Panthers Run Win Streak to Eight With Sweep of Bowdoin

(L-R): Sarah Staver and Becca Raffel block a Bowdoin kill attempt during Friday's win over the Polar Bears.
(L-R): Sarah Staver and Becca Raffel block a Bowdoin kill attempt during Friday's win over the Polar Bears.

Middlebury continued its winning ways with its eighth-straight victory in a three-set sweep (25-21, 25-23, 25-22) of Bowdoin on Friday evening in Pepin Gymnasium. The Panthers (11-3, 4-1) return to the court Saturday when they entertain Tufts at 2:00 p.m., while Bowdoin (8-5, 2-4) travels to Hamilton on Saturday for a 4:00 p.m. match.

With Middlebury clinging to a 9-8 lead in the opening set of Friday's contest, the hosts tallied eight of the next 11 points for their largest lead of six at 17-11 on block assists from Becca Raffel and Sarah Staver. The Polar Bears chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to two (23-21) on a Middlebury setting error. The Panthers closed out the set with a kill from Isabel Sessions and a service ace from Emily Kolodka.  

In the second set, Middlebury recorded the opening four points on a pair of service aces by Hannah Blackburn and kills from Melanie English and Raffel. With the score at 10-5 in favor of the hosts, Bowdoin fought all the way back with a 9-3 run, capped off by block assists from Leech and Erika Sklaver, for a 14-13 lead. In the back-and-forth set the Polar Bears grabbed a two-point advantage (21-19) on a kill from Caroline Flaharty. The Panthers scored six of the final eight points, including a solo block from Staver to secure the final point, for a two-set lead.

The final set saw Bowdoin pull out to a four-point advantage at 14-10 on a kill from Sydney Salle. The Panthers came roaring back and grabbed a one-point edge (20-19) on three-consecutive kills by Sessions. Middlebury never trailed for the remainder of the set and scored the clinching point on a kill that clipped the top of the net and fell to the floor on the Bowdoin side.

Raffel paced the balanced Middlebury offense, finishing with a team-best 12 kills to go along with nine digs. Sessions tacked on 11 kills, while Blackburn had a double-double of 21 assists and 16 digs along with her two service aces. At the net, English and Staver ended their nights with a block solo and three block assists apiece, while Sessions chipped in with a block solo and two block assists.

Bowdoin was paced by Flaharty's match-high 14 kills, while Sklaver and Albright each tacked on seven. Katie Doherty led the Polar Bears with 20 digs, while Leach tallied a match-best 32 assists to go along with 13 digs. Sklaver and Clare Geyer posted three block assists apiece.