As the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s and women’s basketball teams get ready to begin their seasons, the Stags hope some fresh faces will continue their recent SCIAC dominance, while the Athenas return a familiar squad, eager to avenge their loss in the conference title game last season.
The Stags claimed the SCIAC title for the 20th time in the program’s history last year, setting a SCIAC all-time record with 15 conference wins.
After defeating Chapman in the SCIAC postseason semifinal game and Pomona-Pitzer in the finals, CMS received an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs for the second year in a row. However, in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Stags fell to top-ranked Whitman, bringing a historic 17-game winning streak to an end.
This season, the Stags are anticipating another competitive year.
“Our team goals this year are no different then they were the previous year,” Mark Sui CM ’19 said. “We want to win the SCIAC and to compete for a national championship.”
Although the Stags graduated four of their five starters last spring, including first-team All-American Michael Scarlett CM ’18, their hopes for this season remain high. However, if they want to succeed, they will need younger, inexperienced players to step up.
“When you lose four starters, you have a situation where new players have to take on different roles,” CMS head coach Ken Scalmanini said. “I have a lot of guys who are excited about the opportunity to get playing time.”
The Stags’ freshman class, in particular, has a chance to make a huge impact on the program this year. CMS is debuting six first-years: Carter Ingersoll CM ’22, Charles Meng HM ’22, TJ Askew CM ’22, Alec Sinek CM ’22, Luke Webb CM ’22, and Sam Johnson CM ’22.
“The freshman class has fit in wonderfully,” Sui said. “Coach Scalmanini does a great job of recruiting players who are not only athletically talented but also seamless personal fits. They are picking up the offense and defensive schemes particularly quickly.”
Scalmanini noted that his 12 returners have done an excellent job embracing the freshman class and introducing them to the inner workings of the program. He explained that the upperclassmen have become mentors, “not only on the court, but academically and also with professional development.”
The Stags will kick off their season Nov. 17 at the Midway Classic in Chicago, Illinois.
The CMS women’s team is also coming off an incredibly solid 2017-2018 campaign, and they have plenty of reasons to be confident about this season.
The Athenas received the number one seed in the SCIAC tournament after winning the regular season title, and defeated Redlands in the semifinals. However, the Athenas’ double-overtime loss to Chapman in the title game left them just short of the NCAA tournament.
While the Stags will be playing withsome new faces this year, the Athenas will look similar to last year’s team. They only lost two seniors, Kailee Severt CM ’18 and Michelle Lanterman HM ’18, to graduation, as fifth-year senior Corinne Bogle CM ’19 elected to come back for her fifth year of eligibility.
With so many returning players, the Athenas are hopeful for another dominant season and the potential to compete in the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Kristen Dowling said that the team’s goals are to “have a great culture, compete for a SCIAC championship, and a NCAA tournament berth.”
In order to achieve these goals, the CMS women’s team has continued to work on defense and rebounding, what Dowling calls “the trademarks of their program.”
Forward Maya Love CM ’20, the Athenas’ highest returning scorer, added: “We have a lot of energy and quickness that we have been working on to implement more in our plays.”
As for the Athenas’ first-year class, the program has gained five first-year student-athletes: Flora Durgerian CM ’22, Kellie Okamura SC ’22, Jocelyn Song CM ’22, Jane Baldwin CM ’22, and Elizabeth Howell-Egan SC ’22.
All five of these new players will supplement the solid group of returners, Dowling said.
“They are working hard, learning the system, and are great additions to our colleges and program,” she said.
The Athenas will begin play Nov. 16 against Willamette at George Fox in Newberg, Oregon.