Senior Momoka Kobori chips a ball at the WCC Championships in April 2019. Photo courtesy of Roger Horne | Pepperdine Athletics
Regardless of the sport, an athlete’s final year of eligibility is difficult to endure. For transfers, fifth-years and the conventional senior, all are equipped to conclude their fourth season wearing the blue and orange.
As the athletes across these six sports have limited games remaining in second homes like Firestone Fieldhouse, Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center, Eddy D. Field Stadium and others, they have unfinished business this season and aren’t ready to look back quite yet.
Momoka Kobori Leading Women’s Golf as Lone Senior
To start her senior season, she has individual finishes of first place, a tie for third place as well as eighth place through Women’s Golf’s first four tournaments. With Kobori’s strong outings, she has carried the team to two near-victories, finishing second in both the Dick McGuire Invitational and the Golfweek Conference Challenge.
Kobori said there were areas in her game that she felt she needed to improve and focused on that in the offseason.
“There were some things that I needed to change before the fall,” Kobori said. “I made some minor swing changes just to get a little bit more distance and accuracy. Other than that, this offseason was really good for me because I learned to keep the rest of my game steady and improve on the little things.”
Kobori is the only senior on this team, and said she feels she has taken a leadership role this season.
“Last year, we had three seniors. Now that they’re gone, part of my role is to try and be there to support the younger players however I can. They’ve done a pretty good job on their own. It hasn’t been too difficult for me in that sense.”
After three remaining tournaments, the Waves will look to a postseason that consists of the conference championship, NCAA regionals and potentially nationals. Last season, the team won the WCC and made it to regionals but finished fifteenth, nine spots shy of the top six teams that advance to nationals.
Kobori said she is ready for the team to take their next step and qualify to play with the best in the country.
“We believe we can make it to nationals,” Kobori said. “We made it my freshman year, and while you never know what can happen, this team is right up there with talent.”
The team had another top finish on Tuesday, finishing in 12th place at the Regional Challenge with Kobori placing 16th individually. Next up is the Bruin-Wave Invitational co-hosted by UCLA and Pepperdine on Feb. 24.
Kameron Edwards Making the Most of 5th Year of Eligibility
From the only freshman his first year on the team to the only senior his fifth year, Kameron Edwards said he felt taking on a leadership role was only natural going into the season.
“There’s always a lot of guys you see on teams who [try] to discipline or yell at their teammates and stuff like that,” Kameron Edwards said. “I just try to focus on being somebody who is always going to uplift people and always tell people words of encouragement. Then when I see them making mistakes … just find ways to help them with that.”
Kameron Edwards’ younger brother, sophomore Kessler Edwards, inspires Kameron to persevere through adversity.
“Playing with him [Kessler] has really shaped my Pepperdine experience overall,” Kameron Edwards said. “Knowing you have your little brother on the team, it kind of makes you want to hold yourself more accountable. Even in terms of injuries, I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career, but having him here just makes you want to be on the court more because this is kind of our last year together.”
Kameron Edwards has high hopes for his last season, from winning the WCC Tournament and playing in the NCAA Tournament to being First-Team All-Conference.
“Something our coaches have been preaching a lot to us recently [is] that every possession matters [and] every day at practice matters,” Kameron Edwards said. “Just taking it all seriously because it translates to the game for us.”
Kameron Edwards said he works hard both on and off the court, leading his teammates by example and continuing to play basketball even after he graduates.
“I like to think of myself as a pretty hard worker, somebody who’s in the gym a lot, just always trying to get better,” Kameron Edwards said. “So I think a lot of guys see that, and I just try to always do the right thing on the court”
Kameron Edwards said he cherishes his final moments as a Waves student-athlete.
“I guess my biggest takeaway would be to cherish every moment you have,” Kameron Edwards said. “My five years at Pepperdine have gone by really, really fast, and my freshman year, everybody was telling me that it would, but I had no idea it was going to go by that fast. Just enjoy what you can because you’re not going to be able to play basketball forever or be in college forever.”
Barbara Sitanggan Embraces the Mental Aspect
With three head coach changes in a four-season span, senior Barbara Sitanggan learned to adjust to change quickly while maintaining her style of play on the court.
In the 2018–2019 season, Sitanggan received an All-WCC honorable mention, scoring a Pepperdine free throws made record of 167 as well as earning the WCC Sportsmanship Award.
As a senior, Sitanggan said she leads her teammates through tough love and sees her role on and off the court as “mom.”
“Being the point guard, there’re a bunch of responsibilities,” Sitanggan said. “You have to know all the plays — not just your position, but the other players’ positions so you know when to get them the ball. … I guess my [basketball] IQ is something I’m trying to shed light on for all the younger ones as a leader.”
Sitanggan attributes her successes to former personal trainer Steve Yano, who coached her since she was six years old.
“I definitely take him wherever I am,” Sitanggan said. “He used to say a quote: ‘Let it fly.’ That was just, shoot the ball when you’re open and just keep shooting even if you’re missing — it’ll come to you. He was a big part of my life.”
As a starter her freshman year, Sitanggan said she learned to persevere early on both in her play and character and believes her mental toughness will stay with her outside of college.
“My whole four years here has been just a roller coaster,” Sitanggan said. “I’m just getting through everything by not being a quitter. There’ve been so many times that I was tired of it, I didn’t want to wake up for 6 a.m. workouts, I didn’t want to do this or that — but just getting through it and mental toughness was a whole thing.”
See Women’s Basketball take on University of Portland on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. at home.
Aharon Modlin Ready to Make Deep Conference Run
Pepperdine Baseball had an underwhelming 2019 outing, finishing below a .500 record and seventh in the West Coast Conference. While the team had a breadth of talent, many of the players have referenced problems with culture and not getting big hits in big moments as reasons for the sub-par season.
One of the leaders on the team is Aharon Modlin, an infielder who has established himself as a regular at third base. As one of the only three senior position players, he will have his work cut out for him with a younger, developing team around him.
With 134 games under his belt before the 2020 season, Modlin’s role has changed with some of the younger players.
“As a senior, it’s my responsibility to make sure the younger guys understand the culture of the program and our team goal for the upcoming season,” Modlin said. “Since we have such limited time together, the faster the younger guys can learn the right way to play, the better our team will be on opening day.”
Modlin’s freshman season, he came onto the scene with a .296 batting average with a .371 on-base percentage, both second on the team. Sophomore year, those numbers took a dip, hitting .214. As a junior, he was able to get back to his freshman form, hitting .283 with 45 hits on the season.
Modlin said he has developed his swing on the physical and mental side.
“It’s been a combination of both,” Modlin said. “I’ve made some mechanical changes to simplify my swing. On the mental side, I think it comes down to focusing on the task at hand and understanding that failure happens. Each at-bat is a learning experience, and I’ve learned through three seasons that the faster you can make adjustments, the chances of success dramatically increases.”
Modlin and the team will take the field for the first time this season Friday, Feb. 14 versus the University of San Diego at the Angels College Classic in Phoenix, Arizona.
Cori Persinger Runs Fast
When Pepperdine accepted Cori Persinger, she had no intentions of running on the Track and Cross Country team, let alone landing herself the No. 12 spot on the Waves’ all-time list in her final season.
Persinger joined both Track and Cross Country teams four years ago, finishing out her Cross Country season with a personal best of 22:15.0 at the Capital Cross Challenge this past fall. She made WCC All-American first team as well as WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll and Pepperdine Scholar-Athlete.
“It’s been amazing,” Persinger said. “I was right in thinking that this would be a good community for me because it totally is. I know I’ve made life-long friends on the team. It’s also been really cool to see myself still getting faster and responding well to the training and achieve the time goals I set for myself.”
In her first running season, Persinger was one of nine freshman girls to be a part of the team. Now as one of the five remaining seniors on the Track team, Persinger said she sees her senior teammates as not only fellow leaders but lifelong friends.
“It feels really good to have made it the whole way with those girls,” Persinger said. “They are the ones I feel like I will be friends with forever. I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to be able to run for all four years and have these girls do it with me.”
Persinger said she hopes to bring a sense of leadership to younger runners in her final season.
“It’s been cool to progress through the program and have that senior leadership and be there for younger girls on the team in a way I kind of wanted to have for me my freshman year but couldn’t,” Persinger said.
As Persinger embarks on her final season, her goals include qualifying for the Mt. SAC Relays and running a 2:22 time in the 800-meter.
While her last season, Persinger said she has high hopes for her future as a runner.
“I definitely see myself running for the rest of my life,” Persinger said. “I’ll probably take a break for a little bit and maybe get some sleep but it’s something that I enjoy and is a life skill. I feel like there’re a lot of life things tied in with running, and I think it’s very valuable.”
Persinger and the Waves will compete indoor Friday and Saturday at Boise State Challenge in Boise, Idaho.
Adrian Oetzbach Headlining Men’s Tennis Turnaround
As one of the three new head coaches at Pepperdine last year, head coach Adam Schaechterle and Pepperdine Men’s Tennis had a rebuilding year, going 11–13
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The team lost only two seniors and brought on three talented freshman, and Schaechterle’s sophomore coaching campaign is off to a scoring 5–0 start with two sweeps.
One of the standouts is senior Adrian Oetzbach, a transfer from the University of Oklahoma who played his first season for the Waves last year at the No. 1 singles and doubles position.
This season, Oetzbach is 4–2 and 3–0 in doubles play. In their fourth match versus UC Santa Barbara, the Waves were deadlocked at 3–3 with the Gauchos in singles play, leaving victory in the hands of Oetzbach.
Oetzbach said he thrives in those situations.
“I’m always aware of when I’m the last match and it’s three-all,” Oetzbach said. “You start to see your other teammates on the other side, and you realize the situation. I embrace that and try to have fun with it. I don’t think about losing or the consequences because that’s when you play uptight. I just stick to my games and wins have followed.”
Oetzbach said Schaechterle’s approach has been instrumental in turning the program around.
“In my recruiting, Adam [Schaechterle] and also Tassi [Shmid] were so helpful and reached out to me a lot. As a coach, he’s been super professional and has moved the program forward. They’re going to keep recruiting the best players, and it’s just a matter of time before we’re a legitimate top-10 team.”
Oetzbach also previewed some of the young players set to make an impact as the Waves approach the bulk of their schedule.
“One of our freshmen Pietro Fellin from Italy, has a developed mind for his age,” Oetzbach said. “He has a good game, big talent and could be a crucial part for us. Also Robert Shelton, one of the few Americans on our team, has a big game, but he needs to focus on the small things to be a very good college player.”
Men’s Tennis will travel to Cal Poly to take on the Mustangs on Friday.
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