Athenas Defeat La Verne in SCIAC Semifinals to Go 3-0 on the Week

After four consecutive 3-0 shutouts, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps volleyball team clinched second place in SCIAC and their second straight appearance in the SCIAC post-season tournament.

Led by the offensive attack of Audrey Breitwieser CM ’16 and Nicole Kerkhof CM ’17, CMS (23-5, 14-2 SCIAC) defeated University of Redlands (3-19, 3-13 SCIAC) 25-20, 25-20, 25-11 on Friday and continued their successful performance Saturday night against Chapman University (8-18, 7-9 SCIAC) to finish with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-13 win.

Against Redlands, Breitwieser garnered a season-high 20 kills and a personal best .562 hitting percentage. She leads her team with a total of 300 kills and is also fifth in the league,which honored her on the first team All-Conference.

Kerkhof had ten kills and 17 digs and was named to the All-Conference second team along with teammate Tanner Hoke CM ’16, who is second in the conference in assists with 595. Sarah Bruml SC ’18 also added six kills and five blocks in the game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Kerkhof said. “We can only go up from here.”

CMS then took care of business Saturday night against Chapman for their final home match and Senior Night. The Athenas honored libero Megan Coleman CM ’15 and outside hitter Regina Mullen CM ’15. Coleman, who was honored as the AVCA Player of the Week last week and the All-Conference first team this week, leads the league in digs per set and total digs with 567. She averaged 20.5 digs in their two matches over the weekend. Mullen, who has been battling a shoulder injury all year, totaled eight kills and six digs. One of her two kills on Senior Night happened to be the match-winning point.

“It was a great win for us going into postseason,” Mullen said. “As the season has progressed, we’ve become more of a cohesive unit. We know each other better, and people understand their roles.”

Kerkhof, who averaged 11 kills and 15.5 digs over the weekend, couldn’t help but agree with Mullen.

“I thought as a team we were really focused,” Kerkhof said. “We knew we had to beat them to get second and to keep our momentum up after our win against Cal Lu.”

Though Mullen has played a very different role this season than she has in years past, she has provided her team with immense support and helped them succeed even though she is not always present on the court.

“It was hard for me to realize I’m going to have a very different role on the team,” Mullen said. “But as a senior I feel that my role has been to help people believe in their abilities and to be confident in themselves. I’m there to make sure they know that they are good.”

She also highlights that the first-years have really stepped up this season. Margaux Arntson CM ’18 is second on the team in kills with 232 and in blocks with 50. Mariah Rigg CM ’18 is fourth on the team in kills with 151 and leads the team with 73 blocks and a .379 hitting percentage (of players with over 10 kills).

The future looks bright for the Athenas, with both the depth of their underclassmen and the momentum they have carried in their last five games since beating California Lutheran University (26-2, 15-1 SCIAC) on Oct. 21. As they roll into the SCIAC tournament, CMS will focus on consistency and keeping their composure when things don’t go as planned.

“Everyone is going to have their best game against us, so we have to play hard,” Mullen said. “We want to go into that gym and make sure they know that it’s our game, and we’re going to dictate the pace and tone of the game.”

The 18th-ranked Athenas did just that when they faced No. 24 University of La Verne (20-5, 12-4 SCIAC) in the first round of the SCIAC playoffs on Thursday, Nov. 6.  After falling to the Leopards in a five-setter in the teams' last matchup, the Athenas dominated La Verne to earn the 3-0 sweep.  With the victory, CMS is now headed to the SCIAC championship game to battle No. 3 Cal Lutheran, who defeated Pomona-Pitzer (19-9, 11-5 SCIAC) with a 3-0 sweep in their semifinal game. CMS squares off against the Regals on Saturday, Nov. 8 at Cal Lutheran.  CMS and CLU have split their two games this season, with CMS winning the most recent rendition in an epic five-set thriller.