The entire crowd at Claremont McKenna College’s Roberts Pavilion was on its feet. One more point, and the Athenas would secure their fifth conference title in a row, a first in the SCIAC tournament’s 14-year history. A hum of excitement reverberated across the bleachers. A final kill from Jenna Holmes CM ’24, and the crowd erupted in cheers as the players rushed the court.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps volleyball shut down Pomona-Pitzer 3-0 Saturday night to claim its sixth SCIAC Championship in the past seven years, cementing the program’s legacy as a conference dynasty.
Nevertheless, the Sagehens made the Athenas work for the title. Holding its ground for much of the first set, P-P managed to stay neck-and-neck with CMS until reaching even at 18-18 until a timeout stopped play.
The Athenas came out of the break with great defensive work by Dede Carranza CM ’25, Georgia McGovern CM ’24 and Jackie Jones CM ’23, propelling them to a three-point lead. P-P called another timeout to try to find a way to keep up with the Athenas, but it was futile, as the Athenas went on to claim the opening set 25-20.
While the Athenas did not trail through most of the second set, the Sagehens held close until the scoreboard read 20-19. Errors from both teams made the score 24-21 in favor of CMS, but P-P received an opportunity to even the game at a set apiece when an unforced error and a kill by Kellan Hayes PO ’25 brought it within one point.
The atmosphere in Roberts was tense as the score read 24-23 Athenas, but a missed P-P spike handed CMS the second set.
At this point, the Athenas had lost one set in conference play all season. The Sagehens needed to win three in a row — P-P was in dire straits.
Although the Sagehens put together an early lead at the start of the third set, CMS caught up and did not look back. After establishing a dominant six-point lead (19-13), it was smooth sailing until the final spike from Holmes, which crowned the Athenas as the 2022 SCIAC Champions.
After the match, a presentation on the court honored the victors. The CMS captains accepted the SCIAC champions plaque and a large poster symbolizing them “punching a ticket” to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Carranza earned the SCIAC tournament MVP title.
“I honestly want to shout out all of my team,” Carranza said. “It’s teamwork. I get the ball up, Georgia’s able to assist, Jackie gets the kill … And I feel like tonight, we really connected.”
Head Coach Kurt Vlasich agreed.
“Even though Dede [Carranza] got the tournament MVP, and she’s the heart and soul of the team defensively, it takes six players constantly working together,” he said.
Vlasich also acknowledged the strong effort from P-P, which forced the six Athenas on the court to constantly be on their toes.
“[This was] a really good Pomona-Pitzer team that came out to play tonight and clearly came to try to get their ticket to the NCAAs,” he said. “[I’m] really happy to have a group like ours that can respond and take control.”
McGovern said that the reason the team was able to respond so well that night was the mentality they brought to Roberts.
“I feel like today we brought a different kind of energy to the gym,” she said.
Vlasich said the fans in attendance at the match helped set a celebratory tone.
“It was a great atmosphere in Roberts tonight, and both crowds were awesome,” he said. “It’s always fun to have an environment like that to celebrate a championship.”
The Athenas faced Fontbonne University Thursday at Roberts. Thanks to CMC’s Dean of Students Office, all CMS students were admitted to the game free of charge. They will next face University of Texas Dallas.