Sagehen Volleyball’s Team Chemistry Starts Clicking

Setter Jessica Finn PO ’18 toed the service line with the ball in her hands. The Occidental College gym was filled with cries for a side-out. At the crack of the ball, the cries silenced as spectators strained to see the point. They were in for a disappointment. The ball sailed over the net and bounced harmlessly off the miss touch of the receiver. Finn had made sure that the point had ended even before the play had a chance to develop.

Volleyball has developed into a game where a serve is as powerful as a kill. Finn surely showed that at the match at Occidental.

The Pomona-Pitzer volleyball team (6-2, 2-2 SCIAC), who came into the weekend undefeated, had a comeback-filled slate of games. Having graduated five seniors from last year, the team's prospects looked uncertain, but with the addition of setter Ari Diaz PO ‘19, setter Julia Zwaal PZ '19 and outside hitter Sophie Janssen PO ‘19, the team looks formidable.

“The freshmen have been doing great,” Finn said. “Obviously graduating so many seniors and starters coming into preseason, we weren't sure how the team was going to look, but the freshmen have done a great job coming in and working hard and contributing, both in practice and in games.”

First, the team faced off against Chapman University (6-3, 3-0 SCIAC), against whom the Sagehens narrowly fell in the fifth set after coming back from a 2-0 set deficit. The next day, they squared off against Occidental (2-4, 1-1 SCIAC), where all the action began.

After dropping the first set 21-25 and down 10-18 in the second set, the match hung in the balance. At this crucial moment, the Sagehens rallied together to even the score at 20-20. Points came from all players on the team, with kills from Janssen, Zwaal and middle hitter Sarah Gamble PO ’17, and service aces from Zwaal and opposite Kelli Derrah PO ‘17.

“I feel like everyone stopped looking at the score and started playing really hard,” Janssen said.

Even after Occidental's surge to end the set 24-22 in their favor, the Sagehens held firm with a kill from Zwaal to make it 24-23. The decisive push that tipped the set in favor of the Sagehens came from two consecutive service aces from Finn to put the Sagehens back in front, 25-24.

“Jess [Finn] would go back to serve and it was nice having someone who you knew could give you some points,” Janssen said. “Giving everyone else a little break to breathe.”

With the added breathing room, another kill from Zwaal was the final blow to even the set score at 1-1.

The game continued on a seesaw between two evenly-matched teams. Occidental took the third 25-22 and P-P, again refusing to give up, took the fourth 25-23, forcing the game into a fifth set. In the decisive final set, it was all Sagehens. P-P rallied early for a 8-1 lead and wrapped up the match with a 15-6 fifth set. Janssen had the team high with 15 kills, four of which came in the conclusive fifth set.

After swallowing a tough rematch loss against Chapman University on Tuesday, the Sagehens look forward to the Carnegie Mellon DoubleTree Invitational, where they will face off against Case Western Reserve University (10-1) and the University of Mount Union (8-5).

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