GEORGETOWN - In a match that could be seen in a Final Four or National Championship setting, the No. 5 ranked and No. 3 seeded Southwestern Pirates met the No. 6 ranked and No. 2 seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas on Saturday evening at the Robertson Center in the semifinals on the NCAA Georgetown Regional.
On this night, the Athenas size paired with an incredible defensive effort was just a little too much for the Pirates as they fell in four sets.
"Ultimately, we took good cuts and did good things, we just got beat by a better team tonight," said Head Coach Don Flora following the match. "They played a little better in crunch time moments."
The Athenas hit .271 as a team to Southwestern's .206. CMS had eight service aces along with 9.0 blocks. Southwestern committed 23 errors in the match to go with 57 kills.
Similar to last night, the Pirates came hot, jumping out to a 6-2 lead and eventually increasing that lead to 15-9. The Pirates kept CMS in check and eventually pushed their lead to eight points at 21-13.
The Athenas stormed back, moving within one point at 24-23, but a kill by senior Kate Mitchell, who had eight kills in the first set alone, gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Despite Southwestern taking an 8-6 lead in the second, CMS began to take control of the set, winning 11 of the next 13 points to storm ahead 17-10 and eventually win the set, 25-20, despite a great effort to get back into the match by the Pirates.
It looked like more of the same in the third set as CMS took a 23-17 lead. However, Southwestern exploded for five straight points to cut the deficit to one. The Athenas set up set point, but a kill by senior Piper Sisemore followed by a block by Sisemore and freshman Maya Clausen evened the score at 24 and re-energized the Robertson Center crowd.
Sisemore followed that with a kill and suddenly it was Southwestern with the set point, leading 25-24. However, the Athenas remained composed and won the next three points to take back all of the momentum and take a 2-1 lead.
"The match hinges on such a great battle in the third set," said Flora. "We always talk about the small things and how the little thing will make a difference."
That momentum carried over to the fourth set as it was all CMS as they pulled away and won the set (25-14) and the match in four sets.
Mitchell was unbelievable, finishing with 22 kills on .385 hitting. Sophomore Brittany Hohlt added nine kills while junior Jamison Duck had eight. Sisemore had seven kills while junior Megan Grimes had 45 assists.
Defensively, junior Brandi Campos was outstanding all match with 22 digs while Grimes added 19. Hohlt finished with four block assists while Sisemore had three and Mitchell and Duck had two.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps moves to the Regional Final where they will take on top-ranked Colorado College tomorrow at 12 PM. The Tigers defeated Pacific Lutheran in a five set thriller in the earlier match.
The Pirates conclude another outstanding season with a 30-6 record. Five of the six matches lost were to team ranked in the Top 6 with four matches coming down to five sets and two finishing in four.
"We competed toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country all season," said Flora. "It's a really key thing for staff to watch a team believe in each other, and believe in the process, and believe in our culture that is ascending to being a national perrineil team. I think we proved that this year."