Sagehens Come Out On Top in Five-Game Volleyball Thriller

After a tough 3-1 loss to the strong La Verne Leopards, the Pomona-Pitzer volleyball team bounced back with force, netting two consecutive SCIAC wins against Caltech and Whittier, respectively. After blowing out Caltech last Friday, the Sagehens dug deep to outlast the Poets in a titanic struggle: 16-25, 25-15, 21-25, 25-16, 15-11. Between enthusiastic renderings of “The Bernie” by the Sagehens after winning tight points and the strong crowd support, the atmosphere at Voelkel Gymnasium on Tuesday night definitely helped motivate the Hens to escape with the victory.   

Coming in at 6-3 and undefeated in conference play, Whittier seemed to match every surge of momentum planted by the P-P athletes. After pulling within three points late in the first game, the Sagehens missed key opportunities and lost six straight points to go down 1-0. From the start, it became quite clear that the Sagehens would have trouble dealing with the outside hitter from Whittier: Poet Alyssa Sialaris finished the match with an incredible 23 kills, the most on either team. 

Looking dejected after their poor showing in the first game, P-P maintained their composure and rallied for an 11-2 lead in the second. Despite numerous Poet attempts to forge a late comeback, the strong play of Michelle Schultz PO ’16 and the team’s defensive specialist, Lauren Kim PO ’13, never let them back into the game. 

As a freshman, Schultz is having an unprecedented impact on the team through her consistency and utter domination at the net. After a particularly strong second game, Schultz was able to maintain her dominance throughout the match and finished with 12 kills and 11 digs. Despite her lack of collegiate experience, Schultz looked like a veteran on the court, and matched the strong play of Sialaris for the Poets to continually keep P-P in the game and force the deciding final game. 

“Well, it was a little intimidating at first,” Schultz said with regard to playing such an integral role on the team as a first-year. “But I know that I have all of my teammates and they help a lot.”

While Schultz may be intimidated, she rarely shows it on the court. As the season progresses– the team has crucial conference games against Cal Lutheran, Chapman and Occidental in the upcoming week–one can only expect Schultz to play better and better as she assimilates into the team and finds her niche. 

The third game, the most contested of the match, featured both teams attempting to edge their way out of the 1-1 tie. After evening it up at seven points apiece, Kim played perhaps the best point of the match with her strong digs that continually kept P-P in the point and eventually gave them the 8-7 advantage. Yet after a few close calls that featured an animated Coach Valerie Cowan glaring at the referee, Whittier was able to pull away with the numerous kills accrued by player Alayna Rigo to win the game 25-21. 

In the fourth game of the match, the Sagehens played consistently to achieve a 25-16 win. With everything on the line in the fifth game, which was played to 15 points, the Sagehens fell to an early 5-1 deficit that had them looking dejected and uninspired. Under the leadership and strong play of Kim, the Sagehens mounted their final comeback, evening the score at 11 points all. Calling a timeout, Coach Cowan told her team, “It’s a game to four. The team that is more aggressive is going to win.” In the end, the more aggressive team proved to be the Sagehens, who won four straight points to take the match. It was Schultz who won the match by spiking the ball straight at the Poets on the last point. 

“It was the greatest feeling in the world,” Schultz said.

The Sagehens will be back in action Saturday night against Cal Lutheran at 7:30 p.m. in Voekel Gymnasium.

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