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CLAREMONT, Calif. - The defending national champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's volleyball team will begin defense of its 2017 crown when it heads to Saint Peter, Minnesota for the NCAA Division III Volleyball regionals, hosted by Gustavus Adolphus, opening up play against Augsburg on Friday.
The winner of the CMS-Augsburg match will advance to the semifinals on Saturday and play the winner between Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Saint Thomas (Minn.). The other half of the eight-team regional includes the host Gusties, Minnesota-Morris, Saint Benedict, and Pacific Lutheran. The two semifinal winners will meet on Sunday for the right to advance to the eight-team nationals, which will be held Nov. 15-17 in Pittsburgh.
CMS (26-3) earned its way into the NCAA field by capturing the automatic bid from the SCIAC with a 3-0 win over Cal Lutheran in the championship match on Saturday at Roberts Pavilion. The Athenas, currently ranked No. 5 in the country, were in solid shape for an at-large bid anyway, but made it official by winning the postseason title for the second year in a row.
Junior setter Phoebe Madsen earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the SCIAC Tournament, adding that honor to her SCIAC Athlete of the Year Award for her efforts during the regular season. She almost had a triple-double in the championship win over Cal Lutheran, finishing with nine digs to go along with 10 kills and 16 assists. Junior libero Sarah Tritschler, one of three team captains along with Madsen and junior hitter Isabelle Taylor, had 20 digs in the finals match as well.
The Athenas will be trying to defend the title with a largely new team. Eight seniors graduated off of last season's team, while Taylor, who started in the postseason, has only seen action in two matches this year due to injury. Madsen and Tritschler have both doubled their roles from three-rotation players to six, with Madsen becoming a full-time setter who sometimes plays right-side hitter and Tritschler moving from a defensive specialist into the libero role. Madsen has 893 assists on the year, to go along with 172 kills (after having four last year) and 61 aces, while Tritschler has 577 digs (5.15 per set).
To fill the void left by last year's graduating class, junior Amanda Walker emerged as an offensive force, tallying 387 kills this year (133 more than her closest teammate). A year ago, Walker saw spot duty off the bench and had 79 kills all season, but began this year earning All-Tournament honors at the Pacific Coast Classic and MVP honors at the Trinity Univeristy Fall Classic.
Meanwhile, sophomore Lucila Grinspan (187 kills and 176 digs) and freshman Jackie Jones (190 kills, 137 digs) settled into their roles on the outside as the season progresses, while sophomore middles Regan Dinovitz and Melanie Moore have been rock-solid after starting last year as freshmen. Dinovitz has averaged over a block per set after returning from an illness that kept her out the first 13 matches, while Moore is hitting a team-high .320 on 2.42 kills per set.
The regional for the Athenas will be a challenging one, as Gustavus Adolphus is ranked No. 8 in the latest AVCA Division III poll, Wisconsin-Eau Claire (15) and Pacific Lutheran (16) are both in the top 20, and Saint Thomas had the third-most votes of teams outside the top 25, essentially ranking it 28th in the nation.
The first step for CMS, though, will be a 22-8 Augsburg team that earned an at-large bid after falling to Gustavus Adolphus 3-2 in the MIAC Semifinals last week. The Augies do not have any opponents in common with the Athenas, and went 7-4 in the MIAC during the regular season.
To view the complete NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament bracket, go to the following link:
NCAA.com Tournament Bracket
CMS Volleyball Heads to Gustavus Adolphus for NCAA Regionals, Opens Friday with Augsburg
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