails and this really allowed us to run a balanced offense. Our middles also did a great job of involving themselves,” said Boyer-Hayse.
The Tigers entered this season with many changes to last year’s team. New head coach Heather Collins,who vigorously worked in the off-season to bring in a strong first-year class and push the team to reach their fullest potential, has perhaps been the biggest asset for Occidental. In her first season as head coach, Collins has revitalized the Tiger squad, posting an 11-3 SCIAC record and winning crucial games along the way.
Already in unprecedented territory, the Tiger women will look to succeed in the NCAA Tournament and take their accomplishments to the next level. It was announced on Nov. 7 that the women’s first round match will be against Pacific Lutheran University.
The game is scheduled to take place at Cal Lutheran University on Nov. 11 at 12:30 p.m.
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