CMS tricks and treats Caltech to a Halloween sweep

Izzy Sakoda prepares to volley the ball
Izzy Sakoda digs deep to keep the sweep of Cal-Tech alive. Courtesy: CMS Athletics

The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) women’s volleyball team got out their magic brooms for a Halloween 3-0 sweep of Caltech. The spookily successful performance from the Athenas scared the Beavers right out of Roberts Pavilion on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and sent them home with a ghostly L.

This graveyard smash from the Athenas was thanks to dominant performances by Georgia McGovern CM ’24 and Jenna Holmes CM ’24. The win puts the Athenas at the top of the SCIAC with a 12-2 in-conference record.

At the beginning of the first set, CMS came out strong, scoring the first point of the game off of a hit from Holmes, the first of many from her in the game. However, a series of unfortunate bounces set the Athenas back early, keeping the score close for the first 10 points. The two teams continued to trade points back and forth before the Athenas went on a 7 to 1 scoring tear. Finishing with a McGovern ace and a block by Lauren Parker HM ’25 and Holmes, the Athenas forced a Caltech timeout as the scoreboard read 14-8.

Out of the break, the Athenas’ dominance continued. Four quick points forced Caltech to take yet another timeout. However, the break was not the solution for the Beavers as the Athenas continued their scoring streak and finished the set with a decisive 25-10 win.

The dominant first set came on the back of Holmes, who had 6 of her 15 kills in the first set. She attributed her performance to her headspace leading up to the game.

“I really tried to get into the game throughout my day … I think it really worked and helped me get into that mental space right off in the first set,” Holmes said.

Despite tyrannizing the first set, the second started off slow for the Athenas. They struggled to finish points early on, trading off with the Beavers up to 12 apiece. However, just like before, CMS began to pull ahead and scored three in a row to make the game 15-12, forcing Caltech to use their third timeout.

After the pause, Caltech prevented the Athenas from expanding their lead to more than three. Nevertheless, the Beavers couldn’t hold back the Athenas for long and the dam broke, allowing CMS to get up to 19 points. Despite that, the Beavers were not going down without a fight, narrowing the lead to two with a 5-2 run. Still, even this wasn’t enough and CMS came through to score four in a row and close the set 25-19.

In the third set, CMS started off shakey with a series of misplaced hits keeping the Beaver’s hopes that they could extend the game. But just like in the previous two, the Athenas finished the third set stronger than they started. A big ace from McGovern sent Caltech into yet another timeout with the scoreboard reading 13-9. This ace was the clear turning point of the final set, but despite its significance, McGovern stayed cool, calm and collected.

“I was treating it like any other serve,” McGovern said.

Following the timeout, the Beavers had no answer for the onslaught from the Athenas. CMS licked their lips as they finished off the game with yet another clean sweep, ending the third and final set 25-16.

McGovern’s command over the game was on full display with a team-leading 33 assists. However, despite her stellar individual performance, McGovern emphasized the importance of her team’s depth offensively. She said that one effective CMS strategy is utilizing all of their players to throw off their opponents.

“It’s all about balance,” McGovern said. “The more you balance the offense, the less likely that other teams are going to know what you’re doing. And the more you involve everyone, just the better everyone plays.”

This focus and balance was clear for any spectator. According to head coach Kurt Vlasich, even on a holiday his team remained frighteningly focused. When talking about game planning for a strong defensive team like Caltech, he emphasized the importance of the little things.

“I was proud of just talking about little things like our middles swinging deeper into the corners instead of trying to just bounce balls,” Vlasich said.

The Athenas will play away against Chapman at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3. This will be the penultimate game of the regular season against the sixth-ranked Panthers. A win against Chapman would cement CMS’ stranglehold on first in the SCIAC going into the playoffs.

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