By Michael Wells
Sports Information Director

NEWBERG, Ore. — The No. 23-ranked Occidental College women's volleyball team picked up right where it left off on opening day.

The defending 2011 SCIAC Tournament Champions lost just one set on the first day of their season and the first day of their Portland road trip, cruising to a pair of victories over George Fox and Pacific (Ore.) at the Wheeler Sports Center on the George Fox campus Saturday.

"We're happy to get the first two wins, but now we need to switch our focus to finishing our weekend strong tomorrow," Occidental coach Heather Collins said. "There were definitely bright spots and some areas where we can improve."

Kasey Rose (Los Olivos), who emerged as a key attacker for the Tigers during Oxy's conference and NCAA playoff run last year, led the Tigers with 23 kills on the day.

The Tigers (2-0) finish their trip with a doubleheader against Willamette and Linfield at Linfield on Sunday.


Match 1: Occidental 3, George Fox 0

Rose had a match-high 12 kills, Jessie Altman (La Jolla) dished out 27 assists and Oxy beat George Fox 25-15, 25-23, 25-18 in their first match of the day, although the win wasn't without some of the expected early-season jitters.

"You're always going to be feeling yourself out during the first match of the season," Collins said. "But I was encouraged by a lot of what I saw."

Oxy looked a little rusty early, but managed a fairly easy win in Game 1.

They weren't as sharp in Game 2.

Oxy trailed by three for most of the set before a handful of GFU errors left the door open for Oxy to take the game with a 10-4 run led by a pair of over-the-head dump shots by Altman and two kills by Alyssa Mort (Tucson), the second the 25th point.

With the scored tied at 10 in Game 3, Mort added a kill and an ace during a 9-1 run that gave Oxy a 19-11 lead that was too much for the Bruins (1-1) to overcome.

Mort finished with eight kills and Madyson Cassidy (Arcadia) led the match with 14 digs.

A trio of Oxy freshmen saw their first collegiate action. Dana Michels (Kirkland, Wash.) totaled five kills in her first start, defensive specialist Kandace Korver (Redwood City) had two digs and setter Sarah Beene (Gilbert, Ariz.) had four assists.

Tiffany Burk and Kylee Adderson each led George Fox with six kills.


Match 2: Occidental 3, Pacific (Ore.) 1

The Tigers found themselves trailing or in close sets twice but each time squeaked out victories, beating Pacific (Ore.) 25-23, 25-15, 24-26, 25-20.

Stephanie Gann (Tacoma, Wash.), who led the match with 13 kills, put away a crucial attack to even Game 1 at 23 and then added an equally important block to put Oxy up 24-23 before Rose finished off a slow first set with a kill from the outside.

Oxy, playing with just more than a two-hour rest after finishing its first match of the day, fell behind 4-1 and looked sluggish before rallying.

Game 2 was a little more comfortable.

Oxy maintained a fluctuating five-point lead from 12-7 on. An attacking error by Pacific's Alexa Block, an ace from Mort and a kill from Michels gave Oxy its biggest cushion, 20-12.

Pacific responded with a pair of points, but Gann put consecutive attacks and the a game-winning ace down to seal the second set.

Oxy overcame two five-point deficits in the third game before eventually falling 26-24.

Trailing 10-5, Oxy scored four unanswered points, two of them aces by Gann.

Pacific matched with four consecutive points and Oxy fell behind by five again, 15-10. Michels started a second Oxy run with a kill from the right side and then Altman followed it with a diving dig to save a point eventually won by Oxy on a Mort tip, igniting a 6-1 that put Oxy back in front.

But with the game tied at 24, Pacific edged Oxy with the final two points.

The fourth set was less dramatic. Oxy jumped out to a 13-6 lead, controlling the entire game.

Beene finished with 33 assists and Michels with eight kills for Oxy.