Panthers Open NESCAC Play With Four-Set Loss to Bowdoin

Melanie English recorded five block solos and three block assists on Friday against Bowdoin.
Melanie English recorded five block solos and three block assists on Friday against Bowdoin.

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.