Volleyball Begins Quest for Second-Straight NESCAC Title

Volleyball Begins Quest for Second-Straight NESCAC Title

Looking for its second-straight NESCAC Volleyball Tournament title and fourth in eight years, sixth-seeded Middlebury begins its quest when it squares off with third-seeded Bowdoin on Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. in a quarterfinal match. The two teams played on October 14 in Maine, as the Polar Bears earned a three-set victory (25-21, 25-17, 25-22). Semifinal matches will be played on Saturday, November 4 followed by the championship match on Sunday, November 5 hosted by Tufts in Cousens Gymnasium.

Bowdoin (14-9, 8-2 NESCAC) will meet No. 6 Middlebury (16-8, 5-5 NESCAC), the defending NESCAC Champions, in the quarterfinals. The Panthers have appeared in all 19 NESCAC Championships and are the sixth seed for the first time in program history. Middlebury went 12-2 to open the year, a stretch that included a 10-match win streak. The Panthers are averaging 12.36 kills per set and 1.90 blocks per set. Bowdoin posted a 3-0 win over Middlebury in the regular season and own a 3-1 mark over the Panthers in the postseason. The two teams last met in a 2015 semifinal match with the Polar Bears posting a 3-0 victory. Bowdoin is in the NESCAC Championship field for the 12th-straight year. The Polar Bears grabbed the No. 3 seed for the third time in program history and are in search of their first NESCAC Championship since 2015 and third overall. Bowdoin ranks second in the league in kills per set (12.77) and owns one of the best backlines in the conference, averaging a league-high 19.42 digs per set.

Tufts (10-0, 20-5 NESCAC), the 2016 NESCAC Runner-up, is hosting the championship for the third time in four years and is the top seed for the fifth time in program history. The Jumbos are seeking their first NESCAC Championship since 1996. Tufts closed out the regular season with a pair of 3-1 victories at Connecticut College and Wesleyan to grab the top seed and finish the conference slate with a 10-0 mark for the second straight season. Tufts ranks second in blocks at 1.95 per set and is averaging 12.01 kills per set. The Jumbos will face eighth-seed Bates (12-13, 4-6 NESCAC), which they defeated, 3-0, in the conference opener. Bates is making its third straight postseason appearance and is the No. 8 seed for the third time. The Bobcats, who are looking for their first postseason win since 2003, won four of their last five NESCAC matches to close the regular season. The only meeting between the two teams in the postseason was in the 2008 quarterfinals, with the Jumbos winning in 3-1.

Wesleyan (18-5, 8-2 NESCAC) is making back-to-back trips to the NESCAC Championship for the first time since the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The Cardinals are the No. 2 seed for the third time in program history. Wesleyan will try to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2008 as it pursues its first NESCAC title. The Cardinals lead the league in kills per set (12.99) and are averaging 17.42 digs per set this season. Wesleyan and Bowdoin finished with identical 8-2 conference records. In head-to-head competition, the Cardinals defeated the Polar Bears, 3-0, on Friday to earn the No. 2 seed. Wesleyan will face No. 7 Williams (11-11, 5-5 NESCAC) in the quarterfinals.

Amherst, Middlebury, and Williams all finished with matching 5-5 NESCAC records. They all posted 1-1 marks against each other in head-to-head competition. After comparing set records, Amherst went 5-4, Middlebury was 5-5, and Williams went 4-5. Amherst earned the No. 5 seed, followed by Middlebury at No. 6 and Williams at No. 7.

The Ephs, who own nine NESCAC Championships, have appeared in every NESCAC Championship since 1999 and last won a NESCAC title in 2014. Williams closed out the regular season winning four of its last five NESCAC matches. Wesleyan defeated Williams, 3-0, in the conference opener for both teams on September 15. The Ephs own a 3-0 advantage over the Cardinals in the postseason series, they last met in the 2004 quarterfinals with Williams recording a 3-0 victory.

The final quarterfinal matchup features No. 4 Hamilton (14-8, 7-3 NESCAC) vs. No. 5 Amherst (16-9, 5-5 NESCAC). The Continentals are in the NESCAC Championship for the first time since 2014 and the fourth time overall. Hamilton's No. 4 seed is the highest in program history. The Continentals secured the No. 4 seed following a 3-2 win over Middlebury in their conference finale. Hamilton enters the postseason having won five straight NESCAC matches. The Continentals rank second in the conference in digs per set (18.08 avg.). Amherst is making its 19th straight appearance in the NESCAC Championship field. The Mammoths finished the regular season with a 5-1 record. Hamilton pulled out 3-2 victory over the Mammoths in the regular season meeting on October 13 and Friday's quarterfinal match will mark the first time the teams have met in the postseason.

Results for the NESCAC Volleyball Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.

Quarterfinals - Friday, November 3
Hosted by Tufts
No. 8 Bates at No. 1 Tufts – 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Williams vs. No. 2 Wesleyan – 5:00 p.m.
No. 6 Middlebury vs. No. 3 Bowdoin – 8:00 p.m.
No. 5 Amherst vs. No. 4 Hamilton – 8:00 p.m.

Semifinals - Saturday, November 4
at Tufts
1:00 p.m. | 3:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, November 5
at Tufts
Championship Match – 12:00 p.m.

-- Courtesy of the NESCAC --