On Tuesday, setter Ella Haugen ’23 earned 25 assists and nine digs in the volleyball game at the University of Southern Maine (USM), adding onto her three-season career of 2,096 assists, 114 aces and 589 digs. In her final collegiate volleyball season and semester at Bowdoin, Haugen is excited to continue playing the sport that has shaped her college experience and values for four years.
“[Volleyball] is so fun to play because at every point something is happening, there’s [always] something to cheer for, which is really fun. I think I’ve stuck with it throughout my time at Bowdoin because of both the competitive aspect and the learning aspect,” she said.
Haugen has been named Second-Team All-NESCAC twice, most recently at the end of the 2022 season after finishing third in conference with 8.63 assists per game. She has been the captain of the team for two seasons now.
“Last year was really special because I got to experience [leading] a team with the three other seniors who I’d gotten to grow up with through the program,” she said.
Haugen considers making it to the Elite Eight in 2019 a highlight of her career. Bowdoin volleyball has only advanced to this stage of the NCAA tournament twice in program history—the second time being Haugen’s first year playing for Bowdoin.
“[The tournament] was such a unique and cool experience that I want so badly for the people I’m playing with now to experience as well because I’m the only person still here who has experienced that,” she said.
Haugen started playing volleyball at eight years old in her hometown of Edina, Minn.
“I grew up watching my cousin play for the University of Iowa, and I thought she was so cool and wanted to be just like her. She was a setter as well, so I’ve always been a setter,” she said.
Thinking back to her first few years at Bowdoin, Haugen underscored the importance of devoting time to mental health as a student-athlete in order to perform well both on and off the court.
“My freshman fall, for example, was really successful on the court, and I was getting to start. And it was exciting, but I was a mess mentally and just adjusting to college a lot. I didn’t really take a step back to think [that] this is something I really need to work on to be more successful,” Haugen said. “It’s so much more important to take care of yourself first.”
As a captain now, Haugen emphasizes what she has learned about balancing playing a sport and mental health to her younger teammates.
“The team affectionately calls me Grandma Ella, both because of my age, and just because I go to bed early every night. I’m telling everybody to hydrate—just like the little things that I think it’s easy to overlook,” she said. “It’s easy to say, ‘oh, that’s silly,’ if you’ve never tried it before, but that’s something that I really, really try to lead by example in.”
Haugen looks toward the coming season with gratitude, anticipation and intentionality.
“I’m trying to take one day at a time. At the same time, I feel like I’ll be ready to leave in December. I’m very much at peace with it but really want to put an exclamation mark on my career,” she said. “I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person during my time at Bowdoin because of volleyball—as a leader and as a teammate—and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the sport.”