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Flaharty leads volleyball into Middlebury game

October 13, 2017

Sam Honegger
Hitting the bar: Captain Michelle Albright '18 bumps the ball in a match against Bates on Sept. 16 as her teammates watch on. The Polar Bears won 3-1, but lost the more recent non-conference game against the Bobcats

The Bowdoin volleyball team (9-7, NESCAC 6-1) is making its presence felt in the NESCAC after winning four consecutive conference games over the course of two weekends before falling to Bates on Tuesday.

On Saturday, Bowdoin proved victorious in a back and forth 3-2 victory versus Amherst. Outside hitter Caroline Flaharty ’20 highlighted the match with a career-high 26-kill performance with only two errors. She was named this week’s NESCAC Volleyball Player of the Week. Flaharty is second in the NESCAC in kills, producing 200 kills in just 7 NESCAC games.

The winning streak began with a three-set sweep against Williams on September 29. The Polar Bears closed the weekend with a dramatic 3-2 comeback after falling behind 2-0 against Hamilton.

The team overcame two very different styles of play over the course of the weekend.

“Williams is a really strong offensive team, and [the players] really bring a lot of variety in their offense in different sets and different set plays. So for us all week we focused on some of the combinations that we might see and how to defend against those,” Head Coach Erin Cady said.

“Hamilton was a really strong defensive team so we had to focus on our offense and where we can find weaknesses in their defense and just outlasting them to get the win,” added Cady.

Both Cady and the players attributed their success against Hamilton and Williams to their lightning fast style of play.

“We are working a lot on pushing the pace of the game, which means passing faster to our setter, and making our sets faster to our hitters to catch the other team off guard,” captain Michelle Albright ’18 said.

After speeding up the tempo of their play, the Polar Bears won three sets in a row.

Bowdoin’s recent success has paralleled its exceptional team chemistry both on and off of the court. As a fall sports team, the Polar Bears were challenged to quickly build team rapport with their season starting as soon as new team members arrived on campus.

“One thing that is nice about a small team is that you can take the time to get to know each individual on the team,” said Sydney Salle ’19. “The last couple weeks we have learned to get to know each other a lot more and enjoy the time that we spend with each other both on and off the court.”

The Polar Bears carried these team strengths into the following weekend, in which they extended their NESCAC win streak to four games. The team’s fast style of play proved effective against both against Trinity and Amherst.

They led the weekend off by dominating Trinity in a 3-0 sweep on Friday night. Again, Bowdoin maintained a faster tempo than Trinity and had a higher hitting percentage—.147 versus Trinity’s .082.

Currently, Bowdoin is searching for a comeback weekend after falling 3-1 against Bates this past Tuesday. This upcoming weekend, Bowdoin will host a homecoming double-header against Middlebury and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The first match against Middlebury is an important NESCAC game for the Polar Bears because the Panthers fall just one place behind in the current standings.

The match will receive additional buzz around campus because it features a NESCAC star on both sides of the net. Flaharty will face off against Middlebury’s outside hitter, Becca Raffel who leads the NESCAC with 221 kills.

The players and coaching staff anticipate a large homecoming crowd, which they hope will create an energetic atmosphere in Morrell Gym. The Polar Bears plan to feed off of the home-crowd energy and use it to their advantage.

“I think the initial buzz around homecoming in that game might be a little bit stressful, but I think in the past couple weeks we have made big stride in handling stress and pressure and turning it into positive energy that we can feed off of rather than feeling small and fearful of it,” Albright said.

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