After clinching three of the past four NCAA championships, the women's field hockey team is gearing up for what looks to be another season of success.

Despite the loss of six seniors, the team returns seven starters from last year's NCAA title game, including two All-Americans, senior captains Ella Curren and Katie Herter.

Also returning are several leading scorers including Liz Clegg '12, Kassey Matoin '13 and Cathleen Smith '13.

Head Coach Nicky Pearson will be leading the team once again after having been named 2010 D-III Coach of the Year for the third time in her career. And with eight first years joining the team this season, the players are excited to work together to defend their title and add to their legacy.

The Polar Bears entered the preseason at the top of the pack, having earned 33 of 46 first-place votes in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Preseason Poll. They look to become the first D-III field hockey program in history to win four national titles in a five-year stretch.

"I think our team's success has placed a target on our back, but this is a challenge that pushes our team to try harder," said Curren. "We enter every game, scrimmage and practice knowing that every team in D-III wants to beat us and that pushes us to play harder."

While the team may have a steady record, it will have to work hard to retain its standing in the league. The NESCAC continues to boast the most competitive teams in D-III and includes five other nationally-ranked squads.

The key to another successful season, Curren said, is to acquire a strong foundation by "emphasizing and sharpening our most basic skills such as passing, receiving, one-on-one defense and shooting."

"From there," she added, "we evaluate what has been successful in past seasons and what we need to focus on for this season. We look to improve each year by paying attention to the details, working hard in practice and setting clear goals for ourselves and our team."

This formula has clearly served the team well in the past. After suffering last season's only loss to Tufts, Bowdoin went on to win the NESCAC title game against the Jumbos just two weeks later. Subsequently, it conquered Babson, Lebanon Valley and Skidmore before reaching Messiah in the D-III championship game, which was decided in penalty strokes.

With three national titles under its belt, Bowdoin is currently tied for third in total D-III field hockey championships, behind The College of New Jersey (nine) and Salisbury (five).

The Polar Bears hope to advance toward the top of that list, beginning this season as they travel to face Wesleyan.

Other games to watch in the next few weeks include a September 24 face-off at home against sixth-ranked Tufts and subsequent home games against nationally-ranked Hamilton and Amherst, before the team travels to Trinity.

"We cannot take any game or practice lightly," said Curren.

"Every game will be a battle," she added. "But we are ready to rise to the challenge."