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Athenas Go 2-2 Against Tough Competition in the Cal Lutheran/Redlands Tournament

CMS beat Chapman University for the second time this season at the Cal Lutheran/Redlands tournament in Thousand Oaks Friday afternoon. The Athenas came out in their strongest effort of the season, quickly establishing the offense and pulling ahead in the opening points by a margin of 6. The Panthers struggled to fall into rhythm, despite the valiant setting effort of freshman, Kat Kowalski, and Chapman dropped the first 2 games of the match, 30-20, 30-16 before rallying behind the play of sophomore libero, Linda Ly to challenge the CMS team and win game 3. Aggressive serving by the Athenas in game four resulted in an early lead that the team maintained to close out the match 30-23. Setter Alex Harrison (Jr. CMC, Tucson AZ) dished out 43 assists, connecting well with middle blockers, Camille Butts (Sr. SCR, Ontario CA) and Helena Bottemiller (Jr. CMC, Burien WA). Each contributed 10 kills and had a piece of 6 blocks to pace the Athenas, while freshman outside hitter Kendra Huff (CMC, Downey CA) added 13 kills and hit .343 in the effort. Senior co-captain Alicia Freeman (CMC, Santa Barbara CA) was excellent defensively, contributing 19 digs in addition to her 12 kills. Greer Donley recorded 8 digs of her own as the libero. With the win, the Athenas improved to 4-2 on the season.

In the Athenas' second match of the tournament, the team faced NAIA opponent, The Master's College. Evenly matched, both teams played well in game 1, the CMS team starting strong at the net, picking up 5 blocks in that game alone, just edging out the Mustangs, 30-28. Game 2 was fought much the same way, with CMS improving both its hitting percentage (.300) and number of blocks (7), but The Master's College team performed equally and flipped the final to even the game score at 1 apiece. Game 3 was a long battle, neither team pulling ahead by more than 3 points. CMS captured a 31-30 lead on a service error by The Master's College, but failed to convert on game point and with the score tied at 32, two solid Mustang swings cost CMS the game 32-34. Fatigued and with momentum in favor of the Mustangs, the Athenas slipped behind early in game 4, and never recovered, hitting .000 to drop the final game of the match 20-30. Kendra Huff had 8 kills with only a single hitting error in the match, while Helena Bottemiller led the Athenas in kills with 9 and had a hand in 7 blocks. Alicia Freeman was again outstanding defensively, with 23 digs, averaging over 5 digs/game for the day. Setter Kristine Grigsby (Jr. CMC, Issaquah WA) had 44 assists.

CMS faced nationally ranked Cal State East Bay in its first match in the final day of the Cal Lu/Redlands Invitational Saturday afternoon. The Athenas' serve receive was outstanding in games 1 and 2, but a tough CSUEB block and poor hitting performances by CMS resulted in numerous attacking errors, holding them to a meager .057 hitting percentage in game 2.  The Athenas fell 24-30, 24-30 in both games. Camille Butts was the only CMS member to hit above .200; she had 10 kills in19 attempts, no errors. As a team, the Athenas had just 33 kills overall. Alicia Freeman again led the defensive effort with 11 digs, but the consistent CSUEB team simply outplayed the Athenas and captured the match in 3 games, the third score, 25-30.

The last match of the tournament paired CMS with UC Santa Cruz. CMS looked sluggish in the start, allowing strings of points to the Santa Cruz team. The Athenas slipped behind in both of the first games, falling 25-30, 15-30 before the team rallied behind senior outside hitters Alicia Freeman and Lindsay Hull (CMC, Phoenix AZ) to fight back. Down 22-27, CMS went on a 6 point run on Freeman's serve to go ahead a point. They allowed Santa Cruz one more point, before a Santa Cruz error and an Athenas' kill resulted in a slim margin of victory, 30-28. The shift in momentum was clear and with renewed energy, the CMS team took the floor in game 4 with a decisive 30-23 win, forcing a fifth and final game. Game 5 was all CMS. The team allowed just 4 points to the defeated Santa Cruz team. Camille Butts had 5 block assists and hit .789 in the match with 17 kills off setter Alex Harrison (54 assists and 9 digs) to lead the offense. Despite a sore shoulder, Lindsay Hull had 13 kills, and put away the final ball to win the match 15-4. The Athenas finish the pre-season 5-3 in NCAA play and will compete at Whittier College Tuesday night in their Conference opener.