Field hockey will face rival Amherst this Saturday in what will be a tough first game of the season. Bowdoin, which graduated four seniors last year, lost its opening game to Amherst in 2009.

While the team ended up beating Amherst in the NESCAC quarterfinals, Captain Shannon Malloy '11 said, "It was good revenge, but this year we're excited to try and do the same. [Losing the opening game] is a tough way to start the season."

After gaining four first year recruits this fall, the team stands at 20 players, six of whom are seniors. The starting lineup for Saturday's game remains undetermined, but there are currently three open spots. Malloy, who has played on the varsity team for four years, doesn't think the lineup is a big indicator anyway.

"Bowdoin has always had a deep team," she said. "Any given day, the bench could beat the starters."

Of the seniors who graduated in 2010, two played as defenders, one as a forward and one as a midfielder. The four first years, Katie Riley, Olivia King, Molly Paduda and Lauren Schroeder, will play as forwards and midfielders, with a possible foray into defense for the latter two. While coach Nicky Pearson said that she did not recruit these players specifically for their positions but rather for overall skill, they are definitely helpful additions to the team.

The team has been training together for nearly two weeks, waking up early during Orientation in order to incorporate the first years in to the preseason practices. Preseason training generally consists of drills and strength-building activities to increase the cohesiveness of the team as a unit. However, in addition to these workouts, the team had several scrimmages with neighboring schools.

The squad scrimmaged Bates last Saturday and with Colby on Monday, Pearson said the scrimmages were used for "valuable evaluation that highlighted some strengths and weaknesses, and from there we've got a game plan."

Both Malloy and Pearson reiterated that the NESCAC is highly competitive and that every game is crucial. However, Pearson is optimistic.

"The team is very balanced in terms of strength," she said. "I believe we have good speed, particularly in the forward midfield line, and some good spacing and passing combinations."

Malloy agreed, saying that "practice is very competitive and a good indicator of improvement. I think we have the talent and skills to make the Final Four."

In addition to the time spent together during practice, the team is also a very closely knit group off the field.

"Most of us live together," Malloy said, "and the freshmen are never apart. We're all very close already."

Pearson is also happy with the group dynamic.

"It's really very hard to be successful on the field without good team dynamics," she said. "They're very respectful and supportive on and off the field."

This Saturday, the women will face their first official challenge as a team. Amherst is currently ranked No. 3 in the conference, and for a team with aspirations of the Final Four, every win matters.