The women’s volleyball team started this season with only four upperclassmen on the roster and no experience at the middle position. The uncertainty allowed Miami native Erika Sklaver ’17 to step in and contribute immediately.

“She came in with a lot of natural talent,” said captain Ellie Brennan ’14. “She’s receptive to feedback and has been able to take a little bit of advice and run with it.”

Sklaver says she has had no difficulty adjusting to college athletics.

Even starting practice the day she returned from her orientation trip did not unsettle her.
“I was just excited to play,” she said. “I was ready to be back in the gym. I hadn’t played in a couple of months.”

At such an early point in the season, Sklaver has only had limited practice time and has shown skills that, according to her teammates, have gotten very little attention in practice so far.

“The thing with her kills is that they aren’t all powerful,” said Brennan. “She’s very good at placing the ball. She has pretty good shot selection even though that hasn’t been our main focus so far this season.”

She also has a dynamic approach, which allows the squad to vary their attacks. Often, the opposing middle player cannot anticipate where Sklaver will hit the ball.

Sklaver logged her strongest performance at the MIT Invitational last weekend, where she recorded 3 kills and 1.18 blocks per set. For reference, Bowdoin’s entire squad is currently averaging 11.31 kills and 2.39 blocks per set. While the 38 kills she accumulated last weekend stand out on the scorecard, her 1.06 blocks per set ranks her second in the NESCAC.

By comparison, Sklaver’s current blocks per set average is higher than Kristin Hanczor ’11—one of Bowdoin’s all-time greats‑had in any of her seasons as a Polar Bear. And in Hanczor’s first year on the team, she led the squad with just .77 blocks pers set. Needless to say, Sklaver is off to a statistically impressive start as a Polar Bear.

Still, the middle position is the most difficult for sustained individual offense, as it requires an excellent setter. Fortunately, Sklaver has found an early rapport with the team’s setter, Sophia Cornew ’14.

“[Cornew] is a great setter,” said Sklaver. “She knows how to make me better.”

Sklaver started playing volleyball in eighth grade. At one point a mainstay in school plays, she was drawn to the volleyball team after being passed over for a role in a production. Sklaver, who at 6’2” now is Bowdoin’s tallest player on the roster, started slowly but developed quickly from then on, going from the school B-team to co-captain by graduation. She also played a large part in securing her high school’s best finish in nearly twenty years—a state final four berth. She began playing for a club team in ninth grade and travelled as far as Denver and Las Vegas for games. According to Sklaver, her experience with club volleyball was the single largest part of her growth and recruitment.

Sklaver says there was never a moment when she decided that she would play in college. Her goal had always been to simply to keep playing.

“I knew I wanted an academic school,” she said. “But I still wanted volleyball to be a large part of my life. I loved the team when I came to visit, and they were good.”

In her academic life, Sklaver has not settled in as quickly as on the court. Playing in the fall has left her with little time to think about extracurricular interests and she said her first semester course selection is eclectic. Like many first years, she has not narrowed in on a potential discipline yet. 
Concerning volleyball, she has the chance to improve dramatically as the team moves into conference play.

“She has an amazing future, to be honest,” Brennan said. “With time, she’ll increase her presence and become a go-to person.”

The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.