Women’s field hockey came close to the NESCAC championship title last year, finishing one win away from competing in the 2017 NESCAC championship. Middlebury’s team cut Bowdoin’s playoff run short, beating them 5-2 in the semifinal game of the NESCAC tournament. For years, the two schools have consistently ranked next to each other in the NESCAC standings.
A year later, the Polar Bears (5-0) are ranked first in the NESCAC and set to compete against Middlebury (5-0) on Saturday for a rematch of last year’s semifinal game.
“Middlebury is always a solid team,” captain Elizabeth Bennewitz ’19 said. “I think that they adjust every year and are always strong.”
After three conference wins, Bowdoin’s field hockey team is gaining more confidence. Bennewitz cites the team’s chemistry on the field for its success.
“Some previous years, there has been a little bit of a disconnect,” Bennewitz said. “We always need everyone on the field to be connecting and putting the ball in the back of the net, and this year, that connection is there. I don’t know exactly what makes the difference, but we are just playing in a lot more connected way.”
With more activity on the field, the team has consistently been scoring this year, something that the team struggled with last year.
“We were a great team, and we played really well, but we just couldn’t score when we needed to [last season],” Bennewitz said.
So far this season, the team has scored an average of 3.8 goals per game. This includes a six goal game against Amherst (2-2) and a five goal game against Husson (0-5). Leading the offense is Emma Stevens ’20 with a remarkable nine goals thus far, shooting .895 percent.
Defensively, the team has limited each opponent to no more than two goals per game. But Head Coach Nicky Pearson, now in her twenty-third season, believes there is still more work to be done. The team’s defense throughout the middle of the field is weaker than its offense. Preventing opponents from coming through the middle of the field uncontested is a big goal for the team.
“We are putting a lot of energy in making sure that defensively, we are working as a unit,” said Pearson.
For the remainder of the season, the team’s overall goal remains the same: winning the NESCAC championship. Because a majority of its players are upperclassmen, the team brings a substantial amount of experience to the field this year.
Four first years round out the Polar Bears, including two players in starting positions.
“All four of them have been great additions to the process, and I think they are handling the transition to Bowdoin and a new team really well,” said Pearson. “We really enjoy having them.”
Overall, the team is connecting well on and off the field, and players hope to build on this chemistry throughout the season.
“Everyone could hang out with [any]one,” said Bennewitz. “Everyone is really welcoming, and it’s just a really good environment.”
The Polar Bears will travel to Middlebury on Saturday before returning home to take on the University of Southern Maine (4-2) on Sunday.