Author: Jeremy Shapiro & Lauren Taylor
The Occidental men’s basketball team (8-11 overall, 4-5 SCIAC) has struggled this season, leaving them fifth in the SCIAC standings. The Tigers are led by upperclassmen Jack Hanley (senior) and Deshun McCoy (junior), combining for over 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. Both players reached the 1,000 points milestone on Dec. 21 and Feb. 1, respectively. Their accomplishments enforce their reliability and stability for the Tigers. Additionally, Conrad Leibowitz (sophomore) has bolstered the front court by nearly averaging a double-double.
Despite solid play from key individuals, the team as a unit has failed to find consistency this season, most recently losing four straight games immediately after a three game winning streak. Occidental has a great combination of veteran leadership and young talent that will look to end the season on a positive note with only six games remaining.
Head Coach Brian Newhall urges his team to approach each of the remaining games as if it was a championship game. The team has shown flashes of great play over the course of the season and hopes to make some noise in the SCIAC Tournament. The men will take to the court again this evening at 7:30 in Rush Gym when they take on La Verne.
The Lady Tigers (18-3 overall, 9-1 SCIAC) have picked up from where they left off last year, and currently hold first place in the SCIAC. The focal point of the Tigers squad is undoubtedly guard Makenzie Brandon (junior), who has single-handedly dominated the competition, averaging 18 points to go along with 7 rebounds per game. The Tigers success is largely due to their efficient shooting, averaging nearly 40 percent from the field, along with their staunch defense and rebounding, which has limited their opponents to a field goal percentage of 32.
Head Coach Heidi VanDerveer is the unsung hero in the midst Occidental’s recent success. After spending time as an assistant coach in the WNBA, she led the Tigers to the NCAA Division III Tournament in her first season and continues to hold her team to one of the highest standards in the SCIAC. VanDerveer instilled a winning mentality into the program as she enjoys a successful fourth season as head coach.
“We have a vision of what it takes to be very competitive, and that vision includes a daily dose of hard work. We understand that in order to be successful we have to play hard, play smart, and play together,” said VanDerveer.
The Tigers have only six games left before the postseason, when they will look to revive last year’s magic and attempt to repeat as SCIAC Champions. The Lady Tigers will travel to Redlands tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. to try to sweep the Bulldogs on the 2012 campaign.
Women’s Swim and Dive
The women’s swimming and diving team, led by undefeated diver Jessica Robson (sophomore) and standout swimmers Caroline Chang (sophomore) and Mallory Ryan (senior), are happy with their 5-2 record. Losses to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer are the only blemishes on their schedule.
Robson has been literally unbeatable, winning the one- and three-meter diving crowns at each dual meet so far this season. And Chang has been almost as impressive, regularly winning three to four events as the women’s team reeled off wins over La Verne, Lewis and Clark, Whittier and Cal Tech.
A tough loss on the road against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps hurt, but was not entirely unexpected. Not only have the Athenas been ranked in the top 15 eight times in the past 10 years, they are also undefeated this year in league play and were in fine form against the Tigers throughout the meet.
Occidental rebounded from that loss with a decisive win over Cal Tech at the next meet, taking every single event in a 165-71 victory.
The Tigers nearly pulled off a huge upset against Pomona-Pitzer last weekend. Chang’s effort in the 200-yard backstroke broke a school record, knocking Rene Rykaczewski out of the record books. She followed that up with National B-cut in the 200-yard breaststroke, bringing Occidental within mere points of the Sagehens, but Pomona-Pitzer earned its 31 straight in the annual series.
Even so, the women’s squad appears to be in contention at the SCIAC Championships next weekend.
Men’s Swim and Dive
Things have not gone nearly as well on the men’s side. Three straight losses to open the season dropped the Tigers into last place in the conference. Despite notching wins over Lewis and Clark and Cal Tech, Occidental lost last weekend against Pomona-Pitzer and will head into the Championships as an underdog.
It has not helped that Occidental has no male divers competing this year, putting the team at a deficit at the outset of the meets. Against La Verne, the Tigers lost by 13 points, and the Leopards outscored Occidental 26-0 in the diving portion of competition.
The diving deficit notwithstanding, the men’s squad has seen several performers come into their own atop the blocks so far this year. Despite being just a first-year, Steven Van Deventer has emerged as a star on this year’s team. Van Deventer has won three individual events at several meets and is expected to compete for an individual title in the 100-meter breaststroke at the SCIAC Championships next weekend.
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