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Mehra den Braven, a graduate of the class of 2016, has just finished playing her freshman season of college volleyball at Swarthmore. Swarthmore finished with a 27-5 record, the best win percentage in their league, and second in league standings. Den Braven finished the season second on the team in kills.
Den Braven dominated in high school, but she didn’t begin playing seriously until she joined a club team in seventh grade. She improved quickly and was a high school league MVP just four years later.
“I started playing club volleyball because my parents wanted me to try something new, so they pushed me to go to City Beach Club tryouts. One of the better teams was missing a middle and since I was tall, they asked me if I wanted to join,” den Braven said.
Den Braven was at first somewhat intimidated by club volleyball, but she soon acquired the drive to improve and keep playing.
“Club was something that scared me at first because I had no idea how any of it worked. Everyone was so much better than me, and competitions were super intimidating. I’m grateful my parents pushed me to do it at first until I got over my cowardliness. I found that I really loved the sport and my teammates, which made me self-motivated to keep getting better,” den Braven said.
Den Braven has seen more differences between college and high school volleyball than just the level of play. She says playing volleyball has improved her college experience.
“College sports require more motivation, skill, travel, intensity, competition, and time commitment, but if you love your sport, then college is just more fun,” den Braven said.
College volleyball also requires a lot more time than it did at Pinewood.
“College is definitely more time and travel. Practices are longer — there are lifts, classroom sessions, meetings with coach, and team activities that go along with it. You spend much more time with the team outside of the gym than you would in high school. Also, games can sometimes be two hours away or longer,” den Braven said.
The time consumed by her sport has required den Braven to juggle homework and volleyball, but Swarthmore’s environment has been very beneficial to her learning and ability.
“Playing a sport pushes you to stay on top of your work and be proactive. There are times especially with tournaments and long travel that are stressful in regards to finishing work, but I think the Swarthmore College environment is very conducive to studying and the people are very motivated to do work,” den Braven said.
Pinewood’s small size and intimate environment may contrast heavily with the more intense work environment of colleges, but the lessons Pinewood taught den Braven have helped her succeed in both.
“[Pinewood has given me a] strong work ethic and self-motivation to do better, but also a sense of community and the interdependence and appreciation of others that goes along with it,” den Braven said.
Having played all through high school and currently beginning her college career, den Braven also has some advice for current Pinewood student-athletes.
“It truly is a privilege if you get to play in college. There are going to be tough days, but the family that comes out of it is irreplaceable,” den Braven said.