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CMS Volleyball Falls in Four to Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Second Round of NCAA Tournament

CMS Volleyball Falls in Four to Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Second Round of NCAA Tournament

SAINT PETER, Minn. - There will be a new national champion this year in Division III volleyball, as the defending champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas, ranked No. 5 in the nation, were defeated by No. 14 Wisconsin-Eau Claire 3-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Gustvus Adolphus.

Set scores were 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17. The loss ends a remarkable season for CMS at 27-4, one year after winning the program's first national title with a 31-5 mark. The Athenas graduated eight seniors off that squad, though, and had several injuries and illnesses to key players on this year's team, yet still maintained its lofty status in the national rankings all year. Wisconsin-Eau Claire moves to 31-3 on the year and will advance to tomorrow's regional finals. 

Arianna Barrett had a big day for Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the win with 20 kills in 39 attempts. Sophomore Melanie Moore led CMS with 10 kills in 35 attempts to go along with a team-high five blocks, while junior libero Sarah Tritschler had 26 digs to lead the defensive effort.  

The teams split 25-23 wins in the first two sets. CMS trailed 23-19 in the first set, but rallied back with four straight points to tie it 23-23 on a kill from junior setter/hitter Phoebe Madsen. After UWEC called a timeout, they bounced back with the next two points to win it 25-23. 

The second set saw CMS pull even with a 25-23 win, which was also tied late. Junior Isabelle Taylor, who missed most of this season with an injury but provided a lift off the bench on Saturday, put CMS ahead 23-22 before an Abby Volk block tied it. The ensuing serve sailed wide to set the Athenas up with a set point, and Melanie Moore finished it off on her second try, when her first attack attempt was dug out, but came back over the net right back to her for an unassisted kill. 

The pivotal stretch of the match proved to be the end of the third set. After the Athenas went ahead 20-18 after a kill by Moore and an attack error, Wisconsin-Eau Claire scored the next seven points to take a 25-20 win and a 2-1 lead in the match. 

The fourth set saw the Athenas within 13-12 on a kill from junior Amanda Walker, but the Blugolds scored the next three points to put CMS' backs against the wall. A kill from Madsen had the Athenas within 21-17, but Wisconsin-Eau Claire tallied the next four points in a row to win the match and end the CMS season. 

Despite the loss, the Athenas will be in good shape to get back into the winner's circle next year, as this year's team did not have any seniors on it and hopes to get several of this year's injury casualties back to full strength.