Oxy wins 1st NCAA game in over 20 years
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — If they were supposed to be a little anxious or nervous playing in the school's first NCAA Division III playoff game in nearly 20 years, the Occidental College volleyball team showed no evidence it.
Freshman Katie Wiese (Denver, CO) had 10 kills and three blocks in the fourth and fifth games, setter Jessie Altman (La Jolla, CA) had a season-high 62 assists and the Tigers beat Pacific Lutheran University 25-17, 24-26, 23-25, 25-17, 15-8 in Oxy's first playoff game since 1992 at Cal Lutheran University on Friday. With the win in the first round of the West Regional, the Tigers (22-8) move on to the Round of 32 to face the winner of the region's top-seed Colorado College and No. 8 Hardin-Simmons at 3:30 p.m. at Gilbert Arena on Saturday.
After dropping the second and third sets to the Lutes (21-6), Altman started going to Wiese with back sets and quick sets, sparking a 4-0 rally with the score tied at eight. Oxy (22-8) went on to win the set and was able to feed off of the energy it generated in Game 4, in the much shorter Game 5.
"I think we took that momentum from the fourth game and applied that to the fifth game," said Wiese, who had three kills and two blocks in the fifth. "We came out right away, got a five-point lead and that's so helpful when it's such a short set."
Altman distributing the ball well during that key stretch in Game 4 got the Lutes blockers away from Logan Boyer-Hayse (Boulder, CO) and Kasey Rose (Los Olivos, CA), who both had big days attacking with 36 kills combined—Rose led the game with 19 and Boyer-Hayse had 17. That opened things up for Wiese and created some doubt in the Lutes' defense that perhaps had gotten used to being pounded by the two star Oxy hitters.
"I think we were just trying to mix things up more to confuse their block and catch them off guard so when we were doing the slides they didn't know whether to go back or to go to the outside pins to Logan or Kasey," said Altman, who also had three aces in Game 4, two that hit the tape and rolled over the net. "I think we were just trying to move it around a lot more and they didn't know where to go."
Boyer-Hayse and Kasey Rose consistently answered PLU's runs with key kills throughout the contest, but they weren't alone.
Stephanie Gann (Tacoma, WA) put away just about every ball set her way. The sophomore outside hitter hit .412 and had eight kills off of the bench.
Defensively the Tigers weren't bad either.
Madyson Cassidy (Arcadia, CA) led the game with 30 digs in the back line for Oxy, and was precise with her passing to Altman, despite challenging attacks from the Lutes, allowing the Tigers to run their offense smoothly.
Oxy started out the season with three wins over top 25 teams, then perhaps hit a stretch where they plateaued a bit. Now the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament champions have won six straight and appear to be a more resilient team that doesn't fold when things don't go there way.
Against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the team's season finale on Nov. 1, Oxy was down 24-16 in the third set, before rattling off ten straight points to win the set, then eventually the match. In the SCIAC tournament championship on Nov. 5, the Tigers dropped two sets to Cal Lutheran, then again responded by winning a deciding fifth set.
Friday, the Tigers trailed 2-1, before battling back to beat the Lutes.
"We were maybe a little worried, but we didn't panic," Altman said. "We were still fighting and trying to win and thinking we were going to win. And so I think we kept that attitude we we're able to pull it out in the fourth and fifth games.
The Tigers are now 7-1 at Cal Lutheran's Gilbert Arena this season with their most challenging game yet still to come.
"At first we were kind of thinking we'd like to travel, go somewhere, make it a big experience," Occidental coach Heather Collins said. "But right after I got over thinking that I thought, 'we've won here, we're comfortable here and hopefully we'll have a lot of fans here."
A fan bus for Occidental students will leave from in front of Rush Gymnasium tomorrow at 2 p.m. If you ride the bus, your admission to the match is free. Must have your Oxy ID card to ride.