Zoey and Ella Mao Look to Continue Polytechnic Volleyball Success

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Polytechnic’s girl’s volleyball team is led by a pair of star players who have built their chemistry on the court for more than seven years. Identical twin sisters Ella and Zoey Mao enter their senior year with high expectations for the team and for themselves.

The sisters, originally from Los Angeles, began playing volleyball in fourth grade and never looked back. Zoey said they tried a few other sports before, including soccer and swimming, but they both fell in love with volleyball. They started playing club volleyball one year later with the San Gabriel Valley Elite Volleyball Club, where they still play in Poly’s offseason.

Both sisters are committed to play at the University of Chicago next year. They accepted offers from the school earlier this year, although that wasn’t always the plan.

“I definitely didn’t want to go to the same college at first,” Zoey said. “I wanted to branch out, be more independent, but I’m excited now. I’m sure we’re going to have a great four years together.”

Zoey said the swinging factor was that both of their parents went to the University of Chicago, so they already had strong attachments to the school.

Both Ella and Zoey said they are very excited for the new season to begin. Poly’s team made it to the CIF-SS Division 4 finals last year, where they lost to Garces Memorial.

“We only lost two seniors, so the team is pretty much the same,” Ella said. “But we also moved up a division, so I know it’s going to be tougher. I want to win our division and win the Prep League.”

Although these are high expectations, Ella and Zoey are the two players most equipped to take the team deep into the CIF postseason again. Both have been stars on Poly’s varsity team since their freshman year. Both have played club volleyball for the better part of a decade. 

“We don’t really know anything different,” Ella said. “We’ve played together for so long and we’ll continue this year and for another four years after.”

Young Lions Volleyball Team Notches First Loss, Works on Chemistry

This article was originally published in the Empire State Tribune.

Down two sets and facing match point, The King's College volleyball team scrapped together a seven-point comeback run, before dropping the third set 23-25 against Penn State Hazleton.

The Lions lost the first two sets 25-27 and 5-25, dropping their first match of the season.

"We got to a point where we just weren't playing well in the second set," said Samantha Klozik, a freshmen outside hitter. "Volleyball is a mental game and sometimes it just comes down to who wants it more. You can see how much we wanted it in that comeback."

Klozik led the team with 12 kills and finished second on the team with 11 digs, also notching an ace. She is just one of six freshmen on the squad, including four of the six starters.

One of only three returners, sophomore middle hitter Hope Feller, said she was excited by the play of the freshmen during the comeback, especially after the mistake filled second set.

"It was unbelievable to watch the comeback, compared to the second set. We fought for it," Feller said. "The freshmen have been phenomenal. They all bring so much to the team, even if their numbers don't necessarily reflect it."

Feller said the team needs to start a lot faster in their next match, that the Lions could have snatched the first set if they had a better start. During the first set, each team traded points back and forth until the end. The Lions grabbed the lead twice, but not until late in the set.

Head coach Alexandra Salavitch echoed parts of Feller's assessment. She said she was proud of the scrappiness in the last set, but saw a lot of room for improvement.

"The girls need to work on their mental toughness. I saw a lot of mistakes that stemmed from mental immaturity. Mental mistakes can be contagious and we have to avoid that," Salavitch said. "These girls have the skill. The talent is there and I saw spunkiness in that run at the end. That run shows me what they can do."

This is Salavitch's third year coaching the volleyball team. She said this team feels strong compared to years past, that they have a lot of potential. Her plan for practice is to make the team run, work hard, and to reiterate the idea of scrappiness.

Aside from scrappiness, chemistry was a theme the team focused on. Even though two thirds of the team are new, Salavitch and the players feel that they have strong chemistry.

"We jelled almost instantly," Klozik said. "When I'm with the girls, I don't feel like a freshman. I feel like I've been playing with them for a long time and I'm happy to be part of a team like that."

The volleyball team will look to rebound at William Paterson University on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Cougars Fall Short In Playoffs Despite Comeback Effort

This article was originally published in ZU News.

Azusa Pacific’s volleyball team had their best season since 2013, making it to the NCAA Division II West Region Championships, where they fell just short of a comeback win against California State University San Bernadino.

The Cougars dropped the first two sets, 10-25 and 23-25, before coming back to win the third and fourth sets 25-14 and 25-11. They lost the final set 13-15.

“Cal State San Bernardino did a great job out there. They got us out of rhythm and they served really well. They made it a challenge for us to get in rhythm as a team,” head coach Chris Keife said. “The girls battled and did a nice job, being down 0-2, to come back in five and lose 15-13. That showed a lot of our character. I’m proud of the girls.”

APU struggled to put points together in the first set. CSUSB opened up a 5-0 lead and didn’t relent as they took the set 25-10.

The second set was a different story. APU came out with a different level of intensity. They exchanged points equally until it was 7-7. The Cougars went on a run, grabbing their biggest lead of five points at 16-11. CSUSB took a time-out and was able to comeback after, tying it up at 17 a piece, before grabbing the lead and winning 25-23.

Even though they dropped the second set, Keife said that they played a lot better.

“A lot of it was our execution. We made sure that our girls were getting behind the ball from our passes. We tried going to the hot hitter out there with our sets,” Keife said. “We talked about being more physical. We were less timid in general, just going for it. If we’re going to go, we needed to just go for it.”

Junior setter Kaylen Higa helped the Cougars in this set. She led the team with 26 assists.

“The passing was a big factor in it. We struggled in the first set to find our rhythm. As we went onto sets two, three and four we got more confident with our passing and our hitters were more hungry,” Higa said. “They wanted to put away balls and show them that we’re here for a fight and we’re not going to back down.”

The third set started off in a similar way to the second. APU and CSUSB traded points until it was tied 8-8. The Cougars grabbed a four point lead, 13-9, before CSUSB started to comeback again.

APU led 16-14 when sophomore libero Bailey Henington started to serve. Henington served nine times in a row as the Cougars went on a 9-0 run to close the set 25-14.

“I was just trying to get it in and play good defense. I love serving and I love the game,” Henington said. “Basically I needed to just stay calm for my teammates, and in return they kept my serve for me.”

Henington had a season high three aces on the night. She also led the team with 25 digs.

The Cougars played a strong fourth set as well, coming back from a four point deficit to tie it up at 11. They grabbed a three point lead and didn’t relinquish it, winning the set 25-21.

The final set came down to the wire as the lead changed 10 times, before CSUSB put it away, 15-13.

“We haven’t played Cal State San Bernardino since I’ve been at APU for 14 years. This was our first time seeing them,” Keife said. “It was a great environment. The fans did a great job. I can see there’s something to that. With the first two sets, we did struggle. I think there was some pressure on us. I’ve talked to the girls about it. We’ve got to learn from this, learn in the moments we struggle, learn in the moments we do great and move on to next season.”

Some of the other standout performances of the night included junior outside hitters Madison Ogas and Natalie Klapp and sophomore middle blockers Julianne Miller and Sara Wagenveld.

Ogas led the team with 15 kills on the night, while Klapp was second on the team in both kills (10) and digs (18). Miller also recorded 10 kills, while Wagenveld had nine, and both middle blockers had also tallied three blocks each.

The Cougars finish their 2017 season with an overall record of 22-7, but are already looking forward to the future. “Next season” were the two words that were on the minds and lips of APU players and spectators. Every player will be returning next season, as this year’s team was comprised of four juniors, six sophomores and six freshmen.

“Last year was a huge growth for us. We started five freshmen last season. Going into this season, we’re still very underclassmen heavy. We lose nobody on this roster and we’re adding a few more for next season,” Keife said. “I look at the growth we had from last year, we won nine of our last 10 matches ending the season last year and we took that going forward into this season as well. Let’s look forward to what just occurred. I’m expecting to see the same growth from next year to this year as well.”

Henington echoed what Keife said, saying she’s already ready for next season.

“Honestly, I’m ready for spring. I’m ready to get back at it again. This was definitely a new experience for all of us. It was so much fun. San Bernardino put up a good fight and we were able to fight back in sets three and four,” Henington said. “I’m just excited about going into spring and bettering our abilities for next fall.”

Volleyball Victorious In Final Home Game Of The Season

This article was originally published in ZU News.

The Azusa Pacific volleyball team improved to 20-5 on the season with a 3-0 set victory over Hawai’i Hilo. The Cougars won the three sets by a score of 25-14, 25-17, and 25-19.

This was APU’s final home game of the season. They finished the season with a 9-1 record at home, a team best effort since 2013. Junior outside hitter Madison Ogas noted the atmosphere that playing at home provides.

“It’s great to play at home, especially with the new court. The crowd really pulled through and they’ve always been there for us,” Ogas said. “It was a really fun year playing at home.”

The team got a new court at the beginning of this season. They only use it for games, not in practice. Junior outside hitter Natalie Klapp said she enjoyed the new court too.

“Home games are our favorite games to play because of the court. It’s so nice and easy on the body,” Klapp said. “The atmosphere is great. We’ve had more fans here than any other season.”

Klapp finished fourth on the team in kills on the night with six and second on the team in digs with 10.

APU and Hilo traded points back and forth in the first set until the score was 12-11. From there, the Cougars’ offense went on the attack and they won 13 of the last 16 points to take the set 25-14. Head coach Chris Keife said that Hilo exploited the Cougars’ weaknesses.

“Hilo did a nice job of exploiting some of the things that we need to work on, a few of our weaknesses. We closed that up and started making some plays and executed better defensively,” Keife said. “Offensively, we did a nice job of keeping the ball in play and being aggressive with our attacks. We made good decisions with the plays given us.”

Ogas said that the team was playing too soft at first, but they recognized what they had to do.

“I think we realized that we’re a lot better than this team and we were kind of playing with them at first, but then we kicked it into gear,” Ogas said.

The Cougars controlled the second set easily, with a five point lead for most of the set.

“It’s hard playing against teams that you know you’re better than. It’s easy to play down to their level,” Klapp said. “In the second game we focused on playing with more energy and more grit.”

Hilo started the third set with a lead and kept it for over half of the set, leading by as much as four points. However, APU was able to come back and tie it at 16-16, before shutting Hilo down to win the final set, 25-19.

“We thought it was close to being over, but then we realized that we had to finish the game out. We finished strong,” Ogas said.

Ogas tied for first on the night in kills with 13 and finished third in digs with six. APU was also led by sophomore middle blocker Sara Wagenveld who also had 13 kills and sophomore middle blocker Julianne Miller who had 12 kills. Miller notched the only solo block of the night. Junior setter Kaylen Higa led the team with 17 assists and sophomore libero Bailey Hennington finished with 18 digs.

“I feel our girls are doing pretty mature things for a young team. Even with our youth out on the court, our girls are doing a nice job of taking care of business when we need to, beating the teams that we need to take care of,” Keife said. “It’s exciting not just for this year, to finish strong, but also for the future of APU.”

Keife focused on the idea of finishing strong. Currently APU has a one game lead on Biola, who is 20-6 on the season. The Cougars are second in the PacWest conference only to Cal Baptist, who are 25-0 and ranked second nationally in NCAA Division II.

“Every team that we’re playing from here on out, we need to make sure that we show up and play well,” Keife said.

APU sits in fifth place in the western region in D-II. The top eight teams from the region will make the postseason; the Cougars will find out if they make the postseason on Nov. 20. Before that, they have three more games, all on the road.

Ogas said that she is not worried about Biola catching up in the last few games.

“I think we’re going to prevail on top,” Ogas said. “We know that we’re the stronger team and we can do really well.”

APU has three games left in the regular season. They will prepare to take on Dixie State in Utah on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Cougars' Volleyball Wins Big In Conference & Home Opener

This article was originally published in ZU News.

The APU women’s volleyball team has rolled off to their best start since 2011, with a record of 9-1.

They played two non-conference tournaments to start the season, in which they went 7-1 and knocked off NCAA Division II 4th ranked team, Alaska Anchorage.

In this game, maybe their best of the season, APU traded sets back and forth before winning a very close fifth set, 22-25, 25-19, 15-25, 25-23 and 16-14.

Sophomore captain Julianne Miller said teamwork was the key to winning that game.

“We decided to not focus on ourselves. We were playing as a team, point by point,” Miller said. “We decided that it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side if we play our own game. That’s how we were able to rise up to the challenge.”

Miller said that it took a while to get into rhythm, but the team is playing with consistency which has led to their success.

“We’re trying to keep our energy up, no matter what. We’re trying to be consistent whether we’re down or whether we’re up,” Miller said. “If someone’s watching our game, they won’t know whether we’re winning or losing, it’s a matter of consistency.”

Head coach Chris Keife seconded the goal of being consistent.

“We’re returning quite a few kids. The consistency and maturity that we’re showing out on the court is definitely helping with our start,” Keife said. “We’ve really been trying to work on our culture- to be consistent, to be good, and to execute at the highest level.”

Consistency is paying off as seven of the Cougars nine wins have been 3-0 shutouts.

“We’ve set ourselves up to do really well this season. We’ve had some really key wins out there and come out strong,” junior captain Danika Young said. “It’s hard to play after two weeks of double days but we’ve come out strong and worked hard. We’ve got a lot of good talent on our team.”

Young leads the team with 161 assists. She is one of only three juniors on the team. There are no seniors on the team this year.

Young noted the success that the team has had so far, but also said that they have to improve in some areas.

“We want to keep pushing forward, keep moving forward, doing well and getting better with every practice and every game,” Young said. “I don’t really know what that looks like, but we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully good results will come from that.”

One of the areas the team is focusing on most is grit.

“We’re really trying to buckle down. We have girls that have the skills and the mentality that we need. It’s a matter of putting those together,” Miller said. “In the hard times when we’re down in a set and our backs against the wall, it’s learning how to fight and grab on to what we know we can do, which is our basic skills. It’s mind over matter.”

Miller currently leads the team with 90 kills, averaging 2.57 a set. She also has 34 blocks, second on the team to sophomore Sara Wagenveld with 48.

The Cougars home opener was on Sep. 14 where they cruised to a quick win over rival Point Loma. They won 3-0, with set scores of 25-9, 25-14, 25-11. It was the first game they played on their new court.

“It felt awesome to be back at home,” Young said. “It’s really cool to have a just volleyball environment with the new court that we have. We have so many people supporting us and it means a lot to be back at home.”

There were a total of 619 people in attendance. Young emphasized the importance of the crowd in helping the team win.

“It was so cool to see everybody go out and play their absolute best,” Young said. “Our defense was amazing. We served really well which allowed for our defense to be good. It was really awesome to beat our rivals.”

Miller also noted the significance of the win against Point Loma.

“Tonight was a huge win and a huge mentality boost. We know and we have confidence in what we are able to do,” Miller said.

In their next match on Sept. 16, the Cougars beat Fresno Pacific 3-0 with set scores of 25-14, 25-7 and 25-17. They had their second best game of the season in terms of hitting percentage.

Their next game of the season is Friday, Sept. 22 at 6:00 p.m. at home against Biola. It will be the first match of the new Cornerstone Cup.

“We’re absolutely looking forward to playing our other rival, Biola, now that they’re back,” Miller said.

Cougars Come Back to Beat Rival Sea Lions

This article originally appeared in ZU News.


The volleyball team has struggled to close out games this season. That changed Wednesday night when the Cougars came back from a first set loss to defeat Point Loma Nazarene University for the first time in three years, snapping a seven game losing streak to the Sea Lions.

“We played well. We’ve been practicing a lot the last two weeks focusing on our side of the net — more the intangibles, not necessarily even volleyball, just more camaraderie and better emotions on the court. The girls did a very nice job today,” head coach Chris Keife said.

The Cougars dropped the first set 23-25, but came back to win the next three 25-16, 25-23 and 25-16. Keife acknowledged the struggles the team has had finishing sets as well as strategies for future improvement.

“With five freshmen and one sophomore on the court, we’re still learning,” Keife said, “That’s one of the things we just need to get better at: focusing in on the moments we need to make a play and finish the set off. We need to do that. It’s still a work in progress.”

The Cougars were led by freshmen Madison Ogas and Julianne Miller, netting 13 and 11 kills, respectively. Sophomores Alyssa Tavera and Danika Young led the team with 22 and 18 assists, and freshman Bailey Hennington had the most digs with 27. Miller also led the team with two solo blocks.

“I think I struggled in the beginning, but it’s a learning process, and I came out later in the game. We came out with what we wanted, which was unity, togetherness and teamwork,” Miller said.

Miller currently leads the Cougars this season with 150 kills and 11 solo blocks. She also noted the importance of a comeback from the first set and closing out games.

“We don’t want to be down a set like that, but it gives us the drive to push harder the next game,” Miller said. “We’re learning from our past games and our practices, from each other. We’re playing with more heart now.”

Ogas has also been a team leader with the third most kills, 131, and the second most digs and aces, 160 and 14, respectively.

“I feel like I was very consistent for my team and that’s something I’ve been working on getting better at,” Ogas said. “I feel like I’ve come a long way from the first few games when my team couldn’t rely on me, but now they can.”

Ogas noted the Cougars’ struggles in keeping leads and closing games. Last week, the team led Concordia by two sets, only to lose the last three. APU also had a 22-18 lead over Chaminade last week, but they couldn’t hold it and were forced to a set point. The same story happened against Hawaii Hilo when the Cougars dropped a set after leading 24-22.

“We have a hard time keeping the lead, but tonight we kept our lead and we beat them,” Ogas said. “Our team is becoming more aware of how important it is to finish games. We play with everything we have to finish out the game.”

After a loss to Dixie State on Oct. 8, the Cougars are now 7-10 overall and 3-5 in PacWest conference play. They split their first home stand 2-2 and will face another game on the road before they return home.

“We’re a good team and have good players,” Keife said. “They’ve got to know that and have the confidence at every point. We keep getting better.”

The young volleyball team is growing better together as the freshmen majority of the team get experience with every game.

“I think we’ve come a long way. I think we’re bringing what we learn in practice into games pretty well,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to coming out to that same passion we had in the fourth set, and bringing it in the beginning.”

The Cougars will play their next game at Cal Baptist on Wednesday, Oct. 12.