No. 1 Athenas volleyball triumphs over Sagehens in Sixth Street rivalry

Grace Fan PO ’23 prepares to block a spike from Cal Lutheran as Paige Wilson PO ’24 looks on.

Fans from both sides of Sixth Street crowded into Roberts Pavilion Saturday afternoon to cheer on their respective teams in the rivalry women’s volleyball match. 

The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas defended their home court against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, with the No. 1 ranked Athenas coming out on top, winning three sets to none. 

The first set began relatively evenly, with Pomona-Pitzer marking the first point of the game. Both teams stayed within one point of each other until the score read 5-4, after which the Athenas remained at least two points ahead of the Sagehens for the rest of the set. Though solid blocks from the Sagehens presented challenges for the Athenas, CMS’s lead climbed to 17-10. 

Not giving up without a fight, the Sagehens started closing the gap. Only two points separated the teams after a combination of unsuccessful CMS serves and successful P-P blocks put the scoreboard at 19-17. 

However, the Athenas reestablished a clear lead, eventually elevating their lead to 21-17. P-P scored one more point after a poor serve from CMS, but the first set ended 25-18 in favor of the Athenas.

In the second set, CMS took the lead on the scoreboard early on with the help of strong spikes from Izzy Sakoda CM ’23, Audrey Sawyer CM ’25 and Brenna Bell CM ’25. 

CMS Coach Kurt Vlasich said Sakoda had an exceptionally strong performance.

“I thought [she] played a very special match, doing all things well,” Vlasich said. “She passed well, hit outstandingly and her blocking was the best I’ve seen from her.”

After the Athenas established a six-point lead (8-2), P-P called a timeout, after which they began to come back. A kill and a block from Chloe Gill PO ’25 as well as two CMS errors put the Sagehens within two points of the Athenas at 8-6. More spikes from Bell and Jenna Holmes CM ’24 put the Athenas ahead 10-7, but a series of good defensive moves from P-P, particularly from Lauren Asato PO ’23, kept the Sagehens on the Athenas’ tail (10-9).  

The Sagehens coaching staff said they were impressed with Asato’s defensive performance.

“Asato did a great job for us defensively,” P-P head coach Valerie Townsend said. “We continually benefit from her leadership.”

When the score reached 19-13 in favor of CMS, P-P called another timeout. After the break, Sawyer made a kill to give the Athenas a seven-point lead once again (20-13). Out-of-bounds serves from both teams made the score 21-14. With the help of a pair of spikes from Laurel Park PZ ’23, the Sagehens then scored four points in a row. But three P-P errors later, the Athenas were ahead 24-18, and the second set finished 25-18 after a great serve by Sakoda. 

The beginning of the third set was the most evenly matched period of the game. 

Scoring the first point, P-P stayed within three or four points of CMS until the board read 12-7 in favor of the Athenas. Both teams’ points kept climbing, but spikes from Sakoda and Holmes gave CMS a six-point lead at 16-9, after which P-P called their third timeout. When play resumed, the Athenas climbed up to a 10-point lead (20-10) with the help of a strong block and spike from Bell, and P-P asked for another timeout. 

The third set finished with a thirteen-point lead for CMS (25-12), their highest of the game.

Kellan Hayes PO ’25 said she was pleased with the way the team played and is looking forward to playing the Athenas again on Oct. 22. 

“They [CMS] are a skilled team, and I think we played well against them,” she said. “Obviously, it would have been nice to win, but I’m looking forward to playing them again later this month.”

The match marks the Athenas’ 18th win of the season and 8th SCIAC win, continuing to cement their spot at the top of the NCAA Division III rankings. For the Sagehens, the match marked their 16th game of the season and their third SCIAC loss.

Bell said the Athenas’ success was especially important because it marked the halfway point in SCIAC competition for the season.

“For us, this is a special match, yes because it’s the cross-street rivalry, but also because this [is] the halfway point in the conference,” Bell said. “This win helps us to fully establish our position in first place for conference now that we have played everyone once.”

Vlasich hopes the 5C community appreciates the competition in games like Saturday’s.

“I hope the people in and around these campuses appreciate what is going on,” he said. “You have two great volleyball teams right now. It makes matches like Saturday even more special. We are lucky to be able to compete at such a high level in front of a great community here at the 5Cs.”

Gill believes that when CMS and P-P face each other later this season in a P-P home match, the Sagehens will be able to set a different tone. 

“It will be awesome to have fans come and support us,” she said. “Having the stands packed with Pomona-Pitzer fans truly makes a difference in the way that we play.”

Both teams play tonight at 7 p.m., with the Athenas taking on Cal Lutheran at Roberts and the Sagehens battling Occidental at home.

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