Progressing towards post-season: golf and volleyball preview

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Courtesy of Sam's Photo Service

The 2017–18 fall sports season has already begun at Occidental College. The golf and volleyball teams are training to outdo last season’s performances, and The Weekly checked in with both to get a glimpse of what to expect this season.

Occidental women’s golf ended sixth in last season’s SCIAC Championship April 25, without their No.1 golfer Samantha Rocha (junior), due to injury. With Rocha now back in the lineup, women’s golf at Occidental is heading into the season at full strength. With an early-season win against Loyola Marymount Sept. 10, the women’s team is showing upside with three returning juniors from last year and strong early performances from Nicole Henderson (sophomore) and Anna Lundquist (first year). Head coach Will Morris has acknowledged the need for future improvement, but is optimistic for the future.

Courtesy of Sam’s Photo Service

Katy Uchiyama (junior) admits the team did not play up to their potential last year.

“Last season we struggled a bit in competition as a team, but this year we have a lot of new first years that will add some dimension to the team. I think we have a lot of potential to do well in SCIAC,” Uchiyama said.

On the men’s golf team, Dylan Jirsa (senior) — coming off a 2017 season which earned him the title of SCIAC Men’s Golfer of the Year — started the year out strong. In tandem with Sam Miller (junior), the top two Tigers have continued last season’s trend of hitting low scores together.

The men’s team also won against Marymount Sept. 10, boasting strong initial production from their younger players. Henry Gordon (sophomore) and Jack Moeller (first year) both posted low scores at the California State Intercollegiate Championship. Gordon played well last season and his low scores at the start of this season could help an improved 2018 men’s team contend for a championship. With an experienced top two golfers and a promising young duo in Gordon and Moeller, the men’s team looks to improve on their third-place finish at last year’s 2017 SCIAC Championship.

Courtesy of Sam’s Photo Service

Morris held much praise for Jirsa after the 2017 SCIAC Championship.

“He is the most consistent golfer I have ever coached,” Morris said.

Jirsa notes that the new players are also praiseworthy.

“We have some new freshmen on the team who are playing well. The transition to college golf is not easy, so it has been a nice surprise to have some freshmen step up and contribute,” Jirsa said.

With more first years on the team than seniors, the team lacks the experience of most championship teams. However, the young team has Jirsa optimistic heading into this season.

“I think this team might be able to surprise some people. Most teams in the conference probably overlook us, but I love that. It means we just have to work that much harder to earn everyone’s respect,” Jirsa said.

Occidental women’s volleyball ended a small losing streak when they put away Redlands Sept. 23. Claire Strohm (senior) won the fourth set with an ace right on the back line, putting the Tigers at 6–6 overall and 1–2 in the SCIAC conference. With five seniors on the team returning from last season, the team is in position to make up for missing the SCIAC Championship Tournament in 2017.

Jesse Leclere

Cassandra Guidice (senior) is in her fourth season with the Tigers. Guidice is optimistic about this season given the team’s experience across the board.

“We have a huge advantage having five seniors that all have very crucial roles on the team — with all of our combined experience along with new talent on the team, our goal is to make it to SCIAC playoffs this year,” Guidice said.

With 13 more inter-conference matches left until the playoffs, overcoming a 1–2 start will test the team’s mental fortitude.

“Last season, securing a spot in playoffs came down to a few crucial games that unfortunately didn’t go our way because we struggled mentally. This season we’re working on implementing drills that require and exercise the team’s mental toughness, a skill that is going to make us a stronger team this year,” Guidice said.

The women’s next home volleyball game is Sept. 29 against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 7 p.m. in Rush Gymnasium.