From preseason to postseason, Alyanna McGrath and Kia Mackey earn Athlete of the Week honors

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Kia Mackey (senior), one of this week’s Athletes of the Week, is a member of the women’s soccer team at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Alyanna McGrath (first year), one of this week’s Athletes of the Week, is member of the women's basketball team at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 5, 2021. Halle Steckel/The Occidental

Alyanna McGrath

Forward Alyanna McGrath (first year) had 12 points and 9 rebounds in the Occidental women’s basketball team’s 62-59 win over LIFE Pacific University in an exhibition game Nov. 2. McGrath, an intended computer science and psychology double major from Coral Springs, Florida, got the start at forward in her first competition for the Tigers.

According to McGrath, her ability to score outside the three-point line will give the team the ability to stretch the floor this season — unclogging the paint and allowing Occidental’s guards more space to drive.

“I’m not just magnetic to the post, I don’t have to be on the block all the time. I’m comfortable stepping out and shooting jump shots in the key or in the high post or even a three-pointer trailing during a play,” McGrath said. “I’m comfortable shooting the rock.”

According to teammate Kulaea Tulua (senior), McGrath’s personality has helped the new team mesh.

“She’s a sweetheart, which has made it just so much easier to connect on the court when we’re out there and doing our thing,” Tulua said. “Aly definitely plays a key role in filling in one of our missing pieces.”

One of McGrath’s greatest assets as a player, according to Tulua, is her ability to turn the intensity on and off when she needs.

“She’s really dynamic. She’s so goofy — we’re always laughing when we’re around her, but when it’s time to get serious, you can definitely see that switch,” Tulua said. “She’s a little scary when she’s out there and she’s intense.”

According to McGrath, the team has big dreams to transform Occidental women’s basketball into a winning program.

“Previous seasons for the team [haven’t] been as successful in terms of getting W’s and just playing Oxy basketball. So that’s what we’re trying to do — we’re trying to make a new name for ourselves,” McGrath said. “Injuries aside, when people get healthy, it’s going to be really something to watch.”

While McGrath said she is excited to see the team grow this season, the beauty of basketball lies both in working with teammates to accomplish its goals, as well as one’s own personal improvement.

“I love seeing myself grow in the sport,” McGrath said. “I know this is just a bit of my potential and I can’t wait to see how far I can go in the sport.”

Kia Mackey

Women’s soccer captain Kia Mackey (senior) scored two second-half goals to lead the Occidental women’s soccer team to a 4-0 win over Caltech Oct. 30 in the last regular season game of her undergraduate career. The team overcame a scoreless first half to secure the victory.

According to women’s soccer head coach Colm McFeely, Caltech’s defensive strategy challenged Occidental in the first half.

“We’re a team that wants to get on the front foot, but playing against a team that sits eight, nine players back, there’s very little space,” McFeely said. “We struggle with that.”

McFeely said that inserting Mackey at center-forward was key to overcoming their first half scoring struggles.

“Second half, we thought we’d make a change — we put Kia up front,” McFeely said. “She’s good at holding the ball up [and] connecting with [the] midfielders coming on.”

According to McFeely, Mackey also moved well inside the penalty box, resulting in Occidental’s first goal in the 48th minute, almost immediately after she entered the game.

Mackey said that she credits great team play to their second-half success.

“The best we were playing [was] when we were just knocking the ball around to each other,” Mackey said. “The goals that I scored, I was set up really well for.”

Mackey said that teamwork was on full display with her second goal in the 71st minute. Teammate Isabella Bonomi (senior) played a ball into the box for a running Mackey who proceeded to lift a shot past the keeper.

Despite scoring two goals, Mackey said center-forward is not her usual position. According to Mackey, she is most comfortable playing center-back or full-back. She had not played center-forward this season until the match against Caltech but she said she enjoyed her time up top.

“Center-forward is just more free because it’s not as much pressure,” Mackey said. “And, of course, it’s more exciting because you can score goals.”

According to Mackey, she was able to use her strengths as a center-back — a good first touch, composure on the ball and distribution ability — to help out on the offensive end against Caltech.

“I would get the ball at my feet and [be] able to connect and possess in front of their backline and then [play] the final slip ball.”

As one of two fifth-year seniors on the roster, Mackey said that she embraces her leadership role, helping younger players adjust to the college level and remaining communicative on the pitch.

“Kia’s the quintessential team player,” McFeely said. “She’s extremely thoughtful about everyone else and really digs in to try and make the team better.”

Occidental lost 2-1 to conference rival Pomona-Pitzer on Thursday, falling one game short of the SCIAC final. It was Mackey’s final game for Occidental. However, despite the loss, McFeely said he hopes Mackey will reflect on her time playing for the team as a success.

“We always talk about, whenever we leave here, player or coach, that we can look back with honesty and say, ‘Yes, I think I left this program a little better than I found it,’” McFeely said. “If we all can say that, then I think we’ve done something right — and Kia certainly has. She’s been tremendous. Just a wonderful young woman, a wonderful individual.”