Following their gut-wrenching thriller against Redlands on Friday—capped off with a 17-15 extra-point finish to the fifth and final game—Pomona-Pitzer found themselves back in action Tuesday night against rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Yet, the Sagehens were unable to continue their magical run and quickly fell 3-0 to the Athenas. Through three games of highly contested volleyball and brutally athletic rallies, CMS prevailed with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-20 victory.
From the onset, it was clear that this was no normal match for the Sagehens. With a hefty and vocal crowd full of the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) Sports Committee-sponsored free pizza and soda, the atmosphere was electric inside Voelkel Gymnasium from the very first point. P-P was disadvantaged from the start, missing top-scorer Michelle Schultz PO ’16 due to an injury in practice earlier in the day. Despite her crucial absence in Tuesday’s match, Schultz’s strong play throughout the season has guided the Hens to many victories, and she leads the cumulative stats board with 167 kills. Doing what she could from the bench, Schultz successfully motivated her teammates through the three games and kept them focused as the match became more intense.
The Sagehens started strong, bursting out to a 7-3 lead through incredible defensive plays. Unfortunately, this lead would not hold for long, as CMS quickly brought the score to eight points apiece. Especially in the first game, CMS rallied behind Bennett Jones CM ’14, who netted five kills in the first game and finished with six. As the game continued, the Sagehens found no answers for the onslaught of kills that CMS accumulated, and they frequently found themselves diving for balls off of Athena spikes. After exploiting the weaknesses of the Sagehens, CMS jumped out to a 16-10 lead before battling for the 25-17 advantage to end the first set.
Finally able to settle into the match, P-P came out to play in the second game. Between frequent shifts of momentum—the Sagehens jumped out to a 5-1 lead before the Athenas countered—both teams battled through grueling rallies across the net. CMS never let up on offense, often spiking the ball straight through the Sagehen defense. Regina Mullen CM ‘13 and Megan Richman CM ‘14 both amassed 11 kills to lead CMS. On many occasions, Sagehen libero Lauren “Kimmy” Kim PO ’13 found herself diving around on the floor in attempts to track down balls and keep P-P in the point. Her efforts resulted in 16 digs, leading both teams. After a particularly long point complete with incredible gets by both teams, the Sagehens netted a kill to come within one at 19-18. However, such tight points proved to be ephemeral, and CMS dominated to win the second set 25-20 as the ball tipped over the net.
In the absence of Schultz, someone for the Sagehens would have to step up in order to fill her monumental void in the P-P offense. As the match progressed, it became clearer and clearer that Ellen Yamasaki PZ ’15 would fit almost perfectly into this position. Putting the team on her back, Yamasaki collected 14 kills throughout the match, an incredible 10 more than any other Sagehen. Whenever CMS ran out to a big lead, Yamasaki was able put the ball away in order to keep the Sagehens within striking distance from the Athenas. This season, Yamasaki has played an essential offensive role for the Sagehens as she has had 157 kills thus far. Depending on the severity of Michelle Schultz’s injury, P-P will most certainly need Yamasaki to continue her strong offensive dominance if they are going to mount some wins throughout the remainder of the season.
The third game began much like the second, with shifts in momentum keeping the score relatively close. Unable to match the offensive tenacity of CMS, the Sagehens quickly fell into a 17-12 hole. With numerous kills by Yamasaki and athletic digs by Kim, the Sagehens mounted their final comeback of the match to pull within two points at 21-19. With the crowd roaring and providing energy for P-P to steal the game from CMS, the Sagehens faltered and the Athenas capitalized on a missed serve to claim a 25-20 victory.
Despite their tough loss, the Sagehens have much to take away as they move forward in their season. For much of the match, P-P never let CMS accrue too large of a lead, and in only the last few minutes of each game did the Athenas actually pull away to claim victory. The Sagehens play at home against La Verne on Friday before travelling to Whittier on Saturday and Cal Lutheran on Tuesday.