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Kelsey Polhemus had 18 blocks on the day, including 11 against Hope
Kelsey Polhemus had 18 blocks on the day, including 11 against Hope

CMS Volleyball Splits Two Four-Setters at Midwest Invitational, Suffers First Loss of 2021 Season

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps volleyball team defeated No. 4 Hope in four sets in its first match of the Midwest Invitational at Calvin University, but the Athenas fell to the host Knights, ranked No. 6, in four sets in the second match for their first defeat of the 2021 season on Friday evening.

Set scores in the Hope win were 25-22, 23-25, 25-21, 25-16, while Calvin bounced back from a first-set defeat to defeat the Athenas 20-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-22. With the split, CMS moves to 21-1 on the season, while Calvin improves to 25-2 and Hope slips to 18-3.

The Athenas defeated No. 1 and No. 2 on the same day back on Sept. 11, when it knocked off both Trinity and Emory in four sets at the East-West Battle, hosted by Cal Lutheran. After defeating Hope 3-1 in the first match, CMS had a chance to beat two top 10 teams in one day again, but Calvin was able to bounce back to take the final three sets, including a pivotal 26-24 win in the third, to defend its home floor. 

Kelsey Polhemus had a big day in the middle for CMS in the first match against Hope, tallying 10 kills and 11 blocks, the most blocks for an Athena player in Head Coach Kurt Vlasich's 10 years at the helm, surpassing the 10 that Melanie Moore had against Whittier in 2019. She added seven more in the Calvin loss to give her 18 on the day. 

Polhemus was particularly tough in the third set against Hope, with the match level at a set apiece. With the score tied 9-9, she had three blocks in a 4-1 stretch to put the Athenas up 13-10, and then after Hope was within 22-21, she had two blocks (both combining with Jackie Jones) in the final three points as CMS closed out the 25-21 win for a 2-1 lead. 

The fourth set saw CMS roar out to a 9-2 lead to take control early, as Melanie Williams had three kills during the run, including the final point to stretch the lead to seven. An Audrey Sawyer kill made it 16-5, and CMS was able to cruise home and take the win on a Jackie Jones kill. 

Polhemus had 10 kills in 16 attempts to go along with her nine blocks, hitting .500 in the win. Williams finished with 13 kills in 25 attempts, hitting .400, while Sawyer had 10 kills in 19 attempts, hitting .474.

The momentum of the strong finish carried over into the second match, as CMS took the first set from the hosts 25-20. Sawyer had two straight kills to give the Athenas a 19-14 lead, and the teams alternated points the rest of the way, with Georgia McGovern recording an ace to make it 22-17, Jackie Jones getting a kill for 23-18 and Williams getting a kill for 24-19, before CMS took the set 25-20 on a service error. 

The second set was tied 18-18 after a Jones kill before the Knights used two straight blocks to end a 4-0 run and take a 22-18 lead. Jones was able to stop the run with a kill, but Calvin had two more blocks to finish out a 25-20 win and level the match at 1-1.

CMS fell behind big early in the third, as Calvin led 14-5 at one point, but the Athenas came all the way back to take a 23-22 lead on a Polhemus and Jones block. The set went into extra points, and Calvin earned a break at 24-24 when a CMS block landed an inch or two out on the sideline. and the Knights were able to convert on the set point for a 2-1 lead.  

Jones and Polhemus combined on another block in the fourth set to keep CMS within 19-18, but Calvin inched in front 23-20. Jenna Holmes had a kill to make it 23-21, but it was answered by a kill from Madelyn Hall. Holmes had another kill to stave off the first match point at 24-22, but the Athenas were unable to come all the way back as the Knights earned the final point for a 25-22 win, handing CMS its first defeat since a five-set loss to Carthage in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

Holmes and Jones each had 11 kills for CMS, while Sawyer had nine and Williams had eight, but the Athenas were held to just a .133 hitting percentage. Dede Carranza had 28 digs to lead the defense, while McGovern had 25 assists and Spencer Hagenbuch had 20. 

CMS will cap off the tournament tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. local time (10:30 a.m. Pacific) when it faces Ohio Northern, ranked No. 14 in the country. The Athenas will then return to SCIAC play with three matches in the regular season's final week, traveling to Chapman on Tuesday and then hosting their regular season home finale on Friday night against Pomona-Pitzer at 7 p.m.