Before kickoff, first-year outside linebacker Marcus McDuffie always says a prayer for his two grandfathers, who passed away and never got to see him play in a high school or college game. Then he goes out on the field and makes highlight reel hits.
In his first college game against the University of Puget Sound, McDuffie ran across the width of the field to reach the opposing ball carrier. “All of the sudden, you see this black jersey flash in there, and he just lays a lick on this guy,” head coach Doug Semones said.
McDuffie, a Moreno Valley native, said he started playing flag football when he was nine or ten. In his sophomore year at Rancho Verde High School, McDuffie’s coach moved him to linebacker, a position he embraced. “I like the physicality of it,” McDuffie said. “That’s probably the part of football that’s most fun for me, just running against somebody and then you smack them. That’s amazing.”
According to Semones, McDuffie, the only first-year starter on the Tigers football team this season, impressed coaches with his bone-crushing hits and work ethic. “He picked up stuff fast, and it allows him to play fast. He studies it. He puts the time in, so that’s just the kind of player he is,” Semones said.
Outside hitter Claire Strohm, one of nine first-year volleyball players for the Tigers, has one quality that distinguishes her from the rest: Her vocalness. “Claire is loud. And I love that because in a sport like ours you need to communicate loudly,” head coach Heather Collins said. “I find that other than one of our captains, I hear Claire’s voice the most.”
Strohm began to play for her traveling club volleyball team in the eighth grade and made the sport a major aspect of her life. However, a Colorado native, Strohm said that she loves skiing, snowboarding and the outdoors as well.
Inside the gym, Strohm is all business. “I try to mentally prepare myself with visualization or things like that just to calm myself down before I go out on the court and play,” Strohm said. Strohm ties her hair up in the same style, pops a piece of minty chewing gum in her mouth and is prepared to play.
In her junior year of high school, Strohm suffered a partial tear of both her teres major and minor in her shoulder. “Shoulder rehab was probably one of the hardest things to do in volleyball and I was out for a very long time,” Strohm said. “When you’re out, you work on different things to improve your game, so I worked on my defense a lot more.”
At 6 feet 5 inches and 255 pounds, first-year Matt Weiser is an imposing presence on the men’s water polo team. A multi-sport athlete from an early age, Weiser started playing organized water polo in his first year of high school. Since then, he has caught on quickly. “He’s like a sponge,” head coach Larry Zubrin said. “Every minute he spends in the pool, he’s getting better.”
A graduate of New Trier High School in Chicago, Weiser has always enjoyed being in the water, whether swimming, scuba-diving or playing water-polo. Weiser’s swimming skills and physical strength make him a valuable asset to the team. “We’ve never had a player with that size, strength and speed combination,” Zubrin said.
Given Weiser’s level of talent, Zubrin sees a bright future for his first-year standout. He anticipates that Weiser will play a major role on the team this year and eventually become one of the best players in the SCIAC. Ultimately though, Weiser isn’t interested in statistics or personal accolades. “I just want to use my skills to help the team in whatever way I can,” Weiser said.