Date Posted:04/10/2006,  8:00AM

Bowdoin Makes History with 5th Place Finish

LOWELL, Massachusetts - The Bowdoin Men's Volleyball Team made history this weekend by finishing 5th place in NECVL DII and as champions of the north division.

The team entered as the #11 seed, expected to lose all their matches and go home on the first day. However, under the brilliant coaching of Ely Delman, Bowdoin did much better.

The team was 1-2 in pool play on Saturday, with losses to #2 Williams and #5 Brown. The team did manage to upset #8 Bates which advanced them to a one game playoff against conference rival #3 Plymouth State University. Bowdoin won in an epic comeback, securing the top finish in the north division as well as a bid into the second day of playoffs for the first time in school history. On April 9th, Bowdoin lost to UMass-Lowell, who entered the second day as the #1 seed. Bowdoin was awarded 5th place based on point differential.

In the first match of the day, Bowdoin faced off against #2 seed Williams College. Senior captains Henry Brennan (5 kills, 6 digs, 3 aces) and Phil Friedrich (4 kills, 6 digs) turned in outstanding performances, but it was not enough as Williams took the match 2-0 (13-25, 18-25). First year middle Jeff Jeng (4 kills), sophomore libero Felix Jaeckel (8 digs), and setter David White (17 assists) also played well. Williams went on to win the pool.

Next, Bowdoin got it's much desired rematch with Brown University, but the Brown Bears proved too strong as Bowdoin dropped the match 2-0 (20-25, 18-25). Yet again, the seniors turned in strong performances behind right side Brandon Parise (5 kills, 2 aces), outside hitter Phil Friedrich (7 kills, 6 digs), and outside hitter Henry Brennan (6 kills, 6 aces, 4 digs). Felix Jaeckel anchored the defense with excellent serve-receive passing and 8 digs. He was aided by setter David White who contributed 6 digs as well as 22 assists.

The last match of pool play was against Bates college, one of two teams who defeated Bowdoin during divisional play. In a brilliant coaching move, Ely Delman switched to an unconventional lineup in which outside hitter Henry Brennan could set for two rotations while junior Justin Strasburger played defense for senior right side Brandon Parise, allowing setter David White to hit.

Bates came out strong, but Bowdoin won the day behind the earth-shattering play of Jeff Jeng (6 blocks, 9 kills), Henry Brennan (7 kills, 7 digs, 6 assists), Phil Friedrich (7 kills, 7 digs), and David White (23 assists, 6 digs, 7 kills). The Polar Bears were also aided by libero Felix Jaeckel (12 digs), and defensive specialist Justin Strasburger (6 digs). With this win, Bowdoin advanced to a one game elimination match against #3 Plymouth State University, while Bates was eliminated from the tournament.

Subsequently, Bowdoin made school history with one of the greatest comebacks of all time, defeating Plymouth State (the other team who defeated Bowdoin during divisional play) 26-24 to advance to the second day of playoffs as a member of the elite eight and secure their place as champions of the north division.

The team started off slow, getting down 13-3 against the solid defense and hitting of PSU. However, Bowdoin found its second wind after the clutch blocking of first year middle Chris Carlin (3 blocks) and defense from junior Justin Strasburger. Bowdoin came back on the strong serves of senior Brandon Parise and first year Chris Carlin.

The comeback was slow, however, and PSU did not give up. Down 23-19, Bowdoin called a timeout, during which Ely Delman gave the team a rousing speech. Coming back on the court, Bowdoin dropped one more point, getting down 24-19, and all seemed lost. Any mistake would end the season. But the team managed to side out, and the unconventional lineup with Henry Brennan (4 digs, 3 kills, 6 assists) setting, David White (3 digs, 5 kills, 7 assists), Phil Friedrich (4 digs, 3 kills), and Jeff Jeng (3 kills, 6 blocks, 4 digs) hitting, and Chris Carlin serving came up. In this lineup, Bowdoin played flawlessly for seven straight points, and won the match 26-24.

On the second day of playoffs, Bowdoin faced host UMass-Lowell. Bowdoin played well, and it seemed like they might pull off yet another upset, but it was not enough, as Lowell eliminated Bowdoin from the playoffs with a 2-0 (19-25, 22-25) victory. Senior captains Henry Brennan and Phil Friedrich finished their Bowdoin careers well, each contributing 7 kills and 9 digs. Brennan also dished out 6 assists to help out setter David White, who contributed 10 digs, 6 kills, and 17 assists. Jeff Jeng also played well with 5 blocks, 3 kills, and 6 digs.

Having made history and raised the bar, Bowdoin ended their season, and four seniors (Brandon Parise, Ely Delman, Phil Friedrich, and Henry Brennan) ended their careers at Bowdoin. It will be hard in the future to fill their shoes or to continue to play at such a high level, and they will be greatly missed.