Athenas Tame No. 1 Tigers, Advance to National Quarterfinals

photo credit: Southwestern Athletics
photo credit: Southwestern Athletics

GEORGETOWN, Texas – At the beginning of the weekend the Georgetown Regional was touted as the toughest pod in the NCAA Tournament. After seven matches over three days, the Regional lived up to the hype. No. 6 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps edged No. 1 Colorado College in a 3-1 (21-25, 25-17, 25-17, 26-24) instant classic to claim the Regional Title and advance to the National Quarterfinals.

Sunday's match was a culmination of a tremendous run for the Athenas through the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Just as they had in the first two rounds of the tournament, the Athenas dropped the opening set of the match, but rebounded to win the next three and claim their third-straight 3-1 victory of the weekend.

With the victory, the Athenas hand Colorado College their first loss to a Division III opponent this season. The Tigers finish the season with a 33-2 overall record. The win moves the Athenas to 28-5 on the season and they have now won 19-straight matches.

CMS now advances to Grand Rapids, Mich. where the Tournament will conclude with the final three rounds. The Athenas' opponent for Thursday's Quarterfinal is still to be determined. The eight remaining teams will be reseeded.

Coming off last night's thrilling 3-1 victory over Southwestern, CMS started Sunday's match with a head of steam. The Athenas won four of the first five points and looked to have the early momentum, but Colorado College settled in and ripped off an impressive 12-5 run to take a five-point lead at 13-8. CMS battled back, but a 6-1 streak pushed the Tigers ahead and gave Colorado College a 20-14 lead.

Fueled by three kills from Margaux Arntson (CMC), the Athenas attempted a late comeback, but they ran out of gas and the Tigers took the opening set 25-21.

CMS took control of the second set early and began pulling away late in the set to tie the match at 1-1. With the set tied 4-4, CMS scored back-to-back points with kills from Regan Dinovitz (CMC) and Crystal Anderson (CMC) to take a lead they would not give up the rest of the game. The Athenas steadily built their lead throughout the set, eventually taking the game 25-17 on a kill from Melanie Moore (CMC).

With the match now level, CMS and Colorado College matched each other point for point at the beginning of the third set. Midway through, the set was tied 12-12. A quick three-point burst from CMS forced the Tigers to call a timeout. The break did little to stop the potent CMS attack that swung at a .308 clip in the match. Including the three points prior to the timeout, the Athenas ended the set on a 13-5 run to win the set 25-17 and take an important 2-1 lead in the match.

During the run to close out the set, five different Athenas collected kills with Arntson collecting three kills to lead the way.

Once again, the fourth set was anybody's game with the two National heavyweights trading blows. First it was the Tigers that jumped out to an early 5-2 lead, but CMS hung around and came back to take the lead at 9-8 following a 5-1 run.

Later in the set, a kill from Allie Freeburg broke a tie and gave Colorado College a 17-16 lead. Three-straight CMS points off an ace from Mikena Werner (SC) and kills from Dinovitz and Arntson forced the Tigers to take a timeout at 19-17. Following the timeout, CMS proceeded to win three of the next four points to extend their lead to 22-18.

Another timeout calmed the Tigers down and they closed the gap to just one point at 22-21. Crystal Anderson then connected off a pass from Clara Madsen (CMC) to give the Athenas a 23-21 lead.

A kill from Colorado College's Marguerite Spaethling and a service ace from Jordan Mullen tied the set at 23-23. The Athenas and Tigers traded the next two points, before Isabelle Taylor (CMC) connected on a kill to set up the second match point for CMS. An attacking error by Allie Freeburg gave CMS the set (26-24), the match (3-1), and the Regional Championship.

"The best phase I would use to describe us after this weekend is battle-tested," said head coach Kurt Vlasich after the Athenas' third-straight 3-1 victory in the NCAA Regionals. "We've been telling our girls, 'today's more important than tomorrow.' We showed that this weekend. We've been focused on the points and moments in front of us rather than looking ahead to what could happen."

The Athenas advance from a Georgetown Regional that featured four of the top six teams in the nation and arrive at the National Quarterfinals as one of the hottest teams in the country.

"It's good to have these tough matches early in the Tournament. To know that even when we are facing a top-ranked team in the nation we can compete on every single level," said Georgetown Regional Most Valuable Player Margaux Arntson after Sunday's victory. "That confidence that we're going to bring into the Elite Eight is really going to drive our game in this upcoming tournament."

Sarah Tritschler (CMC), who led the Athenas in digs on Sunday with 18, added, "Every single set we had to fight and I think that's really going to help us looking forward to next weekend."

The Athenas will have to keep fighting if they want to advance. The National Quarterfinals will be played on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich. The semifinals will follow on Friday and the National Championships taking place on Saturday.

For their play over the weekend, Melanie Moore, Mikena Werner, and Margaux Arntson were named to the All-Regional Team. Arntson also was named Regional MVP finishing the weekend with 45 kills and a .371 hitting percentage.

As mentioned, the field will be reseeded so the Athenas' opponent and time for the Quarterfinals is still to be determined. Check later this week for more information on the upcoming rounds of the NCAA Tournament.