In a game defined by sloppy but aggressive play, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s volleyball team (13-10, 8-6 SCIAC) defeated Occidental College (9-14, 5-9 SCIAC) in three sets (25-20, 25-23, 25-23) at home on Tuesday, Oct. 25, behind strong outings from Sagehens' Vicky Addo-Ashong PO ‘20, Isabel Kelly PO ‘20, and Julia Zwaal PZ ‘19.
Both sides were evenly matched throughout most of the three sets, and both teams committed numerous unforced attack and serving errors. The Tigers finished with 30 errors, and the Sagehens tallied 28, which veteran Head Coach Valerie Townsend noted was actually far fewer than the 47 accrued by her squad during the teams’ prior meeting: a 3-2 Occidental win.
“[We had] a lot of improvement, and that’s what we need as we push into the post-season,” Townsend said.
There was a lot to like about the Sagehens’ successful outing: strong team play, hustle, and perseverance on the defensive end during long rallies.
The team’s attack was explosive as well. Outside hitters Zwaal (12 kills) and Kelly (9), as well as middle hitter Addo-Ashong (7), repeatedly invoked the cheers of the small but vocal crowd with their thunderous spikes.
Setter Jessica Finn PO '18 racked up 39 assists and 10 digs, while outside hitter Sophie Janssen PO '19 contributed to the defense with 14 digs of her own.
Neither team managed more than a five-point advantage during the first set, which featured impressive block after block by Kelly and outside hitter Stephanie Sun PO '17, who defended the front lines.
In the second set, the Tigers jumped out to an 8-3 lead, thanks to multiple errors made by the Sagehens. Zwaal, who had five kills in the set, keyed a P-P comeback, knotting the score at 10. A string of errors clinched the 25-23 victory.
It was the Sagehens who had a hot start to the final set, and the home team led 16-8 before Occidental rallied to tie the game at 21. But again, Zwaal’s hustle saved the day for the Sagehens, who also got help from Gamble, who scored the final set's three kills, and Kelly, who scored the match’s final two kills.
Townsend is pleased with her team’s performance as they near the end of their regular season and was “proud of the fact that we didn’t just let them get back into the game and kind of roll over. We kept battling and pushed all the way through, and it took the entire team, so I think they did a really good job of working together to pull this off,” she said.
An area that needs improvement, however, is communication; there were several times when various Sagehens thought other players were going to dig the ball, and ended up staring at each other while the Tigers celebrated an unexpected point.
“Communication is key, and that’s something that when we let up, that’s when we struggle,” Townsend said. “And that was one of the things that we were working on as the game progresses–to make sure that the communication increased.”
With the win, the Sagehens keep the SCIAC playoffs in sight, remaining in fourth place in the conference. Four teams will reach the playoffs; third place University of La Verne (20-5, 11-3 SCIAC) is far ahead, but P-P retains a narrow lead over fifth place Chapman University (7-8, 13-12 SCIAC).
“The post season’s a whole new ball game,” said Townsend, who hopes her team can play the spoiler. “Regular season goes out the window, and that’s just a chance to see if we can make some good things happen.”
The Sagehens will next travel to La Verne to face the Leopards on Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m.