Polar Bears in Pursuit of Seventh Field Hockey Championship This Weekend

Polar Bears in Pursuit of Seventh Field Hockey Championship This Weekend

BRUNSWICK, Maine – Bowdoin College, the defending conference champion, will look to add another title to its legacy when the top-seeded Polar Bears host the remaining rounds of the 2011 NESCAC Field Hockey Championship this weekend at Howard F. Ryan Field in Brunswick, Maine. Bowdoin, which has won five of the last six NESCAC championships, will take on fifth-seeded Trinity at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, followed by second-seeded Amherst battling third-seeded Middlebury at 1:30 p.m. Teams that advance out of Saturday's semifinals will meet on Sunday at noon for the 2011 title.

Bowdoin (15-0, 10-0 NESCAC) posted its third undefeated regular season in since 2000 this fall, joining a pair of former unbeaten Polar Bear squads from 2005 and 2007. In fact, it's been a while since Bowdoin has recorded a loss. The defending NCAA field hockey champs last suffered a setback on Oct. 29, 2010 at Tufts in the final match of the conference slate, 1-0, and it proved to be the only loss of the season. There have been a few close calls for the Polar Bears in 2011, most notably a 3-2 overtime victory over Middlebury on Sept. 24, and a 2-1 penalty-stroke win against Amherst on Oct. 16. The pair of wins were the tightest affairs for Bowdoin during their current 19-game unbeaten streak at Ryan Field, a figure which dates back to 2009.

A key ingredient to Bowdoin's success this season has been their defense, a hallmark of the Polar Bears over the years. The Bowdoin defensive corps leads the league in goals against average (0.58) and has allowed a paltry nine goals over 15 matches with eight shutouts to their credit. During the opening round of the playoffs, the Polar Bears dispatched eighth-seeded Hamilton 2-0, allowing just four of the Continentals' seven shots to reach junior goalkeeper Kalya Lessard (Enfield, Conn.), and advanced the semifinals for the seventh year in a row. Leading the Polar Bears on the turf this fall has been senior midfielder Ella Curren (Roxbury, Conn.). One of the best two-way players in the NESCAC, Curren's play has made the Bowdoin defense one of the toughest units to crack. On the attack, Curren ranks fourth among her teammates in scoring with 22 points on nine goals and four assists. Cathleen Smith (Larchmont, N.Y.) currently paces the team with 14 goals and six assists, while Katie Herter (Topsfield, Mass.) has scored nine goals and dished out nine assists. Elizabeth Clegg (Hudson, Ohio) has been a sparkplug on the wing, dishing out a team-best ten assists to go with seven goals.

In search for their first NESCAC title will be the fifth-seeded Bantams of Trinity (11-4, 6-4 NESCAC). The Bantams are one of only two teams in the conference that can claim a winning record against the top-seeded Polar Bears in the NESCAC championship after Trinity handed Bowdoin a 2-1 setback in the 2009 semifinals, its only loss in tournament play since the fall of 2004. All four of Trinity's setbacks this season came at the hands of the four teams above it in the standings, and of the four losses three were by a single goal, including the 1-0 loss to Bowdoin on Oct. 22. The Bantams bounced back from that setback by downing Wesleyan 2-1 in the season finale, then went to Tufts in the quarterfinals and produced a 2-1 decision over the Jumbos in double-overtime. While Trinity is in the semis for the fourth year in a row the Bantams have reached Sunday's final only once during that stretch, falling to Tufts for the 2009 title. Hoping to backbone the Bantams to the 2011 crown is senior netminder Gina Dinallo (West Hartford, Conn.). Playing nearly every minute of every game, Dinallo is third in the league in goals against with a 0.98 average and fourth in save percentage at .810.

Amherst (13-2) and Middlebury (13-2) both finished tied for second in the NESCAC standings with identical 8-2 conference marks. The Lord Jeffs, however, gained the advantage for the number-two seed in the tournament after they the Panthers' league-leading offense to their lowest scoring total of the year in a 3-1 victory all the way back on Sept. 18. Both teams are in the midst of successful seasons, with Amherst posting 13 victories for the first time since 2001 and Middlebury matching its win total from 2010, but only one will be able to play on Sunday for the conference crown. Saturday's match will be the third time in playoff history that the two have met in the semifinals, as Amherst won the 2001 meeting 3-0 for the program's only final appearance before Middlebury returned the favor in 2003 by the same score en route to the Panthers' only NESCAC title.

Amherst punched its ticket to the semifinals with a 3-1 victory over seventh-seeded Wesleyan last Saturday. The Jeffs will be making their second final four appearance in as many years after they lost in overtime to eventual champion Bowdoin last fall. Middlebury, meanwhile, is back in the semis for the first time in three tries after posting a 3-0 shutout of sixth-seeded Williams in the first round. The Panthers rivaled only the Polar Bears in terms of postseason success just a few years ago. After winning the NESCAC championship in 2003, its first finals appearance, Middlebury went on to finish as the runner-up in the tournament in three of the next four years, twice coming up short by a single goal.

The Panthers head into the weekend with one of the nation's most productive offense, scoring 4.53 goals per game and out-scoring foes by over three goals. The Jeffs' attack has been just as impressive, ranking third in the NESCAC at 3.53 goals per game and overcoming opponents by a 2.64-goal margin. Leading the way for both teams are two juniors that are in the midst of career years. Middlebury's Lauren Greer (North Hampton, N.H.) has shattered her program's single-season and career goals, assists, and points records this fall, racking up 76 points - the most by any NESCAC player since tournament play was instituted in 2000 - with 30 goals, an average of two per game, and 16 assists. On the other side of the field, Amherst's Katie McMahon (Denville, N.J.) has written her name into the Jeffs' record books this season. McMahon owns the career mark for assists and points and is approaching the all-time goals mark, needing just four more tallies to tie the record. For the third-straight year, McMahon paces Amherst in scoring, collecting 14 goals and eight assists for 36 points, a figure that is second only to Greer's eye-popping points total among conference players.

Quarterfinals - Saturday, October 29 at Higher Seeds
at No. 1 Bowdoin 2, No. 8 Hamilton 0
at No. 2 Amherst 3, No. 7 Wesleyan 1
at No. 3 Middlebury 3, No. 6 Williams 0
No. 5 Trinity 2, at No. 4 Tufts 1 - 2OT

Semifinals - Saturday, November 5 at Bowdoin
No. 5 Trinity at No. 1 Bowdoin - 11:00 a.m.  - Webcast / Live Stats
No. 3 Middlebury vs. No. 2 Amherst - 1:30 p.m. - Webcast / Live Stats

Championship - Sunday, November 6 at Bowdoin
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m. - Webcast / Live Stats

Release courtesy of the NESCAC