Fall Sports set to open season strong

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Occidental Women’s Volleyball player Kamea Quetti-Hall spiking the ball at practice at Rush Gymnasium at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Alden Hinden-Stevenson/The Occidental.

Men’s Soccer:

Coming off their run at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championship in 2018, the Occidental men’s soccer team has been working throughout the summer and preseason to continue their upward trend this year.

Captain David Paine (senior) said much of last year’s success was due to the team culture.

“It was just electric,” Paine said. “Everything we were doing, we did it together, and we did it with a humble attitude and the intention of just wanting to be us.”

The Tigers began the 2018 season seeded fifth in SCIAC and finished third with a 10–4 conference record. During SCIAC playoffs, they beat University of Redlands 1–0 in the semifinals and finished in second place after losing to Chapman University 1–0 in the championship game.

“They beat us on a header. I remember that header,” Paine said. “All of us do, very vividly.”

After that disappointing finish, Paine said returning players have been re-energized by new players.

The Tigers began the preseason with two wins, one loss and one tie. Although the team found these scores disappointing, Paine said he is glad they could learn from these experiences before the regular season.

Perennially dominant teams like Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) and University of Redlands are expected to be Occidental’s biggest competition again this year, according to Paine.

Paine said fostering a tight-knit community is integral to the team’s success.

“The whole focus of the soccer program is to have an unspeakably positive impact,” Paine said. “Obviously, it would be nice to win a championship along the way But we really try to be a family first, and a group of soccer players second.”

The men’s soccer team plays their first home conference game against CMS Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

Water Polo:

The men’s water polo team may not have had a winning season last year, but the internal growth that occurred set them up for a breakthrough year, according to captain Joseph Cox (junior).

Cox said an influx of 11 new players has transformed the team’s outlook this year.

“They’re physically ready,” Cox said. “But more importantly, they’re really mentally mature. And they all understand what it takes to win.”

This preseason, the water polo team went undefeated in their first four non-conference games. Cox said the preseason helped the team develop their strategy of high defensive pressure and counterattacking.

According to Cox, the biggest competition the Tigers anticipate are Cal Lutheran, University of Redlands and Chapman University.

With a renewed sense of optimism bolstered by early preseason victories, Cox said the Tigers hope they will garner the attention of the Occidental community.

“Water polo is such an unconventional sport that a lot of times, we fly under the radar,” Cox said. “I hope that the Oxy community gets to come out and see a couple games because I’m really, really excited, and I think this is going to be a huge breakthrough year.”

The water polo team plays their first conference home game against Caltech on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.

Volleyball:

After graduating five core seniors in 2017, the volleyball team’s 2018 season was defined by growth and adjustment, according to captain Lara Minassians (junior). Minassians said the 2019 team is prepared for a much more successful season.

“This year, there’s a totally new team. We have five first years, and new leadership,” Minassians said. “I’m very excited and optimistic about the season because it’s a fresh start.”

The Tigers participated in two preseason tournaments, the Pacific Coast Classic and the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational. Minassians said that in both, Occidental fine-tuned their team chemistry and won their final games against Dallas and Colby-Sawyer.

Chapman, CMS, Cal Lutheran and La Verne will be the fiercest competition for the Tigers this year, according to Minassians.

As the team gains momentum throughout the season, Minassians said they hope the Occidental community will support their progress.

“We would love to have more people at our games,” Minassians said. “The audience really makes a difference, and when we play, we get so energized by the crowd.”

The volleyball team plays their first conference home game against the University of La Verne Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.

 

Cross Country:

Five years ago, the women’s cross country team did not have enough players to fill a team. With a team of 21 women this year, they are is hoping to advance beyond the SCIAC and NCAA Regionals to compete at the next level, according to captain Sabrina Thurber (senior).

“For the women’s side, the goal has always been to make it to Nationals, which we haven’t done while I’ve been at Oxy,” Thurber said.

Last year, the women’s team finished third in SCIAC Championships and fourth in NCAA West Regionals.

The men’s team also had an impressive past few seasons, qualifying for the National Championships in 2017 and finishing second in the 2018 SCIAC Championship.

This year, the Tigers competed in one informal meet Aug. 31 against Pomona-Pitzer. According to Thurber, the women⁠ — missing key athletes due to injury ⁠— lost to Pomona-Pitzer, and the men won.

Pomona-Pitzer and CMS tend to be the biggest competition for both the men’s and women’s teams, according to Lucy Kolpa (senior).

To prepare for these challenges, Kolpa said the Tigers are focusing on enthusiasm and team culture.

“Our energy is the best that I’ve seen it since being part of the program,” Kolpa said. “Everyone is much more cooperative within the squad and then more competitive with other schools.”

Cross country has their next meet Sept. 28 at The Master’s University at 7:45 a.m.