The Occidental women’s volleyball team (6–20 overall, 4–12 SCIAC) honored the team’s lone senior, Megan Olayinka, before their dominant three-set victory over Caltech in the last game of the season. Accompanied by her family, Olayinka received flowers and a commemorative framed team picture from head coach Heather Collins.
“I have been here for three years, and it still does not feel like it is my senior year,” Olayinka said. “It feels like I still have practice on Monday.”
The added emotions seemed to have no affect on Olayinka’s play, as she slammed down the first point of the game with ease, but the rest of the squad appeared to have trouble finding consistency early. The Tigers continued to press offensively, but despite controlling the tempo of the set, eight unforced errors allowed Caltech to reach double-digits as Occidental took the first set 25-13.
After an inefficient first set, the Tigers hit their stride offensively and defensively, taking both the second and third set with an identical 25-7 score and only two unforced errors. Olayinka continued to impress in her collegiate swan song, blocking a Caltech attempt straight into the ground to snag the first point of the second set, and registering another kill in the third set.
“Coming out we were a little hyped up, because it was our last game of the season and last game with Megan,” libero Kandace Korver (junior) said. “But as the game progressed, we started to calm down and get into a rhythm, and finished the match off strong.”
Olayinka finished her final game with five kills and six blocks. Outside hitter Claire Strohm (first-year) provided additional firepower at the net, tallying a team-high eight kills, while Korver was deadly from the back row, recording four serve aces. Setters Sarah Beene (junior) and Tiareh Cruz (sophomore) were the facilitators within the Tiger offense, with Beene assisting 11 times and Cruz 10.
Defensively, Occidental held Caltech to a -.262 hitting percentage while collectively blocking eight shots. Individually, Korver recorded 12 digs while Amanda Herold (first-year) was Olayinka’s partner in crime at the net, recording three kills in addition to Olayinka’s six.
The match was bittersweet for Olayinka, as the Tiger’s took just 60 minutes to claim victory over Caltech.
“It was a surreal feeling, like throughout the game I did not really notice anything, until one of the last points,” Olayinka said. “I just wanted the game to keep going. Towards the end, you don’t comprehend that you are only going to get one more swing or one more block; it just went so fast.”
When Olayinka graduates this spring with a degree in sociology, her presence and experience will be difficult to replace. The young team, which includes nine first-years, will have to draw on their experience from this past season to find the areas in which they need to improve.
“We will definitely miss Megan’s leadership and and her selflessness,” Collins said. “She was always the first person to step up for the team and she would always have a smile on the court and be ready to pick anyone up.”
Despite the loss of a key player, Occidental will have the added benefit of entering the off-season on a high note, as they had all pistons firing in their final match against Caltech.
The primary focus of the Tiger’s preparation for the 2015 season will be the continued development of their younger players, focusing on cultivating their confidence and team chemistry.
“Overall, we want to use the experience we gained this past season and try to lessen the number of unforced errors and find consistent play throughout every match,” Collins said. “If we can do that, I think we will be a very competitive team come next fall.”