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Swarthmore Women’s Volleyball makes history

in Sports/Uncategorized/Women by

After an outstanding performance against the 12th-ranked Johns Hopkins, the Swarthmore Volleyball team has clinched a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals; the team ventures to Grand Rapids, Mi. today to play its quarterfinal match against Wittenberg University, the tournament’s current number one seed.

Swarthmore Volleyball had already set a school record by gaining its first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament. Three rounds later, the team’s unprecedented success resulted in Swarthmore’s being the first team from the Centennial Conference to reach the Round of Eight.

Advancing to the round of eight required an unprecedented team effort from Swarthmore Volleyball. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Swarthmore dominated with a 3-0 win against Randolph-Macon, a liberal arts college of 1,400 students in Ashland, Virginia. Sarah Girard ’19 led the team with 19 digs, and Malia Scott ’18 helped the offense to a .223 hitting percentage with her 33 assists.

The next day, in the second round, the Garnet defeated the 10th ranked Carnegie Mellon with another 3-0 sweep. Swarthmore’s defense was outstanding, limiting the CMU Tartans to .130 hitting percentage. Additionally, as if the score itself was not dramatic enough, the game ended with two consecutive aces from Scott.

Following the win against CMU, on Nov. 12, Swarthmore faced Centennial Conference Champions Johns Hopkins. This year alone, Swarthmore had previously lost two matches to Hopkins. While the first was a regular season game that the Garnet lost 2-3, the second was the Centennial Conference finals, in which Hopkins defeated Swarthmore 3-1. The loss eerily echoed last year’s loss to Hopkins in the same conference final.

Across the entire season, the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays had only been defeated by three teams, all of which were nationally-ranked. Even so, Swarthmore played a fantastic game, and despite the earlier losses against the Blue Jays, the team rallied to defeat Johns Hopkins 3-2 in an intense nail-biter. Fan support definitely played a role in the win; Swarthmore sent out a packed fan bus on the day of the game to support the team.

In a post-game press conference, head coach Harleigh Chwastyk commented on the dynamic between the volleyball teams of Johns Hopkins and Swarthmore.

“They came ready to play, and we did too. It’s been a battle between our programs over the last two years…It’s just, wow. It hasn’t sunk in…We’ve gone five sets with this team on multiple occasions. So, I felt like we had a lot of things in our favor. We weren’t getting the unexpected thrown at us, and I think our composure was fantastic too.”

Scott also spoke on this topic. When asked what it was like to play Johns Hopkins for the third time this season, she said the following.

“A lot of us, having played them twice, felt like we weren’t able to give it our all in previous two matches. I think we wanted to come out and be able to show in this vital match what we can do and to play to our full potential. So, I know I was excited to play them again.”  

Mehra Den Braven ’20, who was named the Most Outstanding Player for the Regional, shared her teammate’s attitude.

“I agree with Malia. It was exciting to get to play them again and have the outcome be so different from the last two times, but again, it was also a challenge, mentally especially, just because we do know what they are about, and we know that they are a good team.”

The Garnet will have to stay on top of their game and continue to play very well to win today’s quarterfinal match against Wittenberg. Wittenberg is seeded number one in the NCAA Elite 8 bracket, after winning five straight games, in four of which the score was 3-0.

Currently ranked third in all of Division 3 Volleyball, Wittenberg has had a consistently strong volleyball team in the past as well. The match against Swarthmore today will mark the eighth time that Wittenberg Volleyball has reached the Elite 8, the most recent having been in 2015. Needless to say, the Garnet will have to play hard today. Still, given how well the postseason has been going, there’s no doubt that the team has a good chance of winning and making it to the semifinals. For those who would like to follow the team’s progress, the game against Wittenberg will be available on live stream through the Swarthmore Athletics website.


Athlete of the week: Bridget Scott

in Athlete of the Week/Fall/Season/Sports/Women by

This past weekend, the Swarthmore Women’s Volleyball team made history, winning their NCAA regional bracket, and becoming the first team in Centennial Conference history to advance to the Round of Eight of the NCAA Division III tournament. Bridget Scott ʼ18, the outside hitter hailing from Media, Pa., has largely flown under the radar this past year stats-wise in comparison to her past years, but has been one of the most impactful players in Swat volleyball history over her Swarthmore career. The Delco native has been a two-sport athlete since her freshman year, lettering in both basketball and volleyball. Scott has been a key contributor on both the defensive and offensive ends and was honored by the tournament committee along with the four other seniors at the end of the Round of 16 match versus Johns Hopkins. The Garnet continue dancing in the Round of Eight in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Thursday, Nov. 16 against Wittenberg University, the #1 seed left in the tournament.

Ping Promrat: What is your major, and what are your plans following graduation at Swarthmore?

Bridget Scott: I am a biology and educational studies special major with an environmental studies minor. My plans post graduation are still in the works, but I am really interested in exploring the intersection of sustainability and urban planning, or pursuing the study of sustainability in higher education.

PP: Describe what it felt like to beat Johns Hopkins, particularly after the disappointments the team has faced against them in the Centennial Conference finals the past two years.

BS: That was the sweetest part of Sunday! Beating Hopkins was a huge accomplishment for us, especially after the disappointment of losing to them twice this year. What I’m most proud of from that match was our ability to hold our team identity and the integrity of our team values. We really played Swat volleyball against them.

PP: You have been described by many as the heart of the team. What do you believe you contribute best on and off the court?

BS: I’ve played on a lot of teams in my life, and we show so much love for each other on this particular team. I think I show that I care, whether that be on or off the court. I really see my role as a motivator. I’m like the mom of the team!

PP: What is it like being a two-sport athlete at Swarthmore?

BS: I knew that when I was coming into college that I wanted to play two sports. Having that opportunity along with going to such an amazing school is something that I’m so incredibly grateful for. However, it hasn’t been easy! Regardless, I really value the two sports for the differences and similarities that come along with them, and the ability to spend so many hours of the week with two amazing groups of players

PP:  What got you into both volleyball and basketball as a kid?

BS: I started playing volleyball as a kid. My mom was my first coach back in grade school, and I loved it. I’ve been playing basketball all my life too, starting from a very young age, and continuing throughout school. I’ve been so lucky to have such amazing coaches like Harleigh [Chwastyk, the Women’s Volleyball coach] who have really showed me how powerful sports can be. Additionally, being from just down the road has been so great in my college experience. All my old coaches and teammates have been all over my Facebook wall since Sunday, and having that support so close to you is so important to me.

PP: If you could change one thing about Swarthmore, what would it be and why?

BS:I wish more people would say hello when they walk by each other on campus! We have a great sense of community at Swarthmore, but I think it can be strengthened even more. Sometimes, I think we can become preoccupied with the day-to-day little things and lose track of the larger community. People need to laugh more, and lighten up!

PP: Do you believe we can win it all? What are your expectations for the quarterfinals? Swarthmore Volleyball, DIII National Champions has a great ring to it!

BS: Absolutely! This is an amazing opportunity where we are right now, and we have great momentum. My motto for last weekend was, “Let’s go out there and break some hearts.” I really believe we have yet to reach our full potential, and I hope we can do that come Thursday. Anything is possible!

Athlete of the Week: Mehra den Braven ’20

in Athlete of the Week/Sports by

Volleyball standout Mehra den Braven ’20 has thrived so far in her second year on the team. An outside hitter hailing from Santa Clara, Calif., den Braven has captured All-Tournament honors for the second straight weekend, as the Garnet have extended their record to 13-5 overall and remain undefeated at home. Den Braven has 218 points recorded throughout the season so far, with highs of 27 digs against Stockton University and 17 kills against Eastern University. The Garnet return to action Oct. 12 with an away match against Rowan University, and again on Oct. 14 in a rematch of last season’s Centennial Conference Championship at Johns Hopkins.

Ping Promrat: What is your intended major, and what motivated you to pursue it?

Mehra den Braven: I don’t know my intended major for sure, as I’m still trying to find my niche. Right now, it looks like it will be political science and economics, and maybe sociology or peace and conflict studies mixed in there.

PP: What got you into volleyball as a kid? How did you find out about volleyball at Swat?

MDB: My parents forced me to go these club tryouts. I got on the best team because I was tall, not because I was good! However, that’s really where I fell in love with the game, as I was surrounded by players who were much better than me. I was recruited by Swat over a two-year process, as I met Cecily Scavicchio [the old assistant coach] at an academic camp. As I got to know her and Harleigh Chwastyk [the head coach] is when I started to fall in love with Swarthmore

PP: What is your favorite part of being a student athlete?

MDB: My favorite part is the connections you make as a team. It made the transition to college for me so much easier, as I had many friends who struggled with that. I can always text anyone to meet up for lunch, and all the girls on the team make life so much more enjoyable!

PP: You were named to the All-Tournament Team at the Garnet Quad Tournament last weekend for the second weekend in a row. What is it like to have that type of personal success as a sophomore?

MDB: I always want to be better, so the ideal would be MVP of the tournament! However, I never expect any awards or anything, so I just focus on playing my game. At the same time, it is a balance between appreciating where you are and wanting to get better.

PP: Have you been participating in the kneeling protest during the national anthem? If so, what inspires you to take part in it?

MDB: I have been participating in the kneeling protest and showing solidarity. I’ve been so inspired by Lelosa [Aimufua ‘20] and Emma [Morgan-Bennett ‘20]’s motivation and strength in pursuing this, and how they’ve really thought about why they’re doing what they’re doing. However, it is really complicated still even within the team. Some people see the kneeling as disrespectful to our military, but for others, the kneeling is not meant to have that effect at all. I just hope people understand that at the end of the day, it is a peaceful protest that is focused on bringing attention to certain issues in our country that have been neglected.

PP: What are your athletic goals for the team, and yourself for the rest of the season?

MDB: The broadest goal for us would be winning the Conference Championships, especially after coming so close against Johns Hopkins last year. I want us to show a little more strength, swagger, and fierceness, and if we can keep building towards that, the success will continue to come.

Volleyball players aim high by taking a knee

in News by

At the women’s volleyball home game on Sept. 30 against Widener, most of the team knelt during the national anthem. Those who didn’t kneel held hands with their teammates in an expression of solidarity. Spectators were mostly activists and supporters; many of them were dressed in black and knelt in solidarity.

After the national anthem ended, the group returned to the stands, and president of the Swarthmore African-American Student Society Annie Slappy ’20 spoke words of encouragement.

Slappy, who helped organize the spectators through a Facebook event, said that the players who knelt reached out to SASS for support.

“We couldn’t put it all on our players,” she said. “Any time anybody asks me to come to something like that, I’m going to do it.”

Prior to the team’s home game on Sept. 27 against Franklin and Marshall, the two players who started the protest, Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20 and Lelosa Aimufua ’20, released a statement outlining why they believed it was necessary to take a knee. In the statement, they discussed how Trump’s incendiary comments about NFL players taking a knee feed into persistent racism in the United States and addressed questions of patriotism and peaceful protest.

Aimufua believes that the protest was a way to display her own political positions.

“Being a black woman is something that I think about in every aspect of my life … and so I want to say that the motivation behind this type of protest would be that feeling like my voice has constantly been silenced by American society,” Aimufa said.

Morgan-Bennett outlined four reasons why she decided to take a knee: to support Colin Kaepernick’s original protest against the harm of police brutality on minorities; to condemn Donald Trump’s attacks on athletes of color; to make a gesture that she has faith in the country but wishes for people to recognize the differences of protection for people of color and affluent white male citizens; and finally, to promote solidarity and respect for veterans as she herself comes from a military family.

Both Aimufua and Morgan-Bennett commented that, in addition to wanting to support Kaepernick and denounce Trump, they wanted to start a discussion of the intersection between race and sports, especially at the college level. According to Aimufua, they spent a lot of time considering their statement and met with their teammates, coaches, and the assistant director of athletics.

Morgan-Bennett noted that these meetings contributed to what she views as one of the successes of this protest.

“We began a dialogue and opened a conversation about race, about activism, about the relationships between sports and black bodies on the court and on the field. Our entire team had a very meaningful and introspective conversation about race and racial politics within our sport, within our team and what we want to do with this,” Morgan-Bennett said.

She also hopes that taking a knee could potentially spread to other colleges in the area, sparking a conference-wide protest.

Head Women’s Volleyball coach Harleigh Chwastyk explained that the team has been addressing this issue for over a year by having discussions on diversity and identity in classroom sessions, small groups, and one-on-one conversations. According to Chwastyk, the team also discussed each player’s opinions about Morgan-Bennett and Aimufua’s statement and the choice to kneel or stand for the national anthem.

“We talked about how we felt about it, individual choices, where people stood, where their opinions were in that moment and what they were planning on doing [during the national anthem], and how we could also show solidarity as a team,” Chwastyk said.

Outside of the team, the spectators who took a knee believe that it generated a conversation on campus about racial injustice.

“It’s a good way to call attention to injustices that have been occurring in the world,” said Lali Pizarro ’20, a spectator who participated in the protests. “I do think that it was powerful and it got people on this campus talking.”

Aimufua sees the protest as a success in part because it allowed for people to think about larger issues facing the country.

“What I wanted from the protest was for people to actually reflect on the status of the country and how … to make this country great, because I don’t think it’s great right now, and I think we can do so much better,” Aimufua said.

When asked why they decided to kneel specifically at Swarthmore, Morgan-Bennett said that regardless of the school they attended, they would have made the same choice because they felt compelled to follow their personal morals as black athletes.

“We are people who occupy both spaces on the court and also our own identities as black women … it’s not about an ideal place to protest,” Morgan-Bennett said.

Aimufua agreed with her teammate.

“We live here … it’s an important part of our lives … and our activism is also another important part of our lives,” she said.

Their activism is now closely tied to the fierce national debate about patriotism and first amendment rights in relation to sports.

The debate has gotten more attention lately since late September when, at a rally in Alabama, Donald Trump made a series of inflammatory comments regarding Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. After the rally and following Trump’s tweets, the “Take a Knee” protest spread, including more players kneeling, linking arms, or raising fists during the pre-game national anthem.

Referring to these events and an op-ed published by the Daily Gazette this past Thursday, Slappy said that often, people will tell black protesters that they are “ineffectual” or not “protesting in the right way.”

“[It’s a sentiment] that further reinforces the [idea] that black people are only here for sports, and I feel like black people already feel that enough,” Slappy said.

She also commented that society judges black people almost exclusively by how hard they work and their physical characteristics, which is reflected in how black athletes are expected to perform but not have a political voice.

“It’s time for us to understand that black bodies are fetishized, especially in sports. Because the fact that all of these things are happening in the world and football fans don’t feel responsible for it is a problem, especially since there is so much money and influence in athletics,” Slappy said.

Aimufua offered a way to understand her and her teammates’ gesture through established practices in organized sports.

“What kneeling for the anthem means is that in sports, if someone gets injured on the field, you take a knee, regardless if the person is on your team or the opposing team. Taking a knee is a sign of respect and acknowledgement that someone is hurt, and someone is down, and they need you to care, and take a breath, and reflect,” Aimufua said.

Aimufua and Morgan-Bennett’s full statement can be found on page A4 of this issue of the Phoenix, as well online in the Opinions section.



**This article has been edited to reflect that Morgan-Bennett and Aimufa’s statement is also available online.

Garent Sports Update

in Fall/Men/Sports/Women by

As we wrap up our first month back on campus, our fall Garnet athletes are right in the thick of their competition schedules. A number of teams have events this weekend.

Men’s and Women’s Cross Country

Our cross-country teams travel to Bethlehem, Pa., this weekend to compete in Lehigh University’s 44th Annual Paul Short Run. They will be among the 6,000 athletes and 450 colleges and high schools competing in the the nation’s largest intercollegiate cross country meet.

Men’s Golf

Our Men’s Golf team travels to The Bridges Golf Club to compete in McDaniel College’s Mason-Dixon Collegiate Classic this Saturday and Sunday.

Women’s Field Hockey

Our Field Hockey team hosts Franklin and Marshall College at home Saturday at noon. The Garnet will try to keep their momentum from last week’s Penalty Shootout win against McDaniel and hope to improve to .500 in Centennial Conference play.

Women’s Soccer

Our 10th-ranked Women’s Soccer team hosts Franklin and Marshall College at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Garnet will try to rebound from their first loss of the season last Saturday at McDaniel and hope to continue their undefeated record at home this season.

Men’s Soccer

Our Men’s Soccer team hosts Johns Hopkins at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Garnet hope to remain undefeated in Centennial Conference play as they face the undefeated and 11th-ranked Hopkins team.

Men’s Tennis

Our Men’s Tennis team travels to Fredericksburg, Va., to compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association regionals this Friday to Sunday. Our Women’s team competed in their ITA regionals last weekend.

Women’s Volleyball

Our Women’s Volleyball team hosts the Swarthmore Quad tournament this Friday through Saturday in our very own Tarble Pavilion. The Garnet will compete Friday at 7 p.m. against Oneonta, Saturday at 10 a.m. against Widener, and Saturday at 4 p.m. against Cabrini. Oneonta, Widener, and Cabrini will also compete against one another in neutral site games at Tarble Pavilion.

Women’s Volleyball claims second consecutive ECAC title

in Columns/Sports by

Returning as veterans of ECAC postseason competition, the Women’s Volleyball team knew what hard work lay ahead in order to repeat their championship win. After a crushing 3-2 loss to Johns Hopkins University in the Centennial Conference championship tournament, the Garnet focused their attention solely on finishing the season on a high note in the ECAC tournament. Although certainly disappointed by their defeat, the Garnet did not allow the situation to dampen their work ethic but rather relied on their impressive team chemistry to overcome challenges on the court.

       “Our team has one of the best energies I’ve ever experienced. The girls are too fun, weird, and loving,”said Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20. On Sunday, Nov. 13th at Lebanon Valley College, all of that hard work came to fruition as the Garnet topped both NYU and Emerson College in 3-1 and 3-0 matches respectively, thereby securing their second consecutive ECAC title.

       After dropping their first set to NYU, the Garnet rallied back to win the second set, led by veterans Amanda Reed ’17 and Christina Shincovich ’17, as well as tournament MVP Sarah Wallace ’18. However, that shift in momentum carried the team through the finish line as they handily dropped NYU in the next two sets, and followed that by trouncing Emerson in straight 25-12, 25-12, 25-19 sets. In the stunning championship victory over Emerson, the Garnet posted impressive numbers, with 11 aces and a staggering .319 hitting percentage. Wallace and Olivia Leventhal ‘18 finished as team leaders, with 26 and 16 kills respectively.

       Following the route of Emerson, the team appeared ecstatic as they raised the trophy overhead and paused to reflect on the season. As Isabelle Andrews ’20 stated, “Overall, our season was pretty incredible. We grew and learned so much about ourselves and the team as the season progressed.” However, the maturity and discipline among the players was clearly evident as they also recognized those that had led and taught them up to this point.

       “This season was a such an honor to be a part of. We can all see how much our coaches push us to exceed their expectations, all while still caring and nurturing us,” Morgan-Bennett said,

       However, the championship game also proved to be even more special for Wallace, as she not only won tournament MVP, but also reached the challenging feat of 1,000 digs in her collegiate athletic career. According to the Swarthmore Athletics page, she is the 11th player to achieve the daunting record in program history and only the fifth at Swarthmore to have 1,000 kills and digs. Sarah Girard ’19 also won All-Tournament honors and appears set to become the 12th player to reach 1,000 kills, as she currently stands at 988 with two seasons of eligibility left.

       Now a consistent force to be reckoned with in the ECAC and Centennial Conference, the Garnet look forward to future success as they return their entire starting lineup for next year. As Andrews said, “I’m very optimistic about next year, and can’t wait to see how far we’ll go.”

Athlete of the Week: Sarah Girard ’19

in Athlete of the Week/Sports by

This season, the Women’s Volleyball team won a school-record 27 games in addition to its second straight ECAC championship. One of the main contributors to the team’s sustained success was libero Sarah Girard ’19. Over the past two years, Girard has been a digging machine. She was awarded the 2015 Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year and was named to the 2015 and 2016 All-Centennial Conference first teams. Though only a sophomore, her 988 digs place her just outside the top 10 on Swarthmore’s career digs list, and her 4.53 digs/set is the highest mark in school history.

THE PHOENIX: What do you like most about being a student-athlete?

SARAH GIRARD: There are a lot of great parts of being a student-athlete, like the chance to play against some amazing teams and the opportunity to continue competing at the collegiate level. I think the best part, though, is the second family I get away from home. If I’m having a rough week or need someone to talk to, it’s so reassuring to know that I have a whole team of amazing women in my corner.  

TP: What is your (prospective) major, and what influenced you to pursue it?

SG: While I’m still not completely decided, I’m planning to double major in mathematics and political science.

TP: How does it feel to repeat as ECAC Champions?

SG: Although it’s not the outcome we were aiming for, I’m still really proud of our team for winning ECACs again this year. After losing to Hopkins in the conference championship match, we challenged ourselves to stay competitive despite our disappointment, and it was so nice to end the season on a win.

TP: How will your ECAC success prepare you for a future NCAA tournament run?

SG: Hopefully, our ECAC championships will serve as stepping stones that will eventually lead us to the NCAAs. Every year, it seems like we get closer and closer to making it to the tournament, so I feel like our success in the ECACs just shows that we are capable of achieving this goal if we continue to put in the work.

TP: What is it like to be named first-team all conference in each of your first two years?

SG: It’s definitely rewarding to be recognized individually, but volleyball is unique in the way every single player on the court and bench contributes something important to the team’s success. I wouldn’t get nearly as many digs without the blockers setting me up for success or my teammates pushing me to play my best every day in practice.

Athlete of the Week: Mehra den Braven ’20

in Athlete of the Week/Sports by

What She’s Done:

This past week, den Braven continued her stellar freshman campaign. She recorded double digit kills in her past five contests, helping propel the team to Garnet Classic championship. For her outstanding play, she was named as the Classic’s MVP and the Centennial Conference Player of the Week. den Braven, an outside hitter from Santa Clara, California, excelled both athletically and academically last year for Pinewood High School, being named to the all-Skyline first team multiple times, all-Skyline MVP in 2013, and a National Merit Scholarship finalist. This season, den Braven has played in every game so far for the Garnet, and is second on the team in kills, averaging slightly more than three a set. That same statistic is also good for eighth in the conference. Over the past week, den Braven has averaged an impressive 3.73 kills per set, higher than the current conference leader’s season average.

Favorite Athletic Moment:

When you realize that the team is meshing, and you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are invincible together.

Thoughts About Winning an MVP Award as a Freshman:

SO COOL! It’s a good sign that I’m on the right track in all the work I’m putting in.

Favorite Animal:

Whales and jellyfish because they blow my mind.

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