Last weekend, the 2-2 (0-0 NESCAC) women’s volleyball team went 1-2 in a string of competitive matches. The Polar Bears fell to Endicott College (5-0) on Friday before splitting two matches on Saturday: defeating Keene State (1-4) and suffering a setback to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; 7-1). The road trip allowed the Polar Bears to face top-ranked opponents ahead of their first NESCAC match versus Bates this Friday.
The team lost 3-1 to Endicott after competing in three tight sets—25-22, 23-25, 25-23—and losing the fourth set 25-15. The first set was tied at 21-21 before Endicott scored four of the last five points. The second set was also tied, with Bowdoin earning the game point, and the third set was deadlocked at 23-23 before Endicott broke away and scored two consecutive points.
Setter Ella Haugen ’23 led the team in assists in all three matches with 36 against Endicott alone.
“As a setter … your biggest goal is just to set your hitters up for success,” Haugen said. “It’s up to them to execute. I’m really lucky to have a lot of trust in all of my hitters. I know this weekend, even though we didn’t get the results we wanted, we hit really well.”
On Saturday, Bowdoin participated in the MIT Invitational Tournament, where it earned a 3-1 victory over Keene State. Middle hitter Lauren Lange ’24 and outside hitter Jenna Robbins ’23 each had ten kills, and setter Joy Liu ’25 and defensive specialist Maya White ’25 had 11 digs each.
Later that day, nationally-ranked MIT outmatched Bowdoin by scores of 25-12, 25-15 and 25-13.
“I think against Keene State, we limited our unforced errors,” White said. “Versus [when we played] Endicott and MIT, we had more misserves and things that we could ultimately control that didn’t go our way.”
Competing against such a wide breadth of teams helped the Polar Bears identify areas they can improve upon.
“Our team did a great job adjusting to different lineups, keeping true to our style of play and adjusting to three very different opponents,” Head Coach Erin Cady wrote in an email to the Orient. “I know our team will come out of the weekend with a clear perspective on how hard we need to work to beat top-ranked teams.”
Haugen added that the team gladly accepts the challenge of playing against such competitive opponents.
“We usually open up with this tournament, and that’s very intentional because we want to be challenged early on. Going into conference [play], we’re feeling very excited. We’re feeling confident. We try to see [the tournament] as an opportunity to learn those things early on,” Haugen said.
The team took pride in its play, strong individual performances and composure.
“I think we did a really good job communicating about how we can learn from mistakes and be positive to each other,” Robbins said. “It makes a big impact, even if we lose a game.”
Continuing to build a productive mindset and improving serves and serve returns have been the team’s focus this week.
“We’ve been working a lot on mindfulness, being positive and finding that will to win and the fire to execute,” Robbins said.
Cady added the team is working on establishing a stronger defensive unit ahead of conference play.
Looking ahead, the team hopes to develop its own distinct identity as a successful volleyball program.
“[We’re working on] how we can be our own team and not mimic other teams. [We’re thinking about] what is unique about us, what’s going to be our strategy and what’s going to work for us. We’re still trying to figure out what our group is going to be,” Robbins said.
Haugen hopes that the team’s identity is centered around playing well for one another.
“Every year, it’s a new team, it’s a new team environment and it’s a new culture that we get to create. It’s one of the biggest things that allows us to be successful—carefully crafting that environment,” Haugen said. “It’s an environment where everyone on the team feels respected and knows that we take the game seriously so that we can have fun. I’m excited to keep competing so we can keep having that fun together.”
The Polar Bears will take on the Bates Bobcats (3-1; NESCAC 0-0) in Morrell Gymnasium this Friday at 7 p.m. in their first NESCAC game of the season. Bowdoin has won its last five matches against Bates dating back to 2018.