Bowdoin volleyball’s postseason run ended on Thursday night after suffering a 3-0 loss to Carthage College in the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship tournament quarterfinal in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The loss ended the Polar Bears’ dramatic season, which saw them overcome a shaky start in conference play to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history and the first time since 2015.
Before traveling to Iowa, captain Dani Abrams ’20 expressed her pride in the team’s turnaround.
“We started in a tough place mentally, and we’ve been able to change our team’s mindset and our team has really followed that in terms of just gaining confidence and fire and fight,” said Abrams. “As a captain, I couldn’t be more proud. I couldn’t relive a better senior season.”
The team advanced to the Elite Eight after beating Endicott College, Tufts University and Johnson and Wales. The victory over Tufts, who beat Bowdoin in the final of the NESCAC tournament on November 10, was particularly sweet, said Abrams.
“Obviously, [Tufts was] the team to beat. We love the team, we love the girls and it’s a really fun rivalry. So I think after they took the NESCAC championship, we were like, ‘Let’s win when it matters,” said Abrams.
Despite dropping the first set to the Jumbos and trailing all game, Bowdoin forced a fifth-set tiebreaker before clinching a spot in the Regional Final. First-Team All-NESCAC and American Volleyball Coaches’ Association All-American Honorable Mention outside hitter Caroline Flaharty ’20 put up 20 kills and 16 digs in the match.
“Tufts is a very strong team, and the only difference was two points in each match,” wrote Head Coach Erin Cady in an email to the Orient. “When you have two equally talented teams play, it could go either way.”
A 3-0 victory over Johnson and Wales on November 17 secured the team’s second-ever New England regional title.
The season began slowly for the Polar Bears, as the team struggled to find its footing after the historic 2018 season, in which the Polar Bears went 28-2, took home a NESCAC title and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament.
“When have we ever in so long had a season like last season?” said middle blocker Cori Gray ’22. “I think that was on everyone’s minds, just how are we going to top that? … There was a big attitude of, ‘We’re not the same team, and we’re not last year’s team.’ The confidence to be a new team [took time].”
After getting off to a 4-6 start, the team began to gather momentum following a victory over Johnson and Wales University, ranked fifth nationally, on September 28. The victory began a 14-game winning streak that continued until the loss to Tufts in the NESCAC final.
But returning to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, a feat that Bowdoin had not accomplished since 2015, remained the team’s goal throughout the season. No NESCAC team has ever advanced to the tournament’s Final Four round.
“It was always a dream to make it back there,” said Abrams. “No matter who it is—younger girls, older girls, players on the court, players on the bench—it’s an equally amazing experience for everyone.”