And Then There Were Eight: Athenas Continue NCAA Tournament in Michigan

And Then There Were Eight: Athenas Continue NCAA Tournament in Michigan

2017 Volleyball Championships Homepage

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - After a thrilling weekend in Texas, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's volleyball team is one of only eight teams remaining in the country. The Athenas continue their NCAA Tournament run on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich. with a meeting against the Gustavus Adolphus Golden Gusties at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT. The winner of the CMS-Gustavus Adolphus match will take on the winner of Emory-Ithaca in the National Semifinals on Friday.

On the other side of the bracket, Whittenberg will square-off with Swarthmore while Johnson and Wales (RI) will take on host Calvin. Semifinals are slated for Friday evening with the National Championship closing out the weekend on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m ET/4:00 p.m. PT.

For all live video and stats links check the women's volleyball schedule page or the Tournament Homepage (hosted by Calvin).

See below for a snapshot of the eight teams remaining in the quest for a National Championship:


No. 6 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas

Location: Claremont, Calif.

Head Coach: Kurt Vlasich (Seventh Season)

NCAA Appearances: Ninth

2017 Record: 28-5, 15-1 SCIAC

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: Third

Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Texas-Dallas 3-1
(22-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-23)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated No. 5 Southwestern (TX) 3-1
(23-25, 25-20, 27-25, 25-14)

Regional Final:
defeated No. 1 Colorado College 3-1
(21-25, 25-17, 25-17, 26-24)

About the Athenas:

The Athenas enter the National Quarterfinals as one of the hottest teams in the country. CMS battled their way through the Georgetown Regional last weekend that featured four of the top six ranked teams in the country. After topping the Texas Dallas Comets 3-1 in the First Round, the Athenas disposed of the No. 5 Southwestern (TX) Pirates 3-1 in the Regional Semifinal. The victory over the Pirates set up a Regional Final for CMS against the No. 1 Colorado College Tigers. The Athenas dropped the opening set, but showed resiliency and won the next three sets to take the match in dramatic fashion.

With three victories to open the 2017 NCAA Tournament, the Athenas extended their winning streak to 19-matches. The last CMS loss came on Sept. 23 when Chapman took down CMS 3-2 (18-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-23) in an early conference match. In the last seven weeks, the Athenas have dropped just nine sets and collected 12 sweeps. For a two week stretch at the end of the regular season and through the SCIAC Tournament, CMS earned seven-straight sweeps, winning a total of 23-straight sets.

Not only is CMS a hot team, but the Athenas are battled-tested as well. This season CMS has played a total of 12 matches against teams that competed in the NCAA Tournament. The Athenas hold a 9-3 record in those contests.

The Athenas have a deep and talented roster that features a quality mix of both experience and youth. Margaux Arntson (CMC), Mikena Werner (SC), Clara Madsen (CMC), and Shelbi Stein (CMC) all earned All-SCIAC accolades, with Arntson and Werner receiving adding All-American nods as well. The four lead a senior class that has been in this position before. In 2014, when this year's senior class were freshman, the Athenas advanced to the National Quarterfinals for the first time in program history. While CMS fell to Wisconsin-Stevens Point in that quarterfinal match, the experience that this year's eight-member senior class brings to the table is invaluable.

Alongside the experienced senior class, this year's underclassmen have played a large role all season long. Freshman middle blockers Melanie Moore (CMC) and Regan Dinovitz (CMC) have control the net on both the offensive and defensive end while sophomores Phoebe Madsen (CMS) and Sarah Tritschler (CMC) have been constants in the rotation at
setter and defensive specialist.
No. 16 Gustavus Adolphus Golden Gusties

Location: Saint Peter, Minn.

Head Coach: Rachelle Sherden (Eighth Season)

NCAA Appearances: Eighth

2017 Record: 226-6, 8-3 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC)

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: Sixth

Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Aurora 3-1
(23-25, 25-15, 27-25, 25-15)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated Wartburg 3-1
(25-21, 12-25, 25-16, 25-15)

Regional Final:
defeated No. 9 Northwestern (MN) 3-1
(11-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-22)

About the Golden Gusties:

The Golden Gusties have been a bit of an up and down team this season. After starting the season 13-1, Gustavus Adolphus dropped a pair of matches against Bethel and Northwestern-St. Paul on back-to-back days. Eight-straight wins followed before two more losses late in the regular season against Concordia and Saint Benedict. Despite being bounced in the first round of the MIAC Tournament by Augsburg the Gusties earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid.

In the St. Paul Regional, the Gusties picked up three-straight 3-1 victories over Aurora, Wartburg, and No. 9 Northwestern-St. Paul to earn a spot in the National Quarterfinal.

The Gustavus attack is led by MIAC Rookie of the Year Kate Holtan. She has collected 386 kills, averaging 3.42 per set. Junior Hanna Albers is next in line with 356 kills, averaging 3.12 per set. The offense is directed by Nora Holtan, who is the back-to-back MIAC Player of the Year. Holtan has dished out 1,114 assists this season (10.15 per set) while also contributing on the attack with 164 kills (1.45 per set) and a team-best .273 hitting percentage. MIAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Brittany Luethmers leads the Gustie defense with 579 digs (5.12 per set).

No. 7 Emory Eagles

Location: Atlanta, Ga.

Head Coach: Jenny McDowell (22nd Season)

NCAA Appearances: 23rd

2017 Record: 30-6, 5-4 United Athletic Association (UAA)

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: Second

Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Worchester St. 3-0
(25-12, 25-13, 25-14)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated No. 21 Christopher Newport 3-0
(25-16, 25-22, 25-13)

Regional Final:
defeated Berry 3-0
(25-14, 25-22, 25-18)

About the Eagles:

The Emory volleyball team has taken an interesting road in earning the program's 22nd straight and 23rd overall trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles battled injuries throughout the season, resulting in a string of tough results in the beginning of October. Emory dropped three of five matches against Berry, Washington - St. Louis, and Carnegie Mellon before righting the ship and rattling off eight-straight victories. Washington - St. Louis  topped the Eagles in the UAA Championship, but Emory secured one of the at-large selections to the Tournament.

Playing at home in the Atlanta Regional, Emory swept Worchester State, Christopher Newport, and Berry to win the Regional and advance to Grand Rapids.

Freshman outside hitter Leah Saunders, the UAA's Rookie of the Year, has produced 16 contests of double-figure kills and stands fourth on the team and 14th on the conference ladder in kills average (2.60). Sophomore libero Elyse Thompson, named a Second Team All-American, is the lynchpin of the Emory defense, with her team-leading 5.22 digs-per-set average third on the UAA ladder and currently a school seasonal record. 

Ithaca Bombers

Location: Ithaca, N.Y.

Head Coach: Johan Dulfer (Second Season)

NCAA Appearances: 20th

2017 Record: 24-8, 6-1 Empire 8

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: Seventh


Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Endicott 3-0
(25-17, 25-20, 25-17)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated Stevens 3-1
(20-25, 25-19, 28-26, 25-17)

Regional Final:
defeated Babson 3-1
(25-17, 23-25, 25-20, 25-15)

About the Bombers:

Unlike many of the teams at this year's National Quarterfinals, the Ithaca Bombers flew under the National radar for most of the year. Despite the National Spotlight not shining on the Bombers throughout the year, Ithaca had strong runs of play including a 14-3 run to close out the regular season. Despite being upset the the Liberty League tournament by Clarkson, the Bombers earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and have made the most of the opportunity.

Ithaca swept Endicott 3-0 in the opening round before consecutive 3-1 victories over Stevens and Babson to claim the Potsdam Regional and advance to their first National Quarterfinals since 1999.

Freshman outside hitter Reagan Stone and sophomore setter Caitlyn Floyd were named First Team, while Stone was named Liberty League Rookie of the Year. Senior outside hitter Joelle Goldstein was a Second Team honoree, while junior libero Tara Stilwell and fellow third-year middle hitters Amanda Cerruti and Katie Evans were Honorable Mention selections. Stone was also named to the All-Region team while Goldstein and Floyd were honorable mention selections.

No. 3 Wittenberg Tigers

Location: Springfield, Ohio

Head Coach: Paco Labrador (15th Season)

NCAA Appearances: 23rd

2017 Record: 25-2, 8-0 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC)

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: First


Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Penn State - Behrend 3-0
(25-10, 25-17, 25-11)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated Juniata 3-1
(25-10, 13-25, 25-23, 25-21)

Regional Final:
defeated Ohio Northern 3-0
(27-25, 25-14, 25-10)

About the Tigers:

The Tigers, who spent some time as the top team in the nation this season, are making a return trip to the eight-team NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championships after capturing its eighth regional title in program history. The Tigers claimed the Otterbein College Regional Title with three wins over PSU-Behrend (3-0), Juniata (3-1), and Ohio Northern (3-0). Whittenberg has just two blemishes on the schedule this season (losses against Carthage and Wis.-Eau Claire, both on Oct. 28) and can claim five victories over top-25 teams in the nation.

Wittenberg junior setter Karen Wildemann was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Otterbein Regional after finishing the three-match stretch with 94 total assists, which included passing out 35 helpers in the 3-1 victory over Ohio Northern in the regional title match. She was joined on the all-tournament team by senior outside hitter Maddie Fischer (Minerva, OH/Minerva) and sophomore libero Taylor Yontz. Fischer was named the 2017 NCAC Player of the Year. Fischer, is now the 13th different player in Wittenberg history to earn the NCAC's top honor. In 22 total regular season matches, Fischer ranked third in the NCAC in kills per set at 3.55 (284 kills) and 12th overall in digs with 253 (3.16 dpg).

Swarthmore Garnet

Location: Swarthmore, Pa.

Head Coach: Harleigh Chwastyk (16th Season)

NCAA Appearances: First

2017 Record: 24-7, 8-2 Centennial Conference

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: Eighth


Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Randolph-Macon 3-0
(25-15, 28-26, 25-22)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated No. 10 Carnegie Mellon 3-0
(25-16, 25-20, 25-18)

Regional Final:
defeated No. 12 Johns Hopkins 3-2
(31-29, 21-25, 19-25, 25-22, 15-10)

About the Garnet:

The Garnet make their first appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals in their first-ever NCAA Tournament. A 19-7 regular season finish (8-2 conference) secured the Garnet a spot in the Centennial Conference tournament where they rolled past Muhlenberg in the semifinals before losing a hard fought battle to nationally-ranked Johns Hopkins in the finals. However, their 21-7 finish was enough to secure them an at-large bid to the tournament. They were given a chance to avenge their previous loss to Johns Hopkins in the regional final and took out the 12th-ranked Blue Jays in five sets, only one day removed from beating the 10th-ranked Carnegie Mellon Tartans in a clean sweep.

Mehra den Braven received her first First Team selection after posting excellent two-way stats on the season, leading the team with 345 kills and also posting 384 digs, good for second on the team. Den Braven was also named an AVCA All-Region player. Sarah Girard, the junior libero, made her third consecutive appearance on the All-Conference first team after posting 559 digs and also leading the team with 53 service aces. Sarah Wallace received her fourth All-Conference selection, making the second team after posting 306 kills and 330 digs. Wallace will conclude her Swarthmore career as the career kills record holder and also as a member of both the 1000 kill and 1000 dig club.

No. 8 Johnson and Wales (RI) Wildcats

Location: Providence, R.I.

Head Coach: Nancy Somera (4th Season)

NCAA Appearances: Eighth

2017 Record: 35-0, 12-0 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC)

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: Fourth


Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Elms 3-0
(25-10, 25-10, 25-12)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated Wesleyan (CT) 3-2
(22-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-13, 15-5)

Regional Final:
defeated MIT 3-2
(25-11, 25-22, 24-26, 22-25, 15-13)

About the Wildcats:

Johnson and Wales is only undefeated team in Division III and leads the NCAA with a .328 hitting percentage and ranks fifth with 13.61 kills per set. Currently 35-0 and ranked eighth in the AVCA Coaches Poll, the Wildcats are 68-1 over the last two seasons and won 64-straight sets during the middle of this season. Johnson & Wales captured its first regional championship with a pair of thrilling five-set matches. Down 2-1 to Wesleyan University in the semifinals, the Wildcats battled back to win the fifth set, 15-5. The shoe was on the other foot during the finals as JWU gave up a 2-0 lead to MIT before winning the deciding set, 15-13.

Leading one of the best offenses in the country is sophomore setter Brylee Frank. A two-time All-American, she ranks 10th in the country at 10.64 assists per set. Frank was named tournament MVP of the Providence Regional. AVCA All-American and New England Region Player of the Year Kate Walker leads the NCAA with a .488 hitting percentage while producing 2.73 kills per set. On the outside, two-time All-American Maria Coniglio leads the team with 3.10 kills per set and has eight double-doubles. Junior Katie Leidhold, a junior transfer from Franklin Pierce, has energized the JWU offense with 2.78 kills per set and 2.60 digs per set.

No. 2 Calvin Knights

Location: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Head Coach: Dr. Amber Warners (16th Season)

NCAA Appearances: 27th

2017 Record: 29-3, 16-0 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA)

NCAA Volleyball Championship Seed: Fifth


Roster  |  Schedule  |  Stats

NCAA Tournament Matches

First Round:
defeated Washington - St. Louis 3-2
(25-16, 25-15, 20-25, 23-25, 16-14)

Regional Semifinal:
defeated Millikin 3-0
(25-17, 25-23, 25-17)

Regional Final:
defeated Carthage 3-2
(25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 19-25, 15-9)

About the Knights:

Calvin College is making its sixth appearance in the national quarterfinals in the last eight years. Overall, the Knights are making their 27th appearance in the NCAA III Tournament including their 14th consecutive appearance under current head coach Amber Warners. Calvin captured its ninth consecutive MIAA regular season title this fall, finishing 16-0 in league play. The Knights then won the MIAA Tournament, defeating Albion in the tournament semis and rival Hope in the championship final.

Calvin carries a 21-match win streak into the national quarterfinals and is 14-0 at home in Van Noord Arena. In addition, the Knights are now 4-0 in five-set matches this season. Junior Anna Kamp was named the MIAA's Most Valuable Player and landed a spot on the All-MIAA first team for the second straight year. She was joined on the All-MIAA first team by Calvin senior setter Jenna Lodewyk and sophomore middle-hitter Sarah DeVries. Senior outside hitter Tessa Van Laare and junior libero Keilahna Castillo were both named to the All-MIAA second team. Earlier this week, Kamp was named an AVCA Division III First Team All-American for the second straight year. Lodewyk and DeVries were both named to the AVCA Division III All-America second team.


Please note: Portions of this article have been borrowed from team athletic websites. Thank you to the Sports Information and Athletic Communications Departments.