The Occidental women’s volleyball team (1–9 overall, 0–2 SCIAC) fell behind early on Friday night against La Verne and failed to recover, falling 3–0 to the Leopards in the home opener.
“We started out very shaky,” head coach Heather Collins said. “We had a really hard time passing and that kind of breaks down the rest of the game.”
The Tigers started out slowly and could not keep up with the Leopard’s quick tempo on offense. Captain and opposite hitter Megan Olayinka (senior) scored the first Occidental point of the first set with a kill and brought some of the Tigers’ energy back, but the gap in score was too large to overcome and the Leopards took the first set 25–13.
“There was inconsistent passing to start every play off,” Collins said.
Due to the defensive struggles of the blockers and the back row throughout the match, the Tigers had very few point streaks. La Verne also took the first point of every set, which put Occidental in a continuous hole, allowing the Leopards to take the second and third sets, 25–12 and 25–14, respectively.
Two of the team’s veterans—setter Sarah Beene (junior) and Olayinka—did their part to keep the Tigers in the match. Beene recorded six assists in the second set, while Olayinka, the lone senior on the team, displayed leadership on the court and hit .571 with four kills and no errors on the night.
Still, with a team of nine first-years—four of whom start—the Tigers have room to gain in experience.
“We have a lot of underclassmen stepping into big roles,” Olayinka said. “We are a young team this year.”
Olayinka expressed the hope that Tigers will increase their energy and vocalness both on the court and the bench in future games. While the Leopards were loud and active throughout the game, the Tigers energy level fluctuated depending on their play.
“A lot of teams don’t do organized cheers on the sideline at the collegiate level. We never have as long as I’ve been at Oxy,” Olayinka said. “I think we could always improve on being loud at all times.”
The Tigers were able to keep fighting into the third set, going point-for-point with the Leopards. When Olayinka and middle blocker Amanda Herold (first-year) came up with a block against La Verne outside hitter Brittany Yaxley, the home crowd came to life. Unfortunately, the Leopard’s fast-paced offense quelled the enthusiasm and they pulled away to take the set 25–14.
“We definitely know we have a lot to work on, but what’s exciting is that we are improving each game,” Olayinka said. “We just have to find a way to sustain the level of play that we are capable of throughout the match.”
The Tigers returned to the court the next night at Whittier, but the Poets took the match 3–1. After dropping the first set 25–20, Occidental bounced back with a 25–19 victory in the second set. The Poets regained the advantage in the third set and the Tigers eventually succumbed to Whittier in a nail-biter in the fourth.
“It’s just going to take a little time for [the first-years] to assimilate and to believe in themselves,” Collins said. “I think once that happens, everything is going to click.”
The team remains confident that the season will turn around as the young squad gains experience throughout the SCIAC season.
“I know that we will only continue to get better as the season progresses,” Beene said.