Like a veteran surgeon performing open-heart surgery, the field hockey team dissected its first two opponents in the NCAA D-III tournament last weekend to once again earn a spot in the Final Four.
After No. 1 Bowdoin defeated the Keene State Owls in a 4-0 victory, the team trounced the talented MIT Engineers in a 3-0 regional final shutout.
Across the two matches, Bowdoin faced only five on-target shots, compared to the 32 the Polar Bears fired.
Keene State was held to just one shot and one penalty corner. Bowdoin picked apart MIT, a talented team that decisively upset No. 8 Denison in the second round of the tournament.
"They had a forward that was fast, athletic, and very skillful," Bowdoin Head Coach Nicky Pearson said of Kameron Klauber, MIT's leading scorer. Pearson called Klauber "as talented and dangerous a forward as we've seen this year."
The Polar Bears have now outscored their opponents 45-3 since the beginning of October, and hold the D-III tournament record of 14 straight wins.
Tomorrow, the Polar Bears will be playing in their sixth national semifinal in seven years against Middlebury, the same team they beat 2-1 in the NESCAC championship on November 6.
Middlebury forward Lauren Greer, D-III's top scorer, will surely be looking for revenge after defender Kassey Matoin '13 shut her down in the NESCAC title game. Repeating that outstanding performance will be imperative for Bowdoin tomorrow.
"It's undeniable to say that [Greer is Middlebury's] go-to player, so if we can cut her off, that kind of stifles their offense in general," captain Ella Curren '12 said. "That being said, they have two other really strong forwards and they have offensively-minded midfielders."
One of these players scored the team's sole goal in the conference finals against Bowdoin two weeks ago.
Bowdoin, which also played Middlebury on September 24 in an overtime win, is playing without a home-field advantage for the first time against the Panthers. But after the last two Polar Bear-Panther matchups, both teams know what to expect.
"They're a good team and they'll look to exploit our weaknesses, but I'm not that worried," Curren said. "We're not that predictable in our game. We try to attack them from both sides, we'll have long hits up to the forwards, we'll try to weave it in between, and we'll try to not be too predictable in anything we do."
Facing Middlebury for a third time doesn't faze Pearson, but she acknowledged the difficulty in coming away with the two previous wins.
"There's a part of us where we know that we can beat this team—we know who they are, and we've beaten them twice—but they're also a huge rival," she said. "To beat a very good team three times is a challenge."
Bowdoin (19-0) proceeds into the Final Four with the determination and experience that has already carried the team so far. If the team defeats Middlebury tomorrow at the neutral ground of Nichols College, it will advance to the finals against either No. 3 The College of New Jersey or the unranked Ursinus College on Sunday.
Coming home with a D-III title would give Bowdoin an unprecedented fourth national championship in five years.