On the volleyball court, captain Julia Panepinto ’20 of Buffalo, N.Y., is the one dishing out the assists. Off the court, Panepinto’s teammates assist her.

She’s taking the rhetoric course ”Presidential Campaign Rhetoric,” in which students mount a full-blown mock presidential campaign on campus. And Panepinto is one of the candidates.

“At every campaign event, the team is there,” Panepinto said. “So there is such a supportive environment we have, and I think it’s unparalleled.”

Starting at 5 p.m., watch the livestream of Friday’s NESCAC Volleyball Championship quarterfinal between Bates and Wesleyan.

It’s a supportive, but also very competitive, environment. Practices are intense.

“It can get a little snippy,” Panepinto says with a smile. “Only seven people can start on game day and each of us wants to be one of those seven.”

Mix those two ingredients together and you have the best season for the program in nearly a decade.

The Bobcats went 14-8 during the regular season, the program’s most wins since 2009. Now, the Bobcats head to the NESCAC tournament for the fourth straight year under head coach Melissa DeRan.

Each season, Bates has increased its win total under DeRan but the Bobcats are still looking for their first win in the NESCAC tournament since 2003.

Obviously being in the tournament is great, the NESCAC is a fight, day in and day out,” DeRan said. “But, that’s not good enough anymore and it’s time for us to make an impact now that we’re there.”