NORFOLK, Va. - On the strength of a Rachel Kennedy goal early in the second half, and a suffocating defensive effort, the Bowdoin College field hockey claimed its fourth NCAA Division III title in the last seven years with a 1-0 win over Salisbury on Sunday.
The Polar Bears, who last claimed the title when this year's seniors were first-years in 2010, finish the season with an 18-3 mark. Bowdoin also claimed the national title in 2007 and '08 and improves to 4-0 all-time in NCAA Championship games. The Sea Gulls finish their year with a record of 17-4 and lose their first-ever national title match after entering today's match with a perfect 5-0 mark in finals.
Katie Riley, Rachel Kennedy, and Mettler Growney all earned All-Tournament honors for their performances at this weekend's Final Four, while senior midfielder Olivia King was named Tournament MVP.
Bowdoin's first real scoring opportunity came ten minutes into the opening half as Emily Simonton received a cross pass on the right post and deflected the ball just wide. Salisbury worked the ball back down the field a few minutes later, forcing Bowdoin's Hannah Gartner to drop into a split to close up space on the post. The Polar Bears recovered quickly, charging right back down the field before Adrienne O'Donnell would slip a reverse stick sweep just wide of Salisbury's cage.
Bowdoin continued to pressure the Sea Gulls' defense, earning the first corner of the game with under ten minutes remaining in the half. Following the insert, Colleen Finnerty's straight shot from the top missed just wide left, eluding Katie Riley on the post. Bowdoin earned another corner in the fourth minute, but Salisbury's Amanda Cooper came up with the defensive save on the right side to keep the game scoreless. With the final seconds of the half rolling off clock, Salisbury looked to score as the ball came rolling in on Gartner who dropped to cover more area. Bowdoin's Molly Paduda stepped up from the right post to clear the ball as time expired.
Bowdoin wasted little time in the second half, solving the Salisbury defense just 1:51 into the frame. Finnerty carried the ball from the backfield up the left sideline and got off a quick shot from just inside the circle. Salisbury's Rachel Clewer stopped the ball, but left the rebound loose in front of the net where Kennedy was able to step in and connect with the right corner of the cage to put Bowdoin on top 1-0.
Salisbury responded with pressure, working down the field and earning a corner. A straight shot from the top of the circle bounced up and off the body of a Salisbury player across the goal line, before Finnerty could bat it back out. Initially ruled a goal, the referees retracted the call and awarded Salisbury another corner. The Sea Gulls sent the ball across the circle on their next possession, but Yumi Kim missed the pass and and open net, allowing Gartner time to recover and close off the angle before Hannah Miller could get off a shot.
Bowdoin was forced to play without both Mettler Growney and Olivia King after the pair earned five minute yellow cards within 50 seconds of each other. Salisbury's last serious scoring threat came at 12:35 as Bowdoin allowed another Sea Gulls' pass to skip across the circle untouched. The Polar Bears were able to maintain possession over the final two minutes of play and secure the national title.
The Sea Gulls entered the weekend with an NCAA leading .61 goals against average, but faced a Bowdoin offense that averaged 4.29 goals per game this season. Bowdoin's scoring 3.36 scoring margin ranked first amongst all Division III institutions prior to the Final Four.
Bowdoin has now won 20 of their last 22 NCAA Tournament matches dating back to 2007. The Polar Bears have also won 47 consecutive matches against non-NESCAC opponents over the last seven seasons.
Photos courtesy of Keith Lucas/Sideline Media