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Women’s volleyball defeats Colby in historic win to advance to NESCAC semifinals

November 10, 2023

Courtesy of Brian Beard
SET IT UP: The Bowdoin volleyball team, seeded tenth in the NESCAC, defeated second-seeded Colby College last Sunday in the quarterfinals. This weekend, the team will play top-seeded Wesleyan University, who is also undefeated in the NESCACs this year, in the semifinals.

Women’s volleyball (13–9; 3–7 NESCAC) pulled off the biggest upset in NESCAC tournament history on Sunday. The team defeated second-seeded Colby College (17–8, 7–3 NESCAC) in the quarterfinals with set scores of 21–25, 25–19, 25–19 and 25–16. With the win, Bowdoin advances to its eleventh NESCAC semifinals in the last thirteen tournaments.

The Polar Bears entered the tournament as the tenth seed and defeated seventh-seeded Hamilton College (10–10; 4–6 NESCAC) by a score of 3–1 to advance to the quarterfinals. Due to the mass shooting in Lewiston on October 25 and the ensuing game postponements, the NESCAC tournament was expanded to include all 11 NESCAC schools for the first time, with the top five schools automatically making the quarterfinals and the bottom six teams each playing for a chance at the three remaining spots.

The players’ emotions were high following the win over Colby, not only because they defeated a tough rival, but also because they extended their season.

“We were ecstatic. Afterward, I walked into the locker room and immediately started crying. I’m so proud of the way that this group has shown so much resilience and belief going into postseason. It’s honestly less about the upset and more about the fact that we earned the right to play more volleyball,” setter Ella Haugen ’23 wrote in an email to the Orient.

The environment in Waterville was charged and after dropping the first set, the Polar Bears faced an uphill battle to climb back into the match. Even so, everyone was ready for the moment.

“We had this constant theme of a ‘good loss’ versus a ‘bad loss.’ And that first set definitely felt like a good loss. We were all there, we had the energy, we just didn’t get off to as fast of a start as we wanted to. But I think all of us knew that we were going to come back,” defensive setter Anna Yeh ’27 said.

Offensively, outside hitter Skye LaMendola ’27 led the way with 15 kills. Haugen led the team in assists with 36, while also tallying ten digs. Four others—LaMendola, Cami Lindsey ’25, Maya White ’25 and Yeh—also notched double-digit digs.

One of the more interesting storylines in the game was playoff experience. Colby’s roster consists of 15 first years, seven sophomores and just one senior. Bowdoin’s roster entered the match with more playoff experience, and Lindsey believes this helped the Polar Bears emerge victorious.

“I think it’s super important to have upperclassmen leadership during the playoffs specifically, just because some of us have been on playoff runs before with Bowdoin,” Lindsey said. “I think [Colby] just got really nervous—especially as they dropped sets, they started realizing, ‘Oh, if we lose then our season is done.’ And I just feel like it’s nice to have people to lean on who have been there before.… It doesn’t take away from their talent at all.”

Looking ahead, the Polar Bears will travel to Middletown, Conn. to play top-seeded Wesleyan University (20–1; 10–0 NESCAC) in the semifinals. The Cardinals went undefeated in the NESCAC in the regular season.

“We are feeling fired up, and we are so excited that we get to play Wesleyan next. They are a really good team. They earned the top seed for a reason, and they are going to challenge us. But we also know that we’re capable of making history, and I think our confidence will surprise them,” Haugen wrote.

Marc Rosenthal contributed to this report.


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