Heading into overtime against Tufts last Saturday, the women's basketball team was under immense pressure. Not just because it was overtime, or the NESCAC quarterfinals, or potentially the last game of the season.
Bowdoin had a reputation to uphold. Since the beginning of the conference tournament in 2001, Bowdoin has won eight of the nine NESCAC championships, with a stunning 25-1 tournament history record. So with the Tufts game, and the history of the team on the line, who did the Polar Bears turn to? Why, of course, it was the usual candidate: tri-captain Caitlin Hynes '10.
And did Hynes ever fulfill those expectations. In overtime, she scored six of the team's 15 points and blocked three shots, helping boost the Polar Bears into the semifinals with a 65-54 victory. Hynes also tied her season-high 24 points and pulled down six rebounds.
"Caitlin has evolved from a role player to that of dominant post in the league," Coach Adrienne Shibles said. "She has done that with a lot of hard work and determination. She has incredible confidence and poise, which has been very important for our team this season."
Following the win against Tufts, Hynes was named the Player of the Week by the NESCAC and the Maine Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
The six-foot forward from Owl's Head, Maine, has been a major presence on the Bowdoin court her entire career. During her first year she played in 28 games, her sophomore year she played in 22 and her junior year she played in all 29.
Despite the playing time she has earned during her time as a Polar Bear, Hynes has not always been in peak condition.
Coach Adrienne Shibles discussed Hynes's ability to overcome injuries that have plagued her, but have not prevented her from playing.
"The past two seasons, Caitlin has played with a foot condition that sidelines many NFL players," she said. "However, she mentally powers through the pain and never allows her issues to steal from the team's focus. I think that this kind of toughness and selflessness is rare."
Undoubtedly, Hynes is a special member of the Bowdoin team. Teammate Alexis Sones '13 described what it is like watching Hynes on the court.
"Caitlin is great at leading by example," said Sones. "When she gets fired up and intense, she is unstoppable. My favorite part about it is that you can really see that desire and intensity in her eyes."
Since arriving at Bowdoin, Hynes has used that passion to develop her game to the high level she is currently playing at. Hynes described what it felt like as a first year to walk onto a team that had won six consecutive conference championships, and finished second at the 2004 NCAA D-III Tournament.
"Coming into Bowdoin, I never imagined being the captain of such a successful program," she said. "But now, I feel no pressure. I'm a lot more confident offensively than I used to be. I know I can really be an offensive threat now."
Perhaps it is this type of composed attitude that has helped Hynes become such a star player on the team. Her 45 blocks this season were good enough for fourth-highest in the history of Bowdoin women's basketball.
In addition to her impressive block total, Hynes appeared in all 25 games this year, leading the team with a whopping 317 total points and an average 12.7 points per game.
However, season statistics are currently at the back of the team's mind. Tomorrow, Bowdoin will head to Amherst to face off against second-seeded Colby in the NESCAC Semifinals.
The rival teams split their regular season series, and each is hungrily pursuing a championship victory.
Hynes is leading the way for Bowdoin. Having captured conference championships her first and junior years, she knows what it is like to win.
"When you win a championship, the feeling at the end is amazing," she said. "It is such a great feeling to know that you could have that experience again."
Hynes mentioned that despite a few shaky mid-season performances, she is confident in the team's recent play.
"We really have the ability to go far this year," she noted. "The team is peaking at the right time and every player has stepped it up in the past two to three weeks."
Hynes is definitely one of those players who has improved her play. As her team looks to move deeper into the tournament, they will continue to look to Hynes for the leadership and skill that has helped push the Polar Bears into the playoffs.