Athenas Fight for Historic Win at Texas NCAA Tournament

Although their season may have come to a close, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s basketball team (23-6, 15-1 SCIAC) could not be more proud of such a successful year. After yet another first-place SCIAC title, the Athenas advanced to the NCAA tournament at the University of Texas at Tyler on Mar. 4 and 5. A loss in Round two of the tournament sent them home, but their win on Friday against Trinity University was the Athenas’ first NCAA win since 1996—the year many of the athletes were born.

Even more impressive was that it was the Athenas’ first time beating a non-SCIAC team at the NCAA tournament, since their win in 1996 was against a team from their own conference. History was made.

This is an incredible accomplishment for fifteen strong, talented women who have had an incredible season. They began to see the payoff of all their hard work in the SCIAC conference at the start of 2016, where they went 15-1. Their only loss came from their last game against University of Redlands, and it was a tight game. Kylie Au SC '18 was not too dismayed by this loss, though.

“It helped take some of the pressure off our backs. It’s amazing to go into NCAA undefeated, but it would have been a lot more stressful,” Au said.

Last season, the Athenas went undefeated in the SCIAC conference, and felt like they had a huge target on their back going into the First Round of NCAA. This year, they went into their first game in Texas against Trinity (Tex.) (22-6, 11-3 Conf.) feeling confident and motivated to fight even harder to move on to the next round.

“We were determined to beat the crap out of them in our first game. And even though it ended up being kind of a close game, maybe closer than it should have been, we ended with a victory,” said Au. The Athenas won 63-57, so it got pretty tight at the end, but the historic win kept them alive for another game.

They went into the second round of the NCAA tournament energized and ready to take on the host team, UT-Tyler (29-1, 15-0 Conf.). However, without home court advantage, they faltered in the second half and lost their edge. UT-Tyler was a tough, powerful team, and the Athenas lost 80-58 on Saturday, Mar. 5.

Though the post-game locker room was filled with emotion and fatigue, the team rallied and reflected on the experience with pride, and celebrated a successful season together. The team returned to Claremont on Sunday, exhausted, proud, and is already looking ahead to another great season in 2017.

If (or rather, when) the Athenas win yet another SCIAC title next year and progress to the NCAA tournament, the seniors on the team will have celebrated SCIAC titles for all four years in college. They hope they can build on this year’s successes, and make history once more with not one, but two wins in the NCAA tournament when they return to the tournament next March. 

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