CLAREMONT, Calif. – On Saturday night the No. 6 ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas made quick work of the Cal Lutheran women's volleyball team in the SCIAC Tournament Finals by sweeping the Regals 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-16) to claim the 2017 SCIAC Tournament Championship.
Shelbi Stein (CMC) collected 12 kills and a .385 hitting percentage to be named the Tournament Most Valuable Player.
With the victory, the Athenas claim the Automatic Qualifier (AQ) from the SCIAC and ensured themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament that begins next Friday.
"It's hard to decide what you value more. The overall win and punching the ticket or beating a really good opponent that we've now met in the conference tournament four years in a row," said head coach Kurt Vlasich after facing Cal Lutheran for the fourth-straight time in the SCIAC Tournament Finals. "It means a lot to beat a worthy opponent and do it very efficiently."
The Athenas did top the Regals in efficient fashion. As a team, CMS hit at a .339 clip, finishing the night with 50 kills and just 12 errors.
The Athenas opened the night with a quick 4-0 run to start off the opening set. Throughout the three-set match, CMS never trailed and the Regals were only able to tie the match on two occasions, 6-6 in the first set and 1-1 in the third set.
Following a 6-2 run from Cal Lutheran in the first set to tie the game at 6-6, CMS rattled off five-straight points and took an 11-6 following back-to-back kills from Isabelle Taylor (CMC). The Regals closed the gap to three at 13-10, but the Athenas went on an 8-1 streak to open up a comfortable 21-11 lead. Cal Lutheran climbed their way back into the set, but it was too little too late and CMS took the opening game 25-19.
CMS opened the second set with a bang, taking a 10-2 lead after a pair of service aces from Mikena Werner (SC). Following the early run, the Athenas never led by less than five points throughout the remainder of the set. Their lead ballooned to as many as 11 points at 21-10 after six-straight points while Sarah Tritschler (CMC) served. A service error from the Regals gave the second-set to CMS by a 25-14 final and the Athenas took a 2-0 lead into the third set.
With an opportunity to close out the SCIAC Championship in straight sets, the Athenas once again jumped out to an early lead. In the third set it was a 9-2 lead, with Regan Dinovitz (CMC) collecting three kills in the early going. Cal Lutheran closed the set to as few as three points at 14-11, but CMS countered by winning the next five points to take a 19-11 lead.
Just a few points later, Amanda Walker (SC) closed out the match with a kill off a toss from Phoebe Madsen (CMC) and the Athenas streamed onto the court to celebrate the 2017 SCIAC Tournament Championship. CMS took the final set 25-16 and completed the 3-0 sweep to claim the Championship.
The Athenas are now winners of their last 16 matches, a streak that dates back to Sept. 23. With the sweep of Cal Lutheran on Saturday night, the Athenas have swept their last seven matches and completed 20 sweeps on the season.
CMS will have less than a week to prepare for their next test, the NCAA Regionals. "Ultimately, we still need to take care of our side of the net," said Vlasich on the preparation plan for Regionals next week. "A lot of people would look at a win like this and think, 'You guys are pretty efficient, you don't need to do anything,' but from a coaching standpoint, I have about a half dozen things we need to get better at."
The Athenas will have five days to prepare and get better before their first match in the NCAA Tournament. CMS will find out where they are heading and who they are facing during the Selection Show on NCAA.com at 9:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Check CMSathletics.org for full coverage of the Athenas run in the NCAA Tournament.