The Pomona-Pitzer volleyball team lost in three sets to rival CMS on Tuesday night. The Sagehens had stretches of strong play in what was generally an even match, but the Athenas’ consistency gave them the victory.
The Sagehens knew going in that this match would be critical for their conference hopes. CMS was coming off an upset of Occidental that created a three-way tie for second behind Cal Lutheran. For the Sagehens, a win over their Sixth Street neighbors would allow them to make up a crucial game in the conference standings, and hopefully give them some momentum heading into the final fortnight of conference play.
The Sagehens spotted CMS a quick lead to begin the match, something that has been a problem this year for the Hens. After dropping the first set 16-25, the Sagehens regrouped and came out much sharper in the second set. After CMS took a 16-12 lead, the Sagehens brought it back to 20-20, then took advantage of two big kills by Jordan Hammond PO ’12 and a perfectly placed mis-hit by Ellen Yamasaki PZ ’15 to have a set-point at 25-24.
The Sagehens held the CMS attack to a .113 hitting percentage in the second set, down from .311 in the first. However, they were unable to maintain this strong play. A miscommunication error between defensive specialist Lauren Kim PO ’13 and libero Heidi Leonard PO ’12 resulted in a service ace for the Athenas as they rolled off three consecutive points to take the second set, 27-25. The momentum from their late charge carried over, and CMS took the third set 25-11.
Along the way, coach Valerie Cowan picked up a yellow card arguing with the referee over a disputed call that went against the Sagehens.
“He called a lift. It wasn’t a lift,” Cowan said.
The Sagehens hit just .010 from the field, well behind the Athenas’ .227. They were unable to match a strong CMS attack, managing only five kills in the first set against 20 by CMS. Hammond led the Sagehens with eight kills, and Rachel Bollens PO ’13 had six kills and only two errors. Leonard led the Sagehens with 12 digs, and Erin Toothaker PO ’13 led all players with five blocks.
The Sagehens’ struggles at closing out sets may be related to their recent lack of success. They’ve now lost five straight, four to conference teams. “We’re just having some problems getting the win. We need to block out everything else and play our game,” Cowan said.
The loss dropped the Sagehens to 5-14 overall, 3-6 in the SCIAC. With five conference matches remaining, the Sagehens know that they face an uphill battle to be one of the top four seeds in the conference.
The Sagehens will try to get back to their winning ways with a busy weekend. They host conference foe Whittier and NYU at home on Friday, then host Chapman and travel to Caltech on Saturday.