Athenas spike their way through two national upsets, boost ranking to No. 2

Two women's volleyball teams play on a court.
The CMS women’s volleyball team won against Emory and Trinity Sept. 11. (Courtesy: CMS Athenas)

Heading into Saturday, the No. 6 ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps volleyball team faced the daunting task of squaring off against the top two ranked Division III teams in Trinity (Texas) and Emory, listed at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.  

But the Athenas completely flipped the script, pulling off two upset victories on the same day to hand the Trinity Tigers their first loss of the season. Emory, meanwhile, lost two of their last three games and fell to a record of 6-2

CMS primarily rallied behind the efforts of star outside hitter Jackie Jones CM ’22, who averaged a standout .461 hitting percentage. Right-side hitter Melanie Williams CM ’22 was also a major contributing factor, racking up 28 kills and 30.5 points for the Athenas within the two matches. 

Against the Tigers, the women found themselves fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. After finding themselves down 8-2 within the opening moments of the match, CMS never quite recovered from their early deficit, folding the first set to their opponent 25-17. 

However, after the break, the Athenas came onto the floor with a fresh mentality and staged a 7-0 scoring run to kick off the second period, shifting momentum to their side. Behind Williams, CMS pushed through their early woes and won the second set 25-19.  

The third set featured another rocky obstacle, with Trinity taking an 11-4 lead early in the phase. CMS climbed back into the picture and bounced back behind the key blocks and kills of middle blocker Kelsey Polhemus CM ’25 and right-side hitter Summer Ellis CM ’23. 

The final period consisted of a back-and-forth affair, with both teams neck-and-neck throughout the entire set. Both teams knotted at 22 apiece, the Athenas pushed themselves over the hump with a key kill by Jones and a game-clinching block by Williams and Dani Beder CM ’24, sealing the deal by a final score of 3-1. 

Immediately following their impressive victory, the Athenas took on the Emory Eagles. The opening set featured the exchanges of mini-runs between the two teams until CMS broke away with a 9-2 run to close out the period, winning 25-18. 

After the Eagles stormed back with a 10-3 run within the second period to even up the sets at one apiece, the Athenas countered with an even more dominant third set. Mostly behind the kills of Jones and Ellis, CMS blew out Emory 25-13, instantly diminishing the chances of any Eagles comeback.

With all the momentum on Athenas’ side, the women quickly built a nine-point lead in the final quarter. Despite some resistance from the Eagles in the form of a 6-0 run, Jones capped off her stellar afternoon by producing three of the final four kills in the game, allowing CMS to defeat Emory 3-1. 

With these wins under their belt, the Athenas remain undefeated in their campaign this year and have bolstered their national rank to No. 2

The women’s next game is against an inter-conference rival in Whittier on Tuesday, Sept. 21. 

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