With the CMS volleyball team clinging to a 24-21 lead over California Lutheran University on Saturday, Nov. 7, outside hitter Shelbi Stein CM ’18 knew the importance of getting that last point. As fellow outside hitter Nicole Kerkhof CM ’17 set her during an out-of-system play, she remembered that beating Cal Lutheran was more about the strategy than getting the kill.
Because of Cal Lutheran’s strong offensive blockers, Stein knew that hitting the ball would likely lead to a touch or a block and would force her teammates to play out the point. Instead, she played smart and tipped the ball over the block, forcing the Regal defense to scramble in an attempt to recover the ball. The Regals dove for it, but it was too late. The ball dropped before the CLU libero could reach it, ending the set. Stein’s kill helped CMS win the first set in their three-game sweep against Cal Lutheran to capture the SCIAC Postseason Tournament Championship.
In its two previous run-ins with Cal Lutheran, CMS lost its first match 3-0 before redeeming themselves at home in a nail-biting 3-2 win.
“The match on Saturday was a redemption match,” Stein said. “We knew we were capable of beating them, and we knew we were the better team, but we just hadn’t shown it yet. We really just won because we stuck to the game plan and we kept our cool. We showed up ready to play and ready to show them who the real champions were, and walked out with a victory.”
CMS played a clean, consistent match to triumph over Cal Lutheran 25-21, 25-20, 25-19. Stein credited the team’s victory to their minimal errors and mental stamina.
“There weren’t any points of doubt where we thought we were letting the match slip away, so there wasn’t really a need for a momentum shift, just because we had confidence in what we were doing and our ability to execute,” she said.
In addition to Stein’s 13 kills and five digs, outside hitter Crystal Anderson CM ’18 helped the Athenas conquer Cal Lutheran with 12 kills and five digs. In addition, libero Mikena Werner SC ’18 and Kerkhof held down CMS’s defense with 19 and 13 digs, respectively. Stein believed the Athenas ultimately got the win because of their teamwork: Each player rose to the occasion, communicated and contributed to the victory.
“When you have a win like that, everybody contributes a lot,” Stein added. “No one is slacking. Everyone has to be on the same page about it.”
The match not only crowned CMS the SCIAC postseason champions, it also gave the Athenas an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament beginning Friday, Nov. 13. The Athenas will face off against Southwestern University, a team from Texas that defeated CMS 3-2 earlier this season.
“We know that they’re a good team, and we know they’re going to put up a fight, but we feel pretty confident in our ability to do the same,” Stein said. “If we play anything like we did against Cal Lu, we should be on our way to the semi-finals.”