Occidental women’s volleyball is more than ready for this season

The Occidental volleyball team plays against The Master's College at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, CA. Sept. 6, 2022. Alex Lin/The Occidental

Despite finishing with a 6-17 record last season, Occidental’s women’s volleyball team won two of their three matches at the Pacific Coast Classic Tournament, Sept. 1 to Sept. 2. After losing to Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU) 0-3, the team beat Alfred University (AU) 3-1 and Lewis and Clark College (L&C) 3-0.

Skye Garcia (senior), a pin hitter on the Occidental’s women’s volleyball team, is excited for this season, saying the team’s morale is really high. According to Garcia, the tournament allowed the players to gain experience and helped them learn how to come together.

“We were all a bit disappointed with the five-set loss [against La Sierra University on Aug. 29],” Garcia said. “This has been a good chance for us to get more used to our playing dynamic and get more comfortable with each other.”

Skye Garcia (senior) Occidental Women’s Volleyball, in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 7, 2023. Jonathan Henry/The Occidental

Teammate Ariana Carranza (sophomore) said she felt they needed to experience what it is like to play against other teams as a group. Despite losing the match, she said they still played the game well together. One of the biggest differences when comparing last year’s team to this year’s, according to Carranza, is the team culture. With five new members, Carranza said that warm-ups and rituals helped them grow close and trust each other.

“We would just go around, saying what we’re grateful for, like why we love it, why we’re still playing it,” Carranza said. “When it came to physical rituals, it’d just be fun little kiddie warmups that like we would literally do when we were ten.”

Ariana Carranza (sophomore) Occidental Women’s Volleyball, in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 7, 2023. Jonathan Henry/The Occidental

According to Garcia, the first match of the tournament against NWU caused a lot of frustration, noting that despite feeling they were playing well, the opposing team would pick everything up. Teammate Lizzy Kerman (senior) said she shared the same feelings.

“We lost the serve and pass battle and we weren’t successful in returning the ball because their defense was everywhere,” said Kerman.

According to Kerman, the team morale dropped after their first loss against NWU, but after winning their second match against AU, the excitement began to rise again. With the third match against L&C, Kerman said that was the highest level of volleyball she had ever been a part of.

“We were all in the right spots, we were communicating, we were moving with zero effort. We were…concerted…like a beautiful little orchestra,” Kerman said.

According to Kerman, this was later evident in their matches, as even when playing against stacked odds, their play was flawless.

“We work so cohesively well. We had a few injuries in that game, we had a few random substitutions,” Kerman said. “But through all the time we spent at pre-season, sharpening the axe, you know like, we understand the responsibility and the role we have to play on the court.”

Elizabeth Kerman (senior) Occidental Women’s Volleyball, in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 7, 2023. Jonathan Henry/The Occidental

According to Kerman, another factor that helped the team is the new assistant coach, Paul The’. The’ had been a volunteer coach in past seasons.

“Our new assistant couch, Paul, has brought so much insight into the game for the team,” Kerman said. “Our girls are learning how to be statistically aware of themselves and how small things can impact the bigger game.”

When recalling a game against AU where they fought back even harder after losing a set, Garcia said it’s important to stay positive.

“It’s easy when we’re down or when we have a loss [to] get really frustrated and kind of in our head so just staying positive, when I’m on the court [is important],” Garcia said.

Carranza said she has a strong desire to be a good influence on the team, as she has been affected in the past by upperclassmen’s negative mentality.

“I took that this year, and I was like, there’s a lot of new girls coming in. I don’t want them to have that mentality,” Carranza said. “We’re getting fit, we’re forced to get out of bed, but would we have done it on our own?”

According to Kerman, it is also important to communicate well on the court.

“If we’re lacking communication, if we’re too quiet, if we’re not anticipating, the other team is going to score,” said Kerman.

With the tournament under the team’s belt, Kerman said she felt that it provided a window of insight into how the rest of the season would go.

“[We’re an] intelligent, maybe undersized, team,” Kerman said. “But we play winning volleyball.”

Contact Reyan Nguy at nguy@oxy.edu


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