In order to set themselves up to compete against talent from across the country, the Sagehens needed to schedule a challenging pre-season to test their mettle before the start of conference play. And play top talent they did.Women’s volleyball began its 2009 season with tests against teams ranging from Massachusetts to Texas at the Pacific Coast Classic Tournament, hosted by Pomona-Pitzer, and the Ca-Lu-Fornia Invitational, hosted by Cal Lutheran, finishing with a 3-6 record in non-conference play.Playing top-notch competition has allowed the team to further improve its game in order to achieve its goal of finishing in the top four in SCIAC. Doing so would allow them to compete at the inaugural conference tournament, which would then give the team the potential to automatically qualify for the post-season.Because of the close competition within SCIAC this year, every game is an important one, but the Sagehens have specifically marked games against CMS on Tuesday (P-P won the game, 3-2) and Oct. 9 as the biggest of the season.Valerie Cowan, a former Division II volleyball player, as well as a current member of the USA Volleyball National Team, returns for her ninth season as coach. Cowan played volleyball at California State University at Bakersfield, winning the Division II National Championship her senior year. She was also named one of Cal State’s firstAll-Americans. Since playing at Bakersfield, Cowan has coached volleyball at all levels. In addition to coaching the Sagehens, she helps run the Southern California Volleyball Association High Performance Program, where she coaches club teams during the year and travels overseas with them for tournaments during the summer.Despite losing two All-Americans in the off-season, P-P is reloading with the addition of five new freshmen. Of these newcomers, middle-hitter Rachel Bollens PO ’13 and defensive specialist Lauren Kim PO ’13 will both be worth watching this upcoming season. So far this season, Kim has averaged 2.47 digs per game.The team captains are Sarah Amos PI ’10 and Dana Kittrelle PO ’10. Both have played well so far this season. Amos has an average of 2.41 kills and 2.24 digs per game and a total of 19 blocks. Kittrelle has 60 total kills and is the leader in blocks with 33 so far this season.Kenzie Aries PI ’12 and Heidi Leonard PO ’12 have also played well thus far. Aries has 331 assists, 97 digs and 18 blocks, and Leonard has 210 digs in total, with her season high of 40 last Saturday against Occidental.The keys to a successful season this year are for the team to play with confidence and to reduce errors, Cowan said, adding that the team has “a ton of potential, and as we get deeper into the season I expect us to be a stronger team both physically and mentally.”In their first league match against Occidental, Pomona-Pitzer fell just short in five sets (24-26, 25-13, 26-24, 32-20, 14-16) after keeping the match thrillingly close.