The CMS women’s basketball team is used to the taste of victory.
After finishing the last five regular seasons on top of the SCIAC and winning the conference tournament four of those years, the Athenas (19-2, 11-1 SCIAC) are no strangers to victory.
But this season is different.
The Athenas are on a roll, rattling off 15 straight wins. Their last loss was more than two months ago, against Chapman on December 1 against Chapman (13-9, 8-5 SCIAC), whom the Athenas have since beat. The streak has the team ranked 20th in the nation and first in the SCIAC standings.
“I think it’s a result of our defense and our depth,” captain Ellery Koelker-Wolfe CM ’19 said of the impressive win streak. “We have made a focused effort to take pride in our defense, and our team defense is as good as it’s ever been.”
A quick glance at the numbers confirms a lockdown defense; the Athenas are allowing 52.3 points per game this regular season, 9.2 fewer than the next-closest team (eighth-ranked Cal Lutheran).
The deep bench is another key strength.
“Our depth is unrivaled in SCIAC,” she said. “Our bench out-scores the other team’s bench, sometimes our bench out-scores our starters — we just have so many weapons.”
The Athenas say their competitive spirit is unparallelled this year, making for an energetic, fun environment to play in.
“I think we just come with a really high energy in practice,” captain Corinne Bogle KG ’19 said. “We really enjoy pushing each other and playing against each other. … We have a bunch of people who just love playing basketball.”
Both the captains and the coaching staff agree that the team’s camaraderie is stronger than ever.
“Based off the past four years, I’d say this is one of the closest groups,” Bogle said. “There’s always somebody there to pick somebody up if you need to.”
Head coach Kristen Dowling, who has been coaching the Athenas since the 2012-13 season, also attributes the success to chemistry, which is “really strong amongst our group, on and off the court.”
Members of the team returned from winter break nearly a month early to participate in intensive training. When they weren’t playing, they were building community, Bogle said.
“That’s where people are able to come out of their shells,” Bogle said. “On the court, it helps develop our game. Off the court, it helps develop our team camaraderie.”
Dowling attributed their success to external factors, as well.
“We’re very fortunate to recognize how many people beyond CMS women’s basketball have allowed this to happen,” Dowling said. “From the trainers, to the Dean of Students, to the faculty, who have all been supportive of our students.”
So what next for the Athenas? If the rest of the season goes in their favor, they will be able to host the SCIAC tournament and potentially advance to the NCAA championship.
But the Athenas are trying not to get ahead of themselves.
“If you were to ask people on our team right now how many games in a row we’ve won,” laughed Koelker-Wolfe, “I bet they wouldn’t even know that we had won the last  games. We really just enjoy playing basketball together.”
That’s not to say the players don’t understand the target on their backs as the streak rolls on.
“We’re that team that everybody wants to knock off,” Bogle said, “so we’re just trying to stay focused but still just have fun with it.”