Madelene Sellergren (junior) guided Occidental’s volleyball team into the 2019 season, pacing the team with 147 kills over 13 matches this year.
Sellergren said the team is focused on meshing well now so they can flourish later in the season.
“We’ve been finding our groove. Volleyball isn’t just about skill, it’s about the attitudes and energies of people on the court,” Sellergren said. “It’s six people in this tiny square, so you need to not just have a connection skill-wise, you need to have communication down.”
Sellergren said communication is the key goal in bringing together Occidental’s young team, of which nine of the 14 total players are first years and sophomores.
“Every region plays different volleyball, so you have to figure out the language people use, the plays they run, so that is the skillset part of it, but it also translates to energy,” Sellergren said. “If you’re new to playing with someone on the court, that’s the first thing you need to establish.”
According to Sellergren, the group’s cohesion is due to leadership across all positions, on and off the court.
“In a sense, everyone on the court has a leadership role in some way,” Sellergren said. “Instead of just being there on the court as a teammate, you have to be on top of integrating them with the team, familiarizing them with the way our team dynamics work.”
According to Sellergren, Occidental’s first-year class is not afraid to compete with anyone in the conference.
“It’s hard for a first year to come in and have the experience you get from playing at the college level, but I think they’re all ready to take that step,” Sellergren said. “They’re definitely a fearless group. They have no problem showing up every day and giving it their all.”
Sellergren said that the team is focusing on fine-tuning their process, with the trust that their outcome will improve as well.
“This year our goals are focused around energy and communication, stuff that you can measure but also have a feeling to them so after a game you can tell if you’ve done your job or not,” Sellergren said. “In that way we have to be really honest with ourselves about how we did and what we can do better.”
Sellergren said Occidental’s resilience is its most valuable asset this year.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Sellergren said. “There’s been a lot of challenges so far this year, we’ve had a few unforeseen injuries to people that are really important to our starting lineup, so I’m really proud of everyone individually [for] doing their best on and off the court.”
Outside of volleyball, Sellergren is a Media Arts & Culture major and loves spending time with friends.
Centerback Riley McCabe (senior) nabbed the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Defensive Player of the Week award after leading Occidental’s men’s soccer team to its fifth straight shutout this season. The Tigers opened the regular season with a win, taking down University of Redlands 1–0 Sept. 18.
McCabe said the win over Redlands boosted the team’s confidence moving toward their next game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps*.
“Of course, we’re confident that we can beat anyone, but coming out of Redlands with three points and a 1–0 win earlier this week was massive,” McCabe said.
According to McCabe, the whole team’s effort was required to build the team’s five-game shutout.
“Everyone takes defense seriously. There are no plays off,” McCabe said. “One thing we say on the team is ‘We are the standard.’ I think everyone knows that to win a game, to not let up a goal means you have to be a better defender than the guy on offense is across from you.”
While this week’s SCIAC award felt well earned, McCabe said it pales in comparison to the team’s performance.
“I’ll be much happier if we can go out there and beat CMS tomorrow.” McCabe said. “If we can go out and beat Chapman, if we can go out and win the SCIAC, that will overshadow any personal accolades. It’s a team sport to the fullest extent.”
Head coach Rod Lafaurie said McCabe’s role as a leader on the team means just as much as his dominant play on the field.
“Whenever a leader of the team takes on the responsibility of making sure that everyone else knows how important it is to him, that’s how a team really takes off,” Lafaurie said. “Because of that, I think he’s been immense more than anything else. It goes beyond just performing on the field.”
As Occidental marches into the depth of conference play and closer to SCIAC Tournament post-season play, McCabe said this talented group plans on making the most of every opportunity they get.
“I don’t want to jump the gun and say, ‘Oh, this team’s winning SCIAC’s easily’ because it’s never going to be easy. But I think it’s a special group of guys that knows what it takes,” McCabe said. “I think this team is going to be good. I think this team has a chance. And it’s going to take advantage of it.”
McCabe is a Diplomacy and World Affairs major and enjoys spending time hanging out with his teammates.
* Occidental men’s soccer lost to CMS 3–1 Sept. 21.