TSL sat down with Pomona-Pitzer women’s volleyball captain Eleanor Hughes PO ‘11 to discuss the season so far and what’s to come.
TSL: What are your general expectations for the season? What’s your outlook? Hughes: From what we’ve been seeing of the other teams, we’re all, pretty much, really well-matched. In the past it’s been a lot more polarized; the really good teams were at the top and in the top 25 in the nation, and the low teams were like Caltech. So I guess I’d say that we have a really good chance this year, which we’re really excited about. As long as we’re playing our game and actually playing the best that we can, we’ll be competitive with all the teams.
TSL: Last year you got to the SCIAC playoffs, but you didn’t advance past the first round. How has that affected the team’s outlook, or inspired you going into this year? Hughes: To know that we can be at that level and to know that we can play at the really competitive level, and that the teams that beat us were teams that were going on to Regionals and doing really great things—knowing that we’re in that, and that we can, when it comes to game night, just bring it, that’s really huge. We know that we’re the same as them, it just depends on whose night it is.
TSL:You recently beat Redlands, the team that knocked you out of the playoffs last year. What was that win like for you? Hughes: It was a great end to an up-and-down week, because on Tuesday we beat LaVerne for the first time—Val, our coach, has never beaten LaVerne at LaVerne.We beat them for the first time in her [10-year] career last year, but that was at Pomona, and this was the first time we beat them at their gym in a long, long time. That was great on Tuesday, and on Friday we had a low point, but Saturday was against Redlands and we beat them. So it felt really great.
TSL: Is there any team you’re really gunning for this year? I know it’s always good to beat CMS. Hughes: CMS, we’ve been pretty consistently beating them… when we played them here, it was domination. But when it comes to the other teams, Cal Lu is at the top of the conference right now, so we’re really looking forward to playing them on Saturday. We’re hopeful for that game, and also Occidental. In the past they’ve been so horrible, but last year they really stepped it up, so they ended up beating us both times. So even though we were beating other teams that we hadn’t beat before, we were also losing to teams that we hadn’t lost to before, so it was kind of a huge shake-up. We really want to beat Oxy—we lost to them last Friday, but we’re really looking forward to playing them, and Cal Lu, definitely. LaVerne seemed to be not that difficult, they’re definitely beatable this year. CMS, probably the same thing.
TSL: Coming into this year, you lost a couple key players. What holes does the team have this year, and how are you planning on filling them? Hughes: I guess I wouldn’t really say that there are holes; they were really great players and they really made the team solid, but the people that we have coming up, the underclassmen, they’re really good and they’ve been filling the spots that were left by those people—they really stepped it up. Because our roster’s a little bit deeper, we do have that kind of capacity to fill those spots. Last year we had a senior middle and a freshman middle, and now we have two sophomore middles.
TSL: Who are you expecting to stand out this year? Who should we have an eye out for to make some big contributions? Hughes: Our setter, she’s great, she’s the foundation for the team, and she’s a really, really strong athlete, so she’s just consistently been one of the really great players on the team—Kenzie Aries, #13. She’s just growing into her role, being an upperclassman now; I’m really glad to be working with her. The sophomore Rachel Bollens, this is her second year starting, and she’s 6’1” and she’s really, really good. She got on the all-time blocks list even as a freshman. We all have a lot of hope that she’s just going to continue to get better.
TSL: Your first concern is SCIAC, but do you have aspirations beyond that, at the regional level? Hughes: Certainly. SCIAC is always one of the stronger conferences in our region. Last year, somehow, Chapman, even though Chapman’s not in any conference, got to go to regionals as well, and we beat them both times we played, so we know that we have the capability and the potential to play at the regional level and even beyond, but it just depends on what we can do in the short term, game by game. We do have really high hopes, just because the conference is so level this year. Pacific Lutheran is usually a really strong team, and we beat them earlier this season, so that looked good both for our team and our conference.
TSL: Which games are you most excited for? Hughes: Saturday’s going to be a really good game, just because it’s Cal Lu, and they’re in our gym so it’ll be a great game. The CMS game is always really fun, there and here. We’re looking forward to playing Oxy at Oxy and to get that revenge that we’ve been seeking for a year. Other than that, pretty much all the home games are going to be really great; we still have LaVerne at home—those games are usually competitive, so they’re all pretty fun.