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Battle-tested CHS volleyball ready for league

Already down two sets to none and facing a seven-point deficit in the third, Claremont boys volleyball coach Bernie Wendling called a time out.

“They want to embarrass us in our house, and no one embarrasses in our house,” he told his team. And it must have worked, because the boys not only climbed out of that hole, but went on to win the set, 26-24.

See action video from Wednesday's game

Alas, it was not enough, as visiting Fountain Valley went on to take the fourth and final set for the 3-1 win (25-23, 25-22, 24-26, 25-21). It’s always tough to lose, however, division 3 Claremont can take solace in how close each set was against division 2 Barons.

Senior Gilad Bechor had a pretty good night, with 16 kills from 36 opportunities and three errors. Sophomore Mathew Miller did great on passing, with a setting score of 2.5 (a score of three would indicate zero setting errors).

Unfortunately, much of Claremont’s pain was self inflicted as the boys lost points to unforced errors such as failing to rotate positions, or serving into the net. The good news is that these flaws can be fixed in the future.

“The officials are pretty sharp and they caught us out of rotation, but that is just a mental lapse for that moment,” Coach Wendling said. “We are learning how to battle and that will sustain us and give us momentum as we go into league.”

Coach Wendling said half of the team was on JV last year so inexperience may be a factor. However, now that the boys are mostly through preseason, that is no longer a good excuse.

It has been a rough month for the Wolfpack with a 4-11 early season record. However, that slow start does not tell the whole story as Coach Wendling scheduled the boys in two tough Orange County tournaments, the Foothill two weeks ago and the OC Championships last weekend. During those tournaments, Claremont faced defending CIF champion Downey on February 28 and nationally-ranked Corona del Mar on March 1.

South Orange County is the elite locale for high school volleyball so it is the perfect place to get a team in shape.

“We have been battle tested and they showed a lot of heart. We went down to Orange County and got beat up by some really good teams. It was fun for our guys and they were up for the challenge,” Coach Wendling said.

Fountain Valley is one of those south Orange County teams and it was a badge of honor for Claremont that the team traveled all the to Claremont for Tuesday’s match.

“This is the furthest I have ever had a south Orange County team come to play us, so I am pretty excited about that,” Coach Wendling said.

Claremont has some talent to work with and they have a very tall team. “Our middles are actually our shortest guys at 6’ 2” and 6’ 3” tall,” he said.

Hacienda League begins with an away match against Diamond Ranch on Tuesday. In the meantime the Wolfpack has been busy with two additional preseason games.

With league looming, Coach Wendling said the team will be working on unforced errors and getting more consistency out of their serves.

“It is a good group of guys, they are committed to getting better each and every time out,” Coach Wendling said.

 

Sagehens women’s basketball takes league in dramatic fashion

Pomona-Pitzer women’s basketball defeated cross-campus rival Claremont Mudd Scripps, 60-57, last Saturday, earning their first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title in program history.

Senior point guard Keilani Ikehara, who tallied a team-high 16 points in the win, led the Sagehens. First-year Carly Leong had 15 points, while sophomore Renae Tamura had 12 points and six rebounds, according to a news release from Pomona-Pitzer Athletics. Ikehara was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

All night it was a close game, ending 36-36 after three quarters. But the Sagehens pulled ahead in the fourth, holding on until the final buzzer.

The loss snaps a 20-game winning streak for CMS, which falls to 24-3 on the year. Junior guard Maya Love led the Athenas with 20 points and 12 rebounds, followed by junior guard Gloria Bates with 13 points and seven rebounds.

With the win, the Sagehens advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to University Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 72-46, Friday evening.

Pomona-Pitzer came out strong and led 19-18 after one quarter, but dropped back in the second quarter, giving the Titans a 28-23 lead at halftime. The Sagehens put together a rally that brought them within three points, but the University Wisconsin-Oshkosh would not be denied and eventually built a sizeable lead.

Leong led the Sagehens in scoring with 15 points, followed by Cameron Edward with seven points and six rebounds. The women’s final record stands at 22-6.

“I am proud of the way our team battled tonight and all year. It was a great season for our team and the Pomona-Pitzer women’s basketball program as a whole. We are all grateful for our seniors and the inspiring mark they have left on this program,” Head Coach Jill Pace said following the game.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com