Author: Ryan Graff
Staff writer Ryan Graff complied a list of the most exciting young Occidental athletes to look out for this spring:
Jack Butcher (first-year) is taking command in the pool this year for the Tigers. He swims the 500-yard and 1650-yard freestyle as well as the 400m individual medley. He will pursue Nationals for the 1650-yard freestyle, and so far has posted a personal best of 16:26. He will need to close a 16:00 to qualify for Nationals and has been working hard in practice to hit this mark. He started swimming in the third grade, and his experience will be a major factor for the Tigers this season. Butcher will be swimming at SCIACs on Feb. 20, where he will look to make an instant impact. “We’ve been talking about SCIACs for a really long time. Since it’s my first year doing this, it’s extremely important to me. I want to go out and represent Oxy well and prove that we have competitive young swimmers,” Butcher said.
Brittany Vacura (sophomore) is the number one starting pitcher for the Tigers this season. Last year, Vacura tossed a team high total of 90 innings and struck out 39 on her way to three wins. Her 2011 season started off with a complete game victory against USC on Feb. 5, in which she gave up only two hits and had six strikeouts. “This season, I hope to come out strong against our rivals (CMS and Redlands) and compete in order to come on out top,” Vacura said. She will take the mound again this Saturday at noon at CMS and will look to earn another victory.
Julie Housman (sophomore) earned herself the number three singles spot on the women’s tennis team this year. Housman, a UC Irvine transfer who moved to Occidental in favor of the smaller school atmosphere, is expected to bring her talents to the court this year and lead the Tigers to victory. With 12 years of tennis experience under her belt, Housman is a preseason favorite for an All-SCIAC selection. Despite sustaining a lower leg injury in a tough loss against UC Riverside on Feb. 5, Housman will look to return to the lineup on Feb. 24 against Brandeis University. “This year is going to be tough, but I think that if we play like we practice we can definitely pull out a winning season,” Housman said.
During their first year of varsity play last year, the women’s Lacrosse team posted a rough 2-13 record. Midfielder Sarah Kessler (sophomore) looks to revitalize the Tigers and make improvements. Last season, Kessler led the Tigers with 46 points and 95 shots on goal on her way to a Second Team All-SCIAC selection. Kessler looks to lead a young squad and is an advocate of attention to detail. “Personally, I want to improve my defensive skills. We have a talented team that I believe can come together and win games through communication and confidence,” Kessler said. The Tigers will play their first game on the road against Claremont Mudd Scripps (CMS) on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.
Caroline Chang (first-year) is making a splash for the Tigers this year. She swims the 100m and 200m breaststroke and also the 200m individual medley. Her strongest event is the 100m breaststroke, and she has set her sights on Nationals for this event. Her personal record is 1:06.24, which she set at Naperville North High School in Chicago, IL. If she can post a time like this at the collegiate level, the Occidental record of 1:08 will fall. “As a team, we are really looking forward to doing [well] in SCIACs, and the women’s team is very strong. I’m excited to see what the rest of the season will bring,” Chang said. The Tigers are currently ranked third in SCIAC play and will swim at SCIACs on Feb. 20.
Chris Caldwell (first-year) has made a name for himself so far on the diamond. As one of 18 first-year players, Caldwell brings a consistent bat and a reliable glove to the Tigers’ lineup. Through his first two collegiate series, the left fielder has posted a .368 batting average with three runs scored and seven runs batted in (RBIs). Defensively, he has a .857 fielding average with six putouts. Caldwell has enjoyed being part of a close team this year and feels that chemistry is responsible for their success. “There’s really no separation between classes on this team. As one big, collective group, we all combine our strengths to form a solid unit,” Caldwell said. The Tigers open their SCIAC season at home this Friday against Cal Lutheran.
Spencer Choy (sophomore) is making a powerful impact on the tennis court for the Tigers. Choy earned the third singles spot and the second doubles spot on the team along with partner Stephen Perkins (sophomore). On Feb. 5 at Glendale Community College, Choy earned victories in both his singles and doubles matches, contributing to a 6-3 win for the Tigers. Also, Choy earned singles and doubles victories to boost the Tigers over Chapman University 5-4 on Feb. 11. “We’re a young team, so this year will be a bit of a rebuilding year. But I do expect us to prove that we’re a solid program with a lot of depth,” Choy said. The Tigers (2-0) will host Redlands on Feb. 19 to begin conference play.
Rachel Adeleye (sophomore) is the starting goalkeeper for the Tigers’ water polo team, which was ranked number one in Division III athletics in preseason polls. She blocked four shots as the women earned a 14-10 victory at Azusa Pacific on Feb. 12. She has been playing since her first year of high school and played goalkeeper for the first time last season. She is one of four underclassmen goalies and will help anchor a young squad that contains 17 underclassmen. Practice has been rigorous and competitive, and the girls have built a strong bond and camaraderie. “Being in a competitive role for my position, it builds friendly competition and keeps me on my game during each and every practice,” Adeleye said. The team will take it to the pool again on Feb. 19 at Cal State Northridge at 2:30 p.m.
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