Channeling disappointment into motivation: CMS loses to WashU during annual East-West Battle

Brenna Bell CM ’25 jumps up, preparing to strike the ball (
Brenna Bell CM ’25 prepares to strike the ball in match against WashU on Sept. 9th during the annual East West battle tournament hosted by the Athenas at Roberts Pavilion (Courtesy: Kayla Ishibashi)

Defending not only their home turf but also their national prestige, Athenas volleyball took on the country’s best last weekend at the annual DIII East-West battle.

This year, No. 4 ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) volleyball hosted the cross-country tournament at Robert Pavillion. On Sept. 8, CMS participated in their first match of the weekend against the Washington University (WashU) Bears. Despite competitive play from the Athenas — led by Brenna Bell CM ’25 and Jenna Holmes CM ’24, who had 18 and 20 kills respectively — the Bears emerged victorious, winning 3-2. This marked the Athenas’ first loss of the season.

While the loss ruined the Athenas’ chance at a second-consecutive undefeated regular season, Dani Beder CM ’24 said she was still excited about the game.

“I’m really looking forward to playing more teams like WashU,” Beder said. “They’re a really good team and it’s fun when we play really good teams like that. You can’t have a perfect season every year so it may be a good challenge for us mentally.”

Bell echoed Beder’s optimism about the game, despite the result, and even said she saw the benefit in losing early on in the season.

“I’m excited we got a loss,” Bell said. “We needed it so that we can be more excited to win instead of being afraid to lose.”

The match was a battle from the very beginning. WashU and CMS traded leads in the first set, which resulted in a 10-10 draw. The Bears then went on a run, making the score 10-16. Holmes got a kill from a set by Georgia McGovern CM ’24, granting CMS a much-needed point to shift the momentum. CMS tied it up 17-17, but WashU took the first set 25-21.

CMS started the second set with a strong 5-0 lead. They continued dominating with the help of Bell, whose kill gave them the 14-6 lead halfway through the second set. The Bears weren’t able to recover and the second set went to CMS 25-16.

“The serving was good, our offense was our strongest part, our defense picked a lot of balls up that you wouldn’t expect to get up and we were deriving a lot of energy from that,” Deedee Caranza CM ’24 said.

WashU came out with back-to-back kills to start the third set, and the teams went back and forth until CMS pulled ahead with a commanding 18-10 lead. However, the Bears began to come back, aided by numerous kills from WashU player Jasmine Sells ’24. CMS stuck it out and won the third set 25-23, giving them a 2-1 advantage.

Bell’s four kills brought CMS to a 9-5 lead at the beginning of the fourth set. Izzy Sakoda CM ’24 served the next point, and when the Bears returned with a hit, a diving Caranza dug the ball and CMS extended their lead. Unfortunately for the Athenas, their effort was in vain as WashU bounced back and won the set 25-22, evening the match 2-2.

Despite the Bears taking the fourth set, Bell said she could feel the flow of the team improving.

“Personally, I think one thing that got a lot better tonight was getting in rhythm with my setter,” Bell said.

CMS started the fifth set with a 2-0 lead thanks to a sit-down block by Beder. Bell and Sells exchanged kills and the set was tied at 10-10. CMS and WashU traded points, but the Bears ultimately came out victorious 15-12, winning the game.

Caranza said she thinks that the Athenas’ next step is to keep moving forward.

“I think that tomorrow we are just going to come back stronger and bounce back,” Caranza said. “We definitely learned a lot from this match and so we will just apply that next game.”

The Athenas went on to split the remaining two games of the tournament, defeating Trinity College 3-1 and falling to Johns Hopkins University 1-3. They currently hold a 4-2 record.

Beder said CMS is going to use the results from the tournament as motivation for the rest of the season.

“We are still in this,” Beder said. “We are not backing down.”

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