Women’s volleyball seals playoff spot on senior night

The women’s volleyball team celebrates after winning a point Oct. 28. Chapman secured a playoff spot with a 3-0 win over Occidental College. Photo by Ian Craddock

The crowd in the Hutton Sports Center erupted Oct. 28 when the women’s volleyball team secured its place in the conference tournament. With a 3-0 win over Occidental College on the team’s senior night, Chapman avoided the fate it suffered last season, when it narrowly missed out on the the conference playoffs due to a tiebreaker.

Leading up to the game, two things had to happen for Chapman to finish fourth, and secure a playoff spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC): Whittier College had to lose to the University of La Verne, and Chapman had to beat Occidental. Both were accomplished in the same night.

“We’ve been waiting for this for about a week,” said senior opposite Kylie Cooke. “We tallied up what the score was going to have to be, and figured out that this was the one game that was going to define it for us. We had to take care of business and let it happen.”

The team did not know whether winning would make a difference in its postseason chances.

“I wasn’t following the Whittier game,” said head coach Mary Cahill. “I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want the team to be focusing on that.”

The team learned that it had made it to the SCIAC tournament right after the game.

“We didn’t find out until the whistle blew at the end of the game,” said senior outside hitter Kiley McGill. “So there was the excitement from winning and from senior night and then our coach told us that we had won (the playoff spot) and we all just lost it.”

As the last home game of the regular season, the game could have been the last ever for Chapman’s four seniors, Cooke, McGill, middle blocker Abby Smith and outside hitter Cheri Raymundo.

“It was crazy,” Raymundo said. “We were just so pumped and we went into it and enjoyed it. I was thinking (about it possibly being my last game) a little bit.”

Cahill said that senior night might have given the players the extra push they needed to win the game, and McGill agreed.

“I don’t think it added pressure but it definitely added emotion,” said McGill. “A lot of us were more emotional on the court than usual, but I think it added the fire under our butts. We wanted it a little bit more.”

Junior outside hitter Courtney Justus spikes the ball during a 3-0 senior night win over Occidental on Oct. 28. The win gave Chapman a berth in the conference playoffs. Photo by Ian Craddock

Chapman started its regular season with a five-game winning streak before hitting a rough patch that included a five-game losing streak.

“I think everyone just rallied back,” Cooke said of the team’s improvement. “Everyone just got the mentality that we have the best chance to make it to (the) conference (playoffs) this season, and this is the best opportunity for us to make it.”

Cahill empathized with Whittier after it narrowly missed out on the playoffs. Chapman lost in a tiebreaker for the fourth seed and missed the playoffs last season.

“It’s tough because Whittier was up (in the standings) the whole time and they went from that to being knocked down, to not even being able to go,” Cahill said. “That’s tough, because we were always fifth and they were always third – it came down to this last match to knock them out.”

Chapman will play first-place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the first game of the tournament, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.

“We get to play the top team in SCIAC and we are their only loss in SCIAC,” Cooke said. “I think that will be a really great opportunity, and I saw us getting there. I saw us making the tournament this year and after the past couple of years, this was a really big win for us.”

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