College freshman Morgan Bennett-Smith (center) cheers the Occidental Tigers on from the bench. Bennett-Smith starts as right-outside midfielder. (Photo courtesy of Elena Bennett)

College freshmen Elise DeCarli and Morgan Bennett-Smith compete at a higher level

Intensity rises for veteran libero

Elise DeCarli, ‘13, was a star libero at SCDS. She now plays the same defensive position for the Occidental College Tigers volleyball team.

However, at Oxy DeCarli is not a starter, as there are two other upperclassmen who share her position. Most of the 13 players on her team were recruited from around the country, she said.

To get in shape for college sports, DeCarli worked out with SCDS coach Alicia Harris three times a week for an hour a day over the summer.

Her first practice at Occidental  was a simple walkthrough by the coaches and older players of what to expect on the team, such as information about scheduling and how the team itself works.

However, soon after began a rigorous schedule of practices, games and tournaments.

DeCarli now practices two-and-a-half hours every day, except on Sundays or when she has a game. She also lifts weights on Mondays and Wednesdays.,

And she has a game every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Her team is currently 15-10.

DeCarli is finding her schedule difficult, as the time commitment is much heavier than in high school, when she had at most five games or practices in a week.

“Everything is more intense—you practice pretty much every day in high school, but we also do lifting,” she said. And, she said, when games are watched by alumni, parents and recruiting associations, everything counts more.

The girls have to work together and communicate almost perfectly, and the game is “a lot cleaner and a lot faster,” DeCarli said.

DeCarli said her favorite part of the game is playing, but above that she appreciates the teamwork.

She says the girls on her team are very vocal, shouting commands and directions throughout the game, and with good cause.

“You have to communicate with everyone 100 percent of the time,” she said.

In the two tournaments in which DeCarli has participated, one in Chicago and one at California Lutheran University in Southern California, she has experienced this on a high level. In both the girls won three of four games, a very good average, especially that early in the season.

DeCarli said her favorite moment in a game is when someone on the opposite team hits a ball that everyone thinks is going to be a kill, and she digs it, or gets it back over the net.

“That’s just the best feeling in the world,” she said.

Austin Talamantes


Soccer star scores opening goal 

With 119 goals, 186 shots and 27 assists in soccer during his high-school years, Morgan Bennett-Smith, ‘13, was always a force in Country Day sports.

“He was very, very competitive, and I think he helped the rest of the team gain confidence,” soccer coach Matt Vargo said.

Now a freshman at Occidental College, Bennett-Smith has proven himself from the beginning by scoring the varsity soccer team’s first goal of the season.

Occidental is a part of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), a collection of nine teams including Caltech, Whittier, Chapman,  the University of Redlands and the Claremont Colleges.

Bennett-Smith’s biggest adjustment has been the time he devotes to the team.

Mandatory team breakfasts and dinners are called by coaches and team captains almost every Friday, he said. And team barbecues are held at the coach’s house about once a week.

In addition, the team must attend randomly scheduled team weightlifting and two-hour film sessions (for the team to analyze previous games).

The film sessions are often humiliating.

“(The coach) will berate players for their mistakes in front of the whole team,” Bennett-Smith said.

Before Bennett-Smith  joined the team, he had to try out for one of the 33 spots. Eleven players were cut during tryouts.

During the preseason the team focused mostly on fitness drills like “cooper runs”—running two miles in 12 minutes.

Bennett-Smith had trouble passing a running test, he said. However, the tryout process is holistic, so failing one exercise doesn’t mean an instant cut.

Other preseason workouts included soccer-juggling a ball across the length of the football field.

Although he’s had to work for it, Bennett-Smith is currently the starting right-outside midfielder.

Initially Bennett-Smith didn’t get much play time, but he said his coach noticed his effort and he started in the eighth and ninth games

At press time, Occidental’s overall record was 2-15.

“It’s been a really tough season in terms of win-loss, but it’s allowed me to step up into a bigger role on the team,” he said.

Bennett-Smith must also manage his college classes on top of his new position.

“I have a geology lab from 9-10:30, so I have to sprint from geology lab to soccer practice, which is across campus. Then soccer practice goes from 11:30-1:30,” Bennett-Smith said.

His hectic day continues until he finishes his biology lab at 7 p.m.

—Max Shukuya 

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