Standing at 6 feet 1 inch, Occidental volleyball captain Megan Olayinka (senior) is an imposing presence on the court. But while her height might strike fear in her opponents, it is her experience as a three-year collegiate veteran that provides the greatest benefit to Occidental’s young team. Olayinka’s role as a captain has become even more integral in her final collegiate season, as she looks to mentor the team’s 11 underclassmen.
“Megan definitely brings maturity and experience to the team,” Occidental volleyball head coach Heather Collins said. “She is always extra positive and has a smile on her face, which is inspiring to the young players.”
Olayinka brings her uplifting attitude into the locker room despite personal adversity. Throughout most of her career, the starting outside hitter has been forced to cope with nagging hip injuries, undergoing surgery twice to help repair damage.
Nevertheless, Olayinka remains steadfast in her demeanor. She has overcome her injuries and established herself as a stable pillar in the Tiger offense, starting all 21 games and playing in every set so far this season.
“Although she has had two hip surgeries in the last two years, [Olayinka] has amazed me with how quickly she has returned to the court,” Collins said.
In addition to her rehabilitation, Olayinka worked hard to improve her game both offensively and defensively, putting in countless hours in the gym and even staying after practice to get in extra repetitions.
“Blocking has always been one of my strong suits, but this past year I have really focused on the consistency of my hitting,” Olayinka said. “With both setters being returners, it has been really nice because we have also been able to work on our connections throughout this past off-season.”
It appears that the additional sweat has paid off for the team’s lone senior, as Olayinka has become foundational in Occidental’s offense. Through 21 games, Olayinka has racked up 77 kills. Defensively, she has pestered opposing teams at the net, collecting 21 blocks and 30 digs.
“Megan brings a variety of benefits to the team, but first and foremost, she is our blocking specialist and a huge defensive threat for our team,” captain and libero Kandace Korver (junior) said.
Olayinka provides an added dimension to the Tiger’s attack with her left-handed hitting. As the only southpaw on the team, Olayinka’s attack is difficult for opposing defenses to read because the ball movement is different from that of her right-handed teammates.
Along with her unique position as a left-handed hitter, Olayinka’s size and strength makes her attacks even more devastating.
“Being a left-handed hitter with her size and strength, Megan can put a lot of velocity on the ball, to the point that most opposing teams cannot even dig her kills, and that is crucial to our offensive success” Korver said.
While the team’s record (5-16 overall, 3-8 SCIAC) is not stellar, it looks as though they have turned a corner, winning four of their last seven games. However, the Tigers still believe that there is more room for improvement.
“We are a really talented and cohesive team, and I think that has a lot to do with our success,” Olayinka said. “But now we are trying to challenge some of the younger players to get more comfortable on the court, because the more comfortable they are the more consistent they will become.”
Outside of volleyball, Olayinka also works at the Academic Commons, helping students track down books and check out laptops. She is also pursuing a degree in sociology and was named to the SCIAC All-Academic Team last season.
The Oregon native enjoys adventuring away from campus whenever the opportunity arises, taking the time to relax from her usually hectic schedule.
“I really enjoy traveling, listening to music and going to the beach,” Olayinka said.
Olayinka and the Occidental volleyball team take the court at conference foe Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this Saturday at 6 p.m.