WELLESLEY, Mass. - The season came to an end for the Worcester State University volleyball team on Friday afternoon, as the Lancers suffered a hard-fought 3-1 defeat to #23 Bowdoin College in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at the Staake Gymnasium. Set scores were 23-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-17.
With the loss, the MASCAC Champion Lancers finish their season with an overall record of 23-11. The Polar Bears advance to the Second Round, which will be played on Saturday, and improve to 28-1 overall.
The first set went to the Lancers in a 25-23 thriller. After the Lancers went up 3-2 early, Bowdoin responded with a 4-0 run to go up 6-3 and appeared to be in control of the set, up 14-9 around the midpoint of the set. A well-timed Worcester State timeout started the Lancers on the comeback trail, as junior Stephanie Chapin (Hampden, Mass.) recorded two kills on a mini 3-0 run to cut the deficit to two.
The Lancers would trail 19-15 moments later, but would again rally to take the momentum. Senior Amari King (Lawrence, Mass.) was at the service line for a 4-0 Lancer run to even the set, and moments later with the set tied 23-23, Chapin and King would combine for back-to-back kills to grab the 1-0 advantage.
The Lancers were in control in the early stages of set number two, and appeared poised to take a commanding 2-0 advantage before the Polar Bears kicked it into gear. With the Lancers leading 10-5, the Polar Bears went on a 5-0 run to even the set, and after a Lancer timeout, Worcester State sprinted back out in front by a score of 14-10.
Bowdoin stayed persistent however, and after battling back to trail by just a score of 19-18, the Polar Bears would go on a 5-1 run, taking a 23-20 lead and essentially putting the set out of reach. The Polar Bears would close it out by a final of 25-22 to level the match.
Worcester State again had its chances in the third set, but with the Lancers ahead 10-6 in the early stages, the Polar Bears went on an 11-0 run that all but sucked all the life out of the Lancers. Bowdoin would continue to roll, taking the set 25-14 and putting the Lancers on the brink.
Bowdoin jumped ahead early in the fourth set, opening on an 8-1 run, but the Lancers refused to go down quietly. Despite the early deficit, Worcester State battled all the way back to trail by just one at 10-9, but could get no closer to the Polar Bears. Bowdoin would surge ahead and close out the match thanks to 17 fourth set kills.
Senior Emily Carens (Northborough, Mass.) paced the Lancer offense on the afternoon, recording 12 kills, and completing a double-double with 11 digs. Senior libero Megan Leavens (Storrs, Conn.) closed out her final collegiate match with an impressive 26 digs, matching Bowdoin's Lisa Sheldon for the match high.
Lancer head coach Bernie Chase had nothing but praise for his team after the match. "We got off to a great start," he said. "Bowdoin had a little difficulty catching up to us."
"The past two years have been an unbelievable experience," said senior setter Allie Nolan (Melrose, Mass.), referring to Worcester State's back to back MASCAC championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. "We just kept up with the 23rd-ranked team in the nation, and we're a tiny state school."