Duffy, Adler dominate as The Occidental’s Athletes of the Week

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Jacob Adler (junior), this week’s athlete of the week, is a member of the men’s basketball team at Occidental College. Friday, November 8, 2019. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental Lauren Duffy (senior), this week’s athlete of the week, is a member of the women’s volleyball team at Occidental College. Thursday, November 7, 2019. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental

Lauren Duffy

Volleyball middle Lauren Duffy (senior) played the last game of her college career Nov. 1 in a 0–3 loss to California Lutheran University. As Occidental volleyball’s lone senior, Duffy has been a fixture in the front line, playing in all 27 games and 89 sets and averaging 1.57 kills per set. Duffy said she was proud of the young team’s ability to become more confident before she graduates next year.

“The last game, our coach told us she just wanted us to go for it, and all of us really encompassed the ‘no fear’ motto that game,” Duffy said. “Obviously, it wasn’t the result that we wanted, but I think we’ve really grown throughout the season, to be able to come to our last game and really go out and not be hesitant and not be scared to leave everything out on the court. It was a really great way to end my volleyball career.”

The game was special for another reason—it was the first time Duffy’s parents were able to come to a game during her career at Occidental.

“They livestream all my games from Toronto, but it was just really awesome to have them here in person,” Duffy said.

While the Occidental volleyball program lost some talented graduating seniors and key starters to injuries, Duffy said she is excited for what the future holds.

“It’s definitely been a hard year,” Duffy said. “Throughout the season, we’ve had a lot of injuries, more than our fair share, so now that we’ve found our groove, I think it will be really exciting to see how they do next season. Seeing how far the first years have come — they’ve grown so much.”

Duffy said she hoped to mirror one of her own mentors when helping lead this relatively young Occidental team.

“When I came to Oxy, we had a lot of seniors, so I had a lot of older players to look up to,” Duffy said. “One of my best friends was a senior when I came in. I look up to her and really try to embody how she was as a captain: leading by example and not just telling people what to do, but showing through your actions.”

Captain Lara Minassians (junior) said Duffy’s positivity and reliability makes her essential on the court.

“Lauren is so empowering,” Minassians said. “On the court, she has a smile at all times. Playing with her makes me so excited because whenever I set her, I know it’s going to go down.”

Duffy said her favorite part of being a volleyball player at Occidental is the community she has built.

“The Oxy volleyball team is such a special group of girls, and we have a unique bond,” Duffy said. “My favorite part is knowing I have a family here at Oxy when my family is so far away.”

Duffy said at the end of the day, the relationships she built with her teammates will far outlast her athletic career.

“It’s been an incredible experience and I don’t want it to be over, but I know the friendships will be there forever, whether or not I’m still playing volleyball,” Duffy said.

Jacob Adler

Occidental men’s basketball captain Jacob Adler (junior) scored 25 points against The Masters University Nov. 2, and 22 points against Yeshiva University Nov. 9, in his first two games of the 2019–2020 season. According to Adler, the young team stepped up in their first non-exhibition game.

“It was nice to see them perform in a high-stakes game that actually counts for our record,” Adler said.

Adler said losing height in their lineup after captains Austin DeWitz ’19 and Zach Baines ’19 graduated last year meant Occidental had to modify their strategy to find success this season.

“Most of our sets this year are either four guys out on the perimeter who can shoot and one in the post, or even five out,” Adler said. “With that, we can set lots of good off-ball screens, so we’re constantly curling and cutting.”

Adler said he has enjoyed growing into his new role as a leader on the team, helping his younger teammates come into their own early this season. Adler said he tries to instill this confidence in his teammates, because nothing is more vital to a player’s success on the court, he said.

“For me, having been through two years of a complete college basketball season and knowing what it takes to be competitive on a consistent basis, it’s just being able to empower them with confidence,” Adler said. “The biggest part of knocking down an open shot is confidence and being mentally prepared to take a shot and know that you’re going to make it.”

According to Adler, being vocal in practices and in the weight room contributes to a positive team attitude.

“We’re going to turn the ball over sometimes and we’re going to miss shots,” Adler said. “It’s about refocusing and regrouping.”

Adler said that getting younger teammates exposure to the pace of college basketball early will help the team down the road.

“It’s definitely a good sign, for this season and beyond, getting those experiences early in your career,” Adler said. “Especially for them to see what it takes now, before we start league play when the games really count for our ultimate goal which is to win a conference title and then make a run at the [NCAA] tournament.”

Adler said he was inspired as a kid by Dwayne Wade because of his clutch play and ability to uplift his teammates.

“It was watching the ’06 NBA Finals when he took over that series against the Mavericks,” Adler said. “It was the first NBA series I watched—my mom let me stay up late. The NBA players I most enjoy watching are the ones who empower their teammates to be their best selves.”