Photos by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. - The Whittier College Volleyball team sent their seniors off in impressive fashion Saturday night sweeping Occidental College 25-23, 25-15, 25-16.
On the year the Purple & Gold swept the Tigers going 2-0 and never dropped a set. They wrap up their 2019 season at 13-14, 8-8 SCIAC and barely missed out on a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Tournament berth finishing 5th in the final SCIAC Standings. They also finished the year off winning five of their last six.
Prior to the game Head Coach Chris Duarte-McDermott recognized his six seniors who were taking part in their final game of their career. These seniors included Aubrey Caires (Gardnerville, NV), Katie Engle (Whittier, Calif.), Haley Petruescu (La Mirada, Calif.), Alaina Rhee (Kent, WA), Jazmyn Sudbrook-Johnson (Fremont, Calif.), and Valerie van der Linden (Auburn, Calif.).
Whittier had a rough start in set one as they fell behind 6-1. This deficit didn't last for long though with Kathea Schamblin (Bakersfield, Calif.) going back to serve for a five-point run including an ace and back-to-back kills from Katelyn Popoff (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) to tie it up. Oxy pulled ahead yet again at 14-8 but Whittier hung in there with the help of two block assists by van der Linden and another block by Rhee and Schamblin. Trailing by two at 19-17, Whittier put together four unanswered with kills coming from Schamblin and Popoff. This put WC on top 21-19, a lead they would hold onto despite seeing Oxy tie things up at 23-23. In the end a service error and a kill from Schamblin would give the Poets an early 1-0 lead.
Set two started off with two back-to-back kills from Rhee. Oxy was able to keep it close for the next several points until a small serving run from Marissa Montoya (Gelndora, Calif.) was able to give the team the separation that would last the rest of the set. In the middle of the frame, Sudbrook-Johnson was able to earn four kills in a stretch of seven points to put Whittier up 22-12. Then to end the period a pair of service aces from Engle and Montoya would hand the Poets a 2-0 lead.
Occidental didn't go away quietly in the third set going on top 7-2. Petruescu was able to get Whittier back within two with a serving run and shortly after, Montoya helped give WC a lead serving five in a row. The lead continued to build as Sudbrook-Johnson would get three more kills and Engle with yet another ace. Then to wrap up the sweep Whittier was able to grab five of the final seven points with Popoff and Schamblin combining for two kills.
Popoff led the team in kills with 11, hitting .333 on the night, while Sudbrook-Johnson added eight more, hitting .368. Both Makayla Wright (Covina, Calif.) and Petruescu led in assists, each earning 12. Engle was able to get 12 digs to lead the team in the backrow for the night with Schamblin adding 11 more.