Having steamrolled their interconference competition thus far, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s volleyball team yet again exerted their dominance against Chapman last Friday, sweeping the Panthers 3-0.
With an injury to starting libero Makenna Fall CM ’22 a couple matches ago, Dede Carranza CM ’25 served as an excellent replacement against Chapman, racking up a career-high 25 digs.
Despite “having big shoes to fill,” Carranza said she was more focused on “lead[ing] her team to victory.”
“There’s definitely a lot of support from all the girls on the team, the coaches as well,” she said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of pressure in the past [during] my club years, so if my team needs me, I’m gonna step in and do the best I can for them and I’m excited to.”
On the offensive side of the ball, outside hitters Jackie Jones CM ’22 and Jenna Holmes CM ’24 led the way for the Athenas by recording 13 and 12 kills respectively. Right-side hitter Melanie Williams CM ’22 also had an impressive performance, posting 7 kills on an efficient .333 hitting clip.
In the first set, CMS came ready to play and quickly jumped out to a huge lead, starting the match off with a 10-2 scoring run. With the offense communicating smoothly and the defense producing strong blocks, the Athenas seemed in control to win the first frame comfortably, building on a Spencer Hagenbuch CM ’23 ace to jump out to a 12-4 start.
But after a splendid start, CMS lost momentum with a series of mistakes. With the Panthers pulling as close as 19-17, the Athenas regrouped and worked together to win the first set 25-20, capped off by a kill from Williams.
Following the break, the two teams traded blows to begin the second set, knotted at 6-7 at one point in favor of CMS. But using low and quick sets, the Athena outside hitters generated strong kills against a hopeless Panther defense, breaking out an 11-5 scoring run to extend their lead to seven points.
As the momentum swung, Carranza shone with her stellar defensive play. She constantly dug out tough spikes from any threats the Chapman offense posed, serving as the main factor behind many of CMS’ scoring opportunities.
“Dede had this one-armed dig where she fully dove out four or five feet and got it,” Williams said after the game. “That was so exciting and the bench and I got so crazy over that.”
Throughout the remainder of the set, the Athenas continued to boast high-energy plays and great communication. The team closed out the second set 25-16, winning it on a joint block by middle blocker Kelsey Polhemus CM ’25 and right-outside hitter Summer Ellis CM ’23.
The final set began similarly to the opening frame, with CMS eliciting errors from the Chapman offensive side with well-timed blocks while generating quick kills. This led to the Athenas producing an 11-6 scoring run to take an early lead.
Despite falling back early again, the Panthers fought hard to stay in the game and stormed back, earning their first lead of the night at 16-15. Fighting against the pressure, CMS instantly responded with Hagenbuch and Audrey Sawyer CM ’25, who spiked down consecutive kills to take back the lead at 18-16.
With this tight back-and-forth play, both teams refused to let their guard down late in the set, eventually leading to a 20-20 stalemate. However, the Athenas pulled through and ended the match on a 5-0 scoring run to capture the third set point, featuring crucial saves from Holmes and Carranza and kills from Jones and McGovern.
In their following match against Pomona-Pitzer, the Athenas again proved victorious by sweeping the Sagehens 3-0. Jumping out to an early 10-1 lead in the first set, CMS again struggled to maintain their composure in the middle of the frame, allowing P-P to come back and set the score at 16-15.
After a quick timeout, however, the Athenas pushed through and earned the first set point after numerous deuces, winning 28-26. CMS used this momentum to thoroughly dominate P-P for the remainder of the match, comfortably edging out the Sagehens by double-digit margins in the final two frames.
On Tuesday, the Athenas cruised through La Verne and won each set by a comfortable margin, featuring a balanced offense involving four players with eight or more kills. After easily winning the first set, CMS came back from early deficits in the second and third sets via building momentum with timely service aces and kills.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, Carranza and Williams emphasized how the supportive environment the Athenas have created will carry them through the year. Regardless of the team’s outstanding record, however, the women are always looking to improve.
“We’re always thinking; ‘what happened in that scoring run; what could we have done better,’” Williams said. “We’re always working to improve ourselves as a team and continue to think about the next game.”
In the end, the ultimate goal is to win the national championship.
“This team is athletic, dynamic and young, and just a smart team,” Williams said. “We all love each other and like to work for each other — it’s gonna be really exciting.”
With these wins, the Athenas have improved their record to 9-0 within SCIAC competition and 16-0 overall, having not conceded a set loss to their opponents since Sept. 11.
CMS will next face Cal Lutheran on the road tonight, Oct. 15.