After holding a two sets to one lead, the Middlebury volleyball team hung on Friday evening for a five-set NESCAC victory over visiting Bowdoin by scores of 22-25, 25-14, 26-24, 15-25 and 15-13 inside Pepin Gymnasium. The Panthers (6-7, 2-3) return to the court on Saturday when they host Colby at 2:00 p.m., while Bowdoin (12-5, 3-3) travels west to New York for a 2:00 p.m. conference match at Hamilton.
In the opening set, the teams traded points back and forth with neither side holding larger than a two-point edge. With the score tied at 17-17, the Polar Bears rattled off a quick 4-0 spurt for a 21-17 advantage. Middlebury pulled to within two at 22-20 on a kill by Hannah Blackburn, but Bowdoin hung on for the opening-set win.
The Panthers recorded six of the first eight points in the second set highlighted by kills from Melanie English and Olivia Kolodka. Bowdoin chipped away at the deficit cutting the Panther lead to just two at 8-6 including a pair of kills from Christy Jewett. However, Middlebury reeled off a 10-0 run and cruised to the 25-14 set win.
The third set played out in similar fashion to the first as the teams exchanged points and neither could take a large lead. The score was tied at 10-10 and again at 20-20. With the set knotted at 20-all, Middlebury scored the ensuing three points for a 23-20 edge. Bowdoin tallied four of the next five markers and tied the set at 24-24 via kills by Erika Sklaver, Jewett and Michelle Albright sandwiched around a service ace from Quincy Leech. Kills by Kolodka and Becca Raffel clinched the set 26-24 for the Panthers.
Bowdoin raced out to an 8-1 lead in the fourth set capped off on a service ace from Katie Doherty, forcing Middlebury to call a timeout. However, the stoppage in action didn't change the momentum as the Polar Bears were able to keep the hosts at bay with a lead near double digits the remainder of the set in the 25-15 win.
In the fifth and decisive set, Bowdoin flew out to a 6-2 advantage forcing Middlebury to call a timeout. This time, the stoppage worked in the Panthers' favor as they produced a 5-1 run highlighted by a trio of kills from Kolodka and tied the set at 7-7. The hosts tallied seven of the next nine points for a 14-9 edge. Not done yet, Bowdoin made it interesting with four-consecutive points including a service ace from Clare Geyer and a kill from Albright for a 14-13 score. With the match on the line, Alice Roberts delivered the final point on a set from Blackburn for the 15-13 set win and the match.
Raffel led three Panthers in double figures with 14 kills, while Kolodka and Roberts added 12 and 11, respectively. Blackburn dished out 45 assists, while Lizzy Reed posted a match-best 24 digs. Kolodka nearly had a double-double as she recorded nine digs. English led the blockers with two block solos and three block assists, while Piper Underbrink posted five block assists.
Jewett led all players with a match-high 22 kills, while Albright and Sklaver chipped in with 11 and 10 for the Polar Bears. Leech had 31 assists, while Jewett managed a double-double with a team-high 18 digs. Sklaver recorded seven block assists for Bowdoin.