CMS Volleyball Kicks into High Gear, Defeats La Verne 3-1 to Move on to SCIAC Finals

CMS celebrates its semifinal win after match point (photo by Tessa Guerra)
CMS celebrates its semifinal win after match point (photo by Tessa Guerra)

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The top-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's volleyball team dropped the first set 26-24 to fourth-seeded La Verne, but then turned it up another notch to come back and take a convincing 3-1 win on Thursday evening in the SCIAC Semifinals at Roberts Pavilion.

Set scores were 24-26, 25-15, 25-17, 25-13 as the Athenas cruised in the second through fourth sets to improve to 25-3 overall and move on to the SCIAC Championship match for the eighth straight year. For the first time in that stretch, CMS will not face Cal Lutheran in the championship, as second-seeded Chapman defeated the Regals in five sets, resulting in a rubber match on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the SCIAC title between two teams which split during the regular season. La Verne ends its season at 15-13 with the loss.

CMS hit only .083 in the first set, but hit its stride by compiling a team hitting percentage of .462 in the third set and .414 in the fourth. Senior right side hitter Amanda Walker led the Athenas with 14 kills and eight blocks, while junior outside hitter Lucila Grinspan added 11 kills. Junior middle Regan Dinovitz had seven kills in 10 attempts, hitting .600, and added eight blocks, while senior setter Phoebe Madsen had 26 assists and 16 digs. 

CMS led 23-22 in the first set before the Leopards won the next two to earn a set point at 24-23. Walker put down a kill to tie the score, but Ayana Mier (17 kills) broke the tie and the Leopards took the first set on a CMS error to pull ahead 1-0. 

"We knew after that first set that we had so much more potential in us," said senior libero Sarah Tritschler. "We came into the match knowing that we had to win, and wanting to win so bad, and the first set we traded too many points. But the second set we just came in to kill." 

The Athenas forged ahead 10-6 in the second set on a kill from Madsen, and then used a 5-0 run to take a commanding 20-12 lead, Dinovitz had a solo block and a kill during the run, while Madsen had a service ace. Sophomore Jackie Jones had a kill to set up set point at 24-15, and a Leopard error ended the set at 25-15 and leveled the match at 1-1. 

The third set stayed neck and neck most of the way, as La Verne led 13-11 before CMS started to take control. A 4-0 run was capped off when Tritschler dove to dig a ball out of the net and it managed to fall over the net on the line for an unexpected kill, energizing the Roberts Pavilion faithful. The lead stretched to 20-15 on a Grinspan kill, and back-to-back Dinovitz blocks pushed the lead to 23-16 before a La Verne error ended the set at 25-17, giving CMS a 2-1 lead. 

The Athenas left no doubt in the fourth set with momentum on their side, roaring out to an 8-0 lead before the Leopards scored their first point. Walker had three kills and a block during the run to help give CMS a huge early lead. La Verne pulled within 14-7, but CMS answered as Walker had a kill and a block in succession to stretch the lead to 21-10. An ace from first-year setter Spencer Hagenbuch put the Athenas on the brink of the win, and a kill from junior Melanie Moore sealed it 25-13. 

CMS dropped the first meeting with Chapman 3-2 back on Oct. 1, succumbing to a Panther comeback after leading 2-0. The rematch saw CMS dominate the first and third sets and pull out a close second in a 25-12, 26-24, 25-12 win at Roberts Pavilion on Oct. 19. The third meeting will both determine the season series and the SCIAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.