Date Posted:09/08/2003,  12:00PM

2003 Volleyball Preview

BRUNSWICK, Maine - There are few tougher things to do than to build a volleyball program at an elite private college in chilly Brunswick, Maine. Nevertheless, Bowdoin head coach Kellie Bearman enters her third season at the helm of the Bowdoin volleyball squad with a wealth of talent ready to make the next step. With several of last season's newcomers returning for another go-around and the influx of talented first-years, the Polar Bears will look to qualify for their first-ever NESCAC Tournament.

"We have a super-young team this year," says the head coach. "You can tell sometimes, but you can also tell that we do have a great deal of playing experience- whether it be on high school or club teams."

Seniors Bryony Heise (Chappaqua, N.Y.) and Erin Philipson (St. Helena, Calif.) will lead a young crew into battle this season, as the roster contains no juniors and ten first-years and sophomores.

"Bryony brings maturity to our squad and is our team's academic mentor and community liason," says Bearman. "She is coming along on defensively as well. Erin took a year off last year abroad and she'll step right into a key role as Defensive Specialist."

A group of five sophomores comes back with a year of experience under their belt. Sarita Fu (Los Altos Hills, Calif.), Bree Dallinga (Ardsley, N.Y.), Ellie Simon (Falls Church, Va.), Kelly Bougere (Avon, Conn.) and Jessica Schlobohm (Santa Barbara, Calif.) make up the heart-and-soul of the squad.

"Jessica Schlobohm is a rare sophomore captain and is possibly the most fun athlete I've ever watched," says Bearman. "Kelly has come back with much more confidence this year now that some of the pressure is not on her as much. Ellie is working on developing a portfolio of shots from the middle and will probably see more time as the season goes along. Bree is our starting setter, but you could probably put here anywhere and she'd shine. Sarita was forced into an unfamiliar position last year, and will likely be our back-up setter."

The first-years bring a significant amount of depth and excitement to the program. Erica Michel (Arvada, Colo.), Nina Durchfort (Hollywood, Fla.), Jessica Brooks (Catonsville, Md.), Julie Calareso (Coral Springs, Fla.) and Erin Prifogle (Eaton, Ohio) will all get chances to contribute in 2003.

"Every year you get an unexpected gift and this year that player is Nina Durchfort," says Bearman. "We didn't see much of her in recruiting but she has an amazing work ethic as a middle blocker. Erica's just a versatile player you can put anywhere and is great defensively, while Julie is everything we expected and more. She will probably be a rookie of the year candidate in the conference. Erin is injured right now so she's a little behind, but from what we've seen she has natural timing. Jessica Brooks has an unorthodox swing that throws opponents off. She'll compete for a starting spot."

Bowdoin will open their season on September 10 at Endicott and will host their annual Polar Bear Invitational in late September. Other home dates include Conn. College (Sept. 19) as well as Wesleyan and Trinity (Sept. 20). Rival Bates will come to Brunswick on October 1.

"I'm cautiously optimistic about this year," says Bearman. "One of our goals is to finish at .500. I expect that with the young team we have that we'll be making adjustments and developing a solid lineup over the course of the year. I hope that we'll have more fun this year. We're getting some great competition in practice and I?m hoping they'll be prepared to face the level of opponents we have this year."