Claire Strohm (senior), an outside and opposite hitter, surpassed 1,000 career kills Oct. 20 in a 3–0 win against Redlands. According to Strohm, 1,000 kills has been a manageable goal since her first year, and she knew she was approaching the mark in the matches leading up to Redlands. First-year Lara Minassians delivered the set that Strohm finished with her 1,000 career kill.
“I had been counting it recently with a lot of my teammates beforehand and we knew it was coming close with this next Redlands game, and so when it happened the whole entire team was really excited about it,” Strohm said.
Strohm said the only person she told about the goal was setter Allie Sundara (junior), who she said provided support for her all season long.
“[Sundara’s] the ultimate team player, and she has been all season,” Strohm said.
Strohm credits her teammates for the personal accomplishment.
“One kill is based on an amazing dig, an amazing pass and an amazing set, so you really can’t attribute 1,000 kills to just one person; you attribute 1,000 kills to the hard work that each and every person put into that point to be able to terminate it,” Strohm said.
In her final year, Strohm led Occidental in kills, digs and service aces and ranked in the top ten for those categories in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). She was one of the top players on the team all season long, and her play and presence rubbed off on the entire team, especially on Hannah Wagner (junior).
“She’s always motivated me to be a better player and to work my hardest, and I think everyone on the team looks up to her, so seeing her achieve something like that was a great moment for all of us,” Wagner said.
Head coach Heather Collins follows a similar sentiment, stressing Strohm’s value to the Occidental volleyball program.
“She has made a big impact on this program by getting players to commit to all facets of the game,” Collins said. “Not only does she lead by example in the gym, she pushes everyone to do their best in the weight room to be as prepared as possible for in season and out. She definitely sets the bar high and lets it be known that everyone needs to step up to help the team be the best it can be.”
Occidental finished the season 13–12 and narrowly missed out on making it to the playoffs. Strohm said that, had a couple unlucky breaks gone their way, the Tigers would have made the playoffs for the first time in Strohm’s career. She points to a game against number-two-ranked Whittier as a game that exemplified the team’s tough luck. The match was at Whittier and went five sets, finishing 32–30 in the second set and 17–15 in the fifth. Despite losses like that, Strohm still sees positive takeaways from them.
“That level of competition has been a huge positive, seeing how we can go to five sets with teams that are ranked so high, and just seeing that fight,” Strohm said. “We fought hard this season.”
The team has also come a long way from Strohm’s first year, when they finished 6–20. That year the team had seven first years, two sophomores, two juniors and one senior. Five seniors remain from then to now, and Strohm is happy with the progress that the program has made, which she believes starts with Collins.
“Having a stable coach for four years has really helped all of us, and helped us grow mentally,” Strohm said. “She’s taught us so much, both on and off the court, about not only how to be a really good teammate, but also how to be a good person.”
There were five first years on the team this year, and looking forward to next season, Strohm is optimistic about their prospects as well as the state of the team overall.
“Next year is going to be awesome for the team and I think that a lot of them have the chance to go over 1,000 kills too,” Strohm said. “I’m excited for what the future has for them.”