NCAA run cut short by Colorado College in top-10 matchup

Nicole Kerkhof (Photo by Joe Fusco,
Nicole Kerkhof (Photo by Joe Fusco,

RICHARDSON, Tex. – The No. 3 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps volleyball lost a heartbreaker in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 8 Colorado College in four sets (15-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-22). The NCAA Regional was played in Richardson, Tex. on the campus of UT Dallas.

The teams had clashed in the second round in the NCAA tournament in 2013 and 2014 with split results, but this first round matchup went to the Tigers and cut the Athenas' hopes at an NCAA run short.

CMS started its season off with an 18-0 run and were ultimately ranked as high as No. 2 by the AVCA after beating Cal Lutheran. The Athenas were crowed co-champs of the SCIAC with the Regals, who remain in this year's NCAA Tournament as the defending national champions.

Dallas Regional Tournament Page | NCAA Bracket | Box Score

Two CMS seniors, Nicole Kerkhof (CMC) and Natalie Creekmur (CMC) wrap of their careers with a 102-24 record, four NCAA appearances and five NCAA Tournament victories.

In the game, CMS was led by Kerkhof in her final showing as an Athena with 18 kills and 19 digs. On Colorado College's side, the Tigers were led by SCAC Player of the Year, Abbe Holtze hitting .368, better even than her season average of .235.

To start the match, the Tigers earned the first two points but then the Athenas went on 6-1 run to go up 8-3. At the first timeout, Anderson already had four kills. The Athenas won the first set in dominant fashion on an ace from freshman setter Phoebe Madsen (CMC). In the set, Anderson was successful in five of her six swings and Werner led the way with nine digs. Junior middle Mariah Rigg (CMC) was also errorless putting down three kills in the set.

The pace of the game spoke volumes about the caliber of the volleyball being played. As the match wore on and the intensity increased, it became clear that the team that made the fewest mistakes was going to come out on top.

The beginning of the second set was a defensive battle as each team made spectacular digs to keep the ball in play. Colorado College chipped away as the Athenas struggled to find their rhythm. Patches of miscommunication on the Tigers' side kept the set close and CMS reeled them back in to trail by just one at 14-13. The Athenas' passing improved in the middle of the set but were unable to contain Holtze who put down seven kills in the second set alone.

In the third, junior middles Sarah Bruml (SC) and Margaux Arntson (CMC) defended the net well to make for a handful of long points early on in the set. The pair statistically accounted for 2.0 total blocks in the game, but forced Colorado to defend their side of the court after denying their attacks. But, with momentum on their side, the Tigers had their most effective set at .385 and committed just two errors winning the third 25-14.

Between sets, the Athenas gathered to regroup and refocus. The All-Region senior stepped up for CMS putting down kills for four of the Athenas' first six points and laying out for a number of digs. In the fourth set, Kerkhof made seven kills and eight digs.

The score was tied 11 times in the set, showcasing how evenly matched the teams were. Eventually, Colorado College got a two point advantage and won the final point off a block by Marguerite Spaethling and Jordan Mullen.

The Athenas wrap up their season at 23-4 with the four set loss in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.

Box Score | Postgame Interview

By Emily Nordhoff
Sports Information Director

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