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Team Huddle

Undefeated CMS Volleyball Hosts SCIAC Semifinals on Thursday Night

SCIAC Tournament Program

CLAREMONT, Calif. - With a 26-0 regular season behind them, the top-ranked CMS volleyball team opens postseason play when it hosts a SCIAC Tournament Semifinal match with La Verne on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Roberts Pavilion.

With a win, the top-seeded Athenas can advance through to Saturday's SCIAC Tournament finals, against the winner of the Pomona-Pitzer at Cal Lutheran semifinal match, for the right to earn the SCIAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Tickets for SCIAC Tournament events are $10 at the door, $8 in advance through TicketLeap, and free with any SCIAC ID. 

CMS actually just played La Verne on Saturday in the regular season finale, picking up a 25-22, 25-15, 25-15 win to cap off its undefeated regular season. The Leopards and Athenas were neck-and-neck in the first set, before Spencer Hagenbuch provided the winning point on a kill off a fake set, and CMS was able to control the second and third sets on its way to a 3-0 win.

The sweep was nothing unusual, as CMS has lost only four sets all season, and only one in conference, which came in a 3-1 road win over Pomona-Pitzer. The Athenas also dropped individual sets to Trinity and Emory at the East-West Battle at Emory on Sept. 10, and then dropped the third set on its way to a 3-1 win over Colorado College at the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational on Sept. 17. 

The Athenas haven't been seriously challenged since Sept. 10 against Trinity and Emory, when they were in danger of dropping a second set in both matches. CMS won the third set 26-24 against Trinity with the score tied 1-1, and then captured the fourth set with Emory 28-26 after the Eagles nearly battled back even from 2-0 down. Against Colorado College, CMS dropped the third set and then won the fourth 25-14, and against Pomona-Pitzer, the Athenas came back after dropping the first set to take the next three in convincing fashion, 25-10, 25-19, 25-17. 

The next step for CMS is have its regular season dominance translate into the postseason, as it hopes to keep its success rolling through two SCIAC Tournament matches, three NCAA Regional matches next weekend, and the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals in Pittsburgh (Nov. 17-19). CMS reached the national semifinals last year at WashU in Saint Louis for the second time, with the first coming when it won the national title in 2017.

The Athenas enter the postseason as statistically one of the most dominant teams in recent memory. Currently, they are hitting .317 as a team, which is almost 50 points higher than the second-best team in Division III (University of Northwestern at .279, with Wesleyan a distant third at .261). CMS also has three of the top 12 hitters in the nation, with Brenna Bell currently fifth at .416, Summer Ellis 10th at .404, and Audrey Sawyer 12th at .396. All three are on pace to break the program record for hitting percentage in a season, set by Sawyer last year at .381, while Bell and Ellis, who repesent the dangerous CMS platoon at the right-side hitter position, are the only two non-middle hitters who currently rank in the top 20 nationally. 

Meanwhile, Jenna Holmes and Dede Carranza were the major awards winners from the SCIAC, with Holmes capturing the Offensive Player of the Year honor and Carranza capturing Defensive Player of the Year accolades. Georgia McGovern was also a first-team All-SCIAC selection, joining Hagenbuch in a two-setter system that has CMS leading the nation in kills and assists per set, as well as hitting percentage. The Athenas also hold the leads in those categories by a wide margin, including almost a full assist more per set than Northwestern in second (13.79 to 12.97). 

If CMS should advance through tomorrow's semifinals, it will try to win its fifth straight SCIAC Tournament title on Saturday, after winning three in a row from 2017-19, and then earning another one last year after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The Athenas are also currently on a 47-match win streak against SCIAC opponents (43 league matches in a row, as well as four SCIAC Tournament matches), since its last loss on the road against Chapman in 2019.