No. 12 Athenas win epic battle against No. 7 Cal Lu

CLAREMONT, Calif. – The rivalry between No. 12 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and No. 7 Cal Lutheran is one of the best in Division III volleyball and tonight's match was no disappointment. After taking a two set lead, CMS relinquished two straight games to Cal Lu, only to come back and win the fifth set and the match. The 3-2 win tonight marks the second consecutive season that the Athenas have beaten the higher-ranked Regals at home in five sets (25-16, 25-21, 32-30, 20-25, 16-14).

CMS (10-2), Cal Lu (10-2) and La Verne (12-2) are now all at the top of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) with two losses apiece.

The Athenas began the match with a high level of focus and intensity. They got off to a 4-0 start from kills by junior Nicole Kerkhof and sophomore Shelbi Stein (CMC). Kerkhof went on to be errorless through two sets and ultimately tallied 22 kills in the match for a season high.

The ever-growing crowd got into the match on a huge block of CLU's Michelle Lawrence by sophomores Crystal Anderson (CMC) and Sarah Bruml (SCR) to put the Athenas up 6-1 in the first set. CMS dominated the first set, winning 25-16.

Lawrence significantly leads CLU and the SCIAC in kills averaging 4.06 per set with a .256 hitting percentage in conference play. The Athenas held her to .197 and forced nine errors, two of which were off blocks.

Sophomore middle Mariah Rigg (CMC) and sophomore right side hitter Margaux Arntson (CMC) came alive in the second set, combining for four kills. Rigg nailed down a kill to kick-start a six point run on Natalie Creekmur's (CMC) serve that lifted the Athenas from trailing 20-18 to a set point at 24-20. After a long point and kill by CLU's Sarah Pappas, CMS converted on their second set point as senior Tanner Hoke (CMC) assisted the set-winner by Arntson.

CMS seemed to be in the driver's seat with a two set lead going into the third, but the Regals maintained composure and fought back. Cal Lu had to fight off four Athena match points in order to eventually win 32-30. In that set, CLU's Allie Eason and Lawrence totaled 11 kills despite CMS' blocking being on point with four total. Rigg and Anderson each recorded solo blocks while freshman Hannah Grobisen (CMC), Arntson, Bruml and Stein contributed as well.

With momentum on their side, the Regals broke away from the Athenas during Molly Holloway's and Jamie Smith's serves, ending up with a 19-12 advantage in the fourth set. With CMS unable to string a two points together, CLU earned the fourth set victory, forcing a fifth.

In the final set, the Athenas were consistently about two points behind Cal Lu until CMS tied up the game at 13-13 on a big kill by Kerkhof. The fifth set was marked by long points and excellent defense. Hoke and libero Mikena Werner (SCR) fearlessly defended the Athenas' side with seven and six digs respectively.

The Athenas staved off a match point for CLU at 14-13 and then went on a three point run highlighted by two blocks by Stein and Bruml. At the conclusion of the match, the massive crowd erupted and streamed onto the court to congratulate the well-deserving Athenas.

These two teams will surely face off again in the SCIAC Tournament hosted by the No. 1 seed at the completion of the regular season.

Next up for CMS (20-5, 10-2 SCIAC) is another rivalry game against Pomona-Pitzer (10-11, 5-6 SCIAC) tomorrow at the Rains Center at 12 p.m. After that, the Athenas will round out SCIAC play with matches against Occidental, Chapman and Redlands next week.

Box Score

By Emily Nordhoff
Sports Information Director

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