Building off a dominant regular season resulting in a 22-4 overall record and top seed in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament, the women’s volleyball team captured the NESCAC championship for the third time in the last seven years. In the championship match against Wesleyan, the first seeded Polar Bears overcame a late rally by the Cardinals to beat them by a score of three sets to one in front of a raucous home crowd in Morrell Gymnasium.
Sophia Pahl ’22, also a member of the 2018 NESCAC championship team, put the win in perspective.
“Being able to go through my career at Bowdoin knowing what [winning a NESCAC championship] feels like and giving that to the underclassmen and juniors was so special,” Pahl said. “The fact that it was so dramatic made it even more gratifying to win in the end.”
A dream for the bears, winning a NESCAC championship was something they worked toward every day.
“It was one of our goals the whole season. We started off preseason by writing out all of our goals on the walls of our locker room. We can check that box off now,” Pahl said.
Jaida Hodge-Adams ’23 was named NESCAC Player of the Week following her extraordinary performance over the weekend. In the championship game, she led all players with 14 kills and 24 digs.
Hodge-Adams credited her success to the team’s supportive and motivating culture.
“Having amazing defensive and offensive players on the court, having a great setter, having wonderful coaches—really it’s all of the things that make up the environment … [that] make me want to play so hard,” Hodge-Adams said.
The student section’s thundering presence at the championship game was felt by all in attendance. Morrell Gymnasium overflowed as students piled in, offering their encouragement to the Polar Bears on the court.
Ben Ross ’22 was among a handful of students positioned at the front of the student section, delivering spirited chants with the words “GO UBEARS” painted on their chests.
“[I] just tried to bring a little more energy than is normally brought to DIII sports to support the Bears in their endeavors,” Ross said. “They were out there crushing it, and we were just having fun.”
The team recognized the crowd’s energy.
“We are so grateful. I’ve never experienced anything like that. In talking with coaches and administrators, too, that was the best turnout that they have ever seen in a long time,” Pahl said. “We owe so much of the win to them.”
With their win, the Polar Bears earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament. In preparation, the team has continued to hone in on the fundamentals that have helped them reach this point of success.
“We are really focusing on what we did well last weekend, especially our serving and passing,” Pahl said. “We are trying to keep the really strong mentality on defense that nothing is going to hit the floor.”
The team has national championship aspirations but is still focused on enjoying every step of the journey.
“We talk a lot about how everything after this moment is just icing on the cake,” Hodge-Adams said. “We are just going to try to play our best and see what happens.”
The Polar Bears will face Johnson & Wales University in the opening round of the NCAA Division III tournament at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on November 12.