The Middlebury volleyball team fell to visiting Bowdoin by a 3-1 score (25-21, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18) on Friday evening inside Pepin Gymnasium in the NESCAC opener for both teams. The Panthers (3-2, 0-1) return to the court Saturday when they host a tri-match, squaring off with Cortland State at 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. against Colby-Sawyer. Bowdoin (3-3, 1-0) continues NESCAC play on the road Saturday against Hamilton at 2:00 p.m.
In the opening set, Middlebury jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead with kills from four different players. The Polar Bears responded with a 5-2 spurt of their own, capped off by a kill from Sydney Salle and tied the set at 7-7. The teams traded points back and forth with neither side holding larger than a three-point edge. With the score tied at 19-19, the Polar Bears slowly pulled away thanks to kills from a quartet of players and grabbed the first set.
During the second set and the tally knotted at 9-9, Bowdoin produced a quick 4-1 spurt, fueled by a service ace from Katie Doherty and a kill by Christy Jewett, for a 13-10 advantage. The hosts fought back and earned a 15-13 lead on a 5-0 run highlighted by a pair of kills by Isabel Sessions and a service ace from Hannah Blackburn. With the set deadlocked at 17-17, the visitors slowly eased away from the Panthers, grabbing the lead for good for a 2-0 lead.
The third set played out in similar fashion to the first as the Panthers raced out to a 6-2 edge on a service ace by Sessions. Bowdoin recorded 11 of the next 16 points and led 13-11. Middlebury tied the match at 13-13, 15-15, 19-19 and 21-21 on a kill by Eliana Schaefer. Following a pair of Polar Bear attack errors that gave the Panthers a 23-21 edge, kills from Bowdoin's Michelle Albright sandwiched around a Becca Raffel kill for Middlebury pulled the visitors to within one, 24-23. Clinging to the one-point lead, Sessions pounded the set-clinching point to the floor via an assist from Blackburn.
Bowdoin raced out to a 6-1 lead in the fourth set capped off on a kill from Hailey Wahl, forcing Middlebury to call a timeout. The hosts worked their way back into the match, tying the set at 14-14, 16-16 and 17-17 on a kill by Raffel. However, the Polar Bears posted the ensuing four points and clinched the match with a 25-18 set win.
Raffel paced the Middlebury offense with 11 kills, while Sessions ended her night adding 10. Blackburn handed out 32 assists to go along with a team-best nine digs. Emily Kolodka had eight digs, while Melanie English had five block solos and three block assists for the Panthers.
For the Polar Bears, Jewett led a pair in double figures with a match-high 18 kills, while Erika Sklaver added 13 and Albright chipped in with nine. Quincy Leech handed out 43 assists to go along with eight digs, Doherty recorded a match-high 23 digs, and Sklaver concluded the match with a block solo and five block assists.