CLAREMONT, Calif. – Opening a 2-0 lead in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action at No. 23 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps tonight, the No. 3 Cal Lutheran Regals needed five sets, but were able to claw back for a 3-2 (25-21, 25-19, 15-25, 23-25, 15-13) victory to remain undefeated in league play.
As expected, the match was electric, going to five games before a loud and rowdy CMS crowd tonight inside the Ducey Gymnasium. With a pair of nationally ranked teams, the stat sheet showed as evenly matched offenses as could be. Each team had 57 kills and 54 assists as the Regals and Athenas finished at .157 and .153 hitting percentages, respectively, and both squads had six service aces.
The biggest difference was the defense. Cal Lutheran came up with an incredible 15 total blocks with 28 block assists and one solo stop while CMS was able to connect for just five that included six assists and a pair of solo blocks.
“It was a good test for us playing away against one of the best teams in the SCIAC,” Hayley Tamagni said after the match, “People came off the bench when they were called on and made a huge difference in the game. We are 17 strong and that is why we are able to be as successful as we are.”
Setting the tempo early in the first game, Cal Lutheran used a pair of aces from Jackie Russell on the first serving series to take a 3-0 advantage. A five point run mid-way through the set included a trio of blocks in which Hayley Tamagni and Kylie McLogan teamed up twice and Tamagni joined forces with Pua Mo’okini-Oliveira once to open a 16-9 gap. Though CMS chipped back into the game, it was another block from Mo’okini-Oliveira and Tamagni that got the Regals to 24 points before McLogan put down her fourth kill of the game to end things at 25-21.
The second set was clearly controlled by Cal Lutheran as the Violet and Gold opened a nine point advantage at 13-4 early and led by as many as 10 points in a 25-19 victory.
Unfortunately for CLU the momentum shifted in the third and fourth games as CMS stole a pair. After the Athenas cruised to a 25-15 third set, each team held five points advantages in the fourth frame and the Regals staged a comeback down the stretch with four unanswered points on kills from McLogan, Tamagni and Allie Eason to pull within one at 22-21. Again the Regals trailed by just a single point at 24-23, but Nicole Kerkhof sealed the win for CMS on the final swing of the fourth game to send the teams to a tiebreaker.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps won the coin toss and served first. The teams exchanged points and were knotted four times. The final tie, 11-11, was broken by a CMS service error before the teams exchanged attacking errors. Eason made all the difference in the end, earning the final two kills of the game to lock up the win for CLU.
When things got tough for the Regals they remained focused.
“We really believed in ourselves tonight,” Tamagni concluded, “And we never had a losing mentality.”
Overall, McLogan finished with a team-high 15 kills, adding 13 digs for a double-double. Eason also had one with a 12-kill, 15-dig performance. Russell set the ball 39 times while Jena Chavez tallied nine and Russell finished with four aces. Tamagni was dually effective tonight with nine kills and nine block assists with one solo stop. Caitlin Fransen had five kills as a reserve.
Nicki Tetherow led the Regals with 23 digs and Mo’okini-Oliveira added 11 as the fourth CLU player in double figure digs. She was also second with five block assists and chipped in with six kills. McLogan and Lauren Rohach both had four block assists and Rohach recorded six kills as well.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (21-4, 9-4 SCIAC) was paced by 24 kills from Kerkhof. Hilary Bruegl had 48 assists and 14 digs and Megan Coleman and Arianna Sifuentes had 28 and 21 digs, respectively.
Cal Lutheran (23-1, 12-0 SCIAC) is back on the court tomorrow for the final non-conference match of the regular season against UC Santa Cruz at 3:00 p.m. followed by a SCIAC showdown with Redlands at 6:00 p.m. in the Gilbert Arena.