Ever since last year’s momentous NCAA tournament run ended in a second place finish, the Bowdoin women’s basketball team has been looking towards the start of its season as the beginning of its journey to avenge its loss against Amherst in the national championship game.
Last year’s historic season has generated high expectations for this year’s team. The Polar Bears are currently ranked second in the most recent D3hoops.com preseason poll. This is their highest preseason ranking in the poll since the 2006-07 season, in which they won the NESCAC tournament and reached the NCAA Elite Eight.
“Outside expectations for us are changing, and they’re higher because of how far we got last year,” said Captain Abby Kelly ’19.
The expectations the team has for itself are just as high.
“We’re all on the same page—we want a conference championship and we want a national championship,” said Head Coach Adrienne Shibles.
Despite these ambitious expectations, she emphasized that the team would be fixating on more than its end-of-the-season goals.
“If we consistently talk about those [goals] and [only ever] focus on them, we’re going to lose sight of the little things that we need to do to get there,” Shibles said. She described the team as “process-oriented” in its mental approach to games and practices.
Kelly agreed, pointing out that outside expectations are a lot of pressure and it is better for players to focus on themselves.
The Polar Bears graduated three seniors last year, including two of the team’s top four total scorers, Kate Kerrigan ’18 and Lauren Petit ’18. Kerrigan was also the second Bowdoin player to be named the WBCA DIII Player of the Year, the highest honor for DIII women’s basketball.
Though the seniors left big shoes to fill, the team isn’t worried. Captain Hannah Graham ’19 praised the team’s four first years, “who are really understanding [the team’s] systems and have shown strength and basketball IQ.”
If it is to achieve its preseason expectations, the team will face a treacherous path to the NCAA DIII Championship. Kelly pointed out that three NESCAC teams—Bowdoin, Amherst and Tufts—made it to the NCAA Elite Eight last year, and all three teams are currently ranked in the top six of the D3hoops.com and WBCA preseason coaches’ polls.
Shibles and both captains agreed that perennial foes Amherst and Tufts would likely be some of the team’s toughest competition this season.
“That’s how it’s been for the past three years,” said Graham. “They’re familiar faces.”
The team begins its road to the championship this weekend with its first game in the Coastal Classic Tip-Off against Regis College at 5 p.m. tonight in Morrell Gym.
“Everyone’s going to be super excited for the first game, but also a little nervous. I hope that during Friday’s game we can get the jitters out quickly,” said Graham.
“Regis is a team that’s consistently in the NCAA tournament … it’ll be a challenging start,” said Shibles. “I’m just trying to get the [team] prepared for anything they could potentially see on Friday.”