Thrilling Five-Setter over Brandeis Highlights Pair of CMS Volleyball Wins

Thrilling Five-Setter over Brandeis Highlights Pair of CMS Volleyball Wins

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps volleyball team fought off a comeback effort from Brandeis with a 17-15 win in the fifth set to take a 3-2 victory in its first of two matches on Saturday at Roberts Pavilion during the second day of the Pacific Coast Classic. The Athenas then swept No. 9 Southwestern (Texas) 3-0 in the afternoon to close out a 3-1 weekend. 

Set scores were 25-18, 25-19, 22-25, 13-25, 17-15 against Brandeis, and 25-15, 25-20, 25-19 against Southwestern, as CMS had its first three matches of the tournament all go the full five sets before closing out with a 3-0 win. After falling 3-2 to No. 6 Johnson & Wales on Friday afternoon in their opener, the Athenas responded to come back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat to No. 14 Carthage 3-2 last night. This morning, CMS was able to come out strong with an early 9:30 a.m. start despite the heavy workload the day before, jumping out to a 2-0 lead over Brandeis in quick fashion. 

However, the Judges were able to respond and take the third and fourth sets to pull even. The fifth set was tight the whole way, and Brandeis was able to earn a match point at 14-13 following a Clare Meyers kill. However, Lucila Grinipan (HMC '21) responded with a big kill to wipe out the match point, then followed with another one to give the Athenas the 15-14 lead.  

Brandeis answered to tie the score 15-15, but Amanda Walker (SC '20) had an emphatic kill to give CMS its second match point. The second one proved to be the charm, as Melanie Moore (CMC '21) took a set from Phoebe Madsen (CMC '20) down the middle and recorded the winning kill, which was nearly dug out by Brandeis, but ended up carrying to the back wall of Roberts Pavilion before falling to the floor for a 17-15 fifth set win. 

Four Athenas had double figures in kills in the match, led by 14 from Moore and 13 from Walker. Grinipan had 10 kills in only 17 attempts, while Jackie Jones (CMC '22) also had 10 kills. Madsen had another strong all-around match with 33 assists and 21 digs, and Jessica Lee (CMC '21) saw extended playing time to give Madsen the opportunity to play part-time at a hitter position and had 26 assists. 

The second match of the day saw much less drama, as the Athenas were able to cruise to a 3-0 win over Southwestern (25-15, 25-20, 25-19). Walker had a big day with 17 kills, including the one to end the match, while Madsen had eight kills and one error in 14 attempts for a .500 hitting percentage, to go along with 21 assists. 

The 3-0 win was a welcome relief after three straight five-setters in the first three matches for the Athenas. The matches followed vastly different patterns, as CMS lost 1-0 and 2-1 leads to Johnson & Wales before falling 3-2, rallied from 2-0 down against Carthage, and fought off a Brandeis comeback from a 2-0 deficit to hold on. As CMS builds a new team following the graduation of last year's eight-member senior class from a national title squad, being in so many tight matches has some benefits, according to head coach Kurt Vlasich.   

"It's a double edged sword -- you get the experience of battling and learning a bit about yourself in close matches, but you also beat yourself up a little bit in the process," said Vlasich. "We're already really injured and that's a concern for us, but hopefully we can learn from those tight moments, and make our lives a little bit easier in siutations where we can. I thought we did a nice job of that against Southwestern, coming out and being as efficient as possible."

The Carthage win on Friday night also proved to be a pivotal moment in the Athenas' weekend as they were staring at a potential 0-2 opening day, but bounced back and were able to come out of the weekend 3-1. 

"That was our signature win from the weekend, said Vlasich. "They have a really good team, and when the rankings came out, it seemed like they were a little on the lower side. It seems like every time they come out here, they take us to five. Just from a character standpoint, it showed a lot about what we are capable of."

One big plus to come out of the weekend, according to Vlasich, was the depth that the team showed, with several players being out with injuries, or just needing extended rest after the three five-setters. 

"It was huge for us," he said. "In this tournament, there's a lot of nerves. I have confidence in every player that we have, but once you see the game floor for the first time in a season, whether you've been there before or not, the nerves are there, so you never know what you're going to get. And I thought our composure was outstanding, and really our wins this weekend were because of our bench."

CMS will test itself again next weekend when it travels to San Antonio, Texas to participate in Trinity University's tournament on Friday and Saturday, facing four matches in two days (including one against the 12th-ranked hosts) before returning to Roberts Pavilion to host the prestigious East-West Classic on Sept. 14-15.