After losing three conference games, the Bowdoin women’s soccer team (2-4-1, NESCAC 0-3-1) has had an underwhelming start to its season. Though the team lost only two seniors last spring, preseason expectations were high for the core of returning starters. However, the Polar Bears have yet to win a NESCAC game this season. With six in-conference games still to play, time remains to shift their trajectory.
Despite its lackluster record, the team has shown promise in the early stages of the season. Of the Polar Bears’ four losses this season, two (against Middlebury (5-0-1, NESCAC 2-0-1) and Wesleyan (5-1-1, NESCAC 2-1-1)) were decided by goals within the final five minutes of the game.
With limited time to prepare, the team had to hit the ground running from day one of preseason.
“Our schedule poses a serious challenge, and this year was perhaps the toughest of all. We had one full team practice, then opened with [number] 12 in the country the next day,” wrote Head Coach Brianne Smithson in an email to the Orient. “We then faced [number] 5 in the country within a week … that is a tall order for any team. ”
The team will face Trinity College (2-3-1, NESCAC 1-1-0) this Saturday, which will be a crucial match with the potential to get the team out of its early-season rut. The Polar Bears’ only draw of the season came against Colby (2-2-2, 1-2-2 NESCAC), a team that beat Trinity 2-0.
Bowdoin will also be propelled by its recent hot streak, coming off of a 6-0 win against the University of Maine-Farmington (1-6-1) and a 2-0 win against the University of New England (3-2-2). Whether these wins can be converted into in-conference successes remains to be seen.
Smithson stated that Sophia Lemmer ’20, Morgen Gallagher ’20 and Lynn Farquhar ’21 were the appointed “team leaders” (the women’s soccer team does not have captains). They lead a team with a good deal more younger players—18 sophomores and first years compared to 12 upperclassmen, only five of whom are seniors. However, the lack of senior women on the team is even less severe than last year, when there were only two seniors on a team of 31 players.
Although the team’s upperclassmen are small in number, their impact cannot be underestimated.
“We have a[n] … experienced group of returners, including five seniors who have given so much to this program and are strong role models and leaders,” wrote Smithson. “The team has already made huge strides in just a few short weeks. As the season progresses and each team member finds their unique way to contribute, our depth will become an asset for us.”
This depth is already proving valuable as younger players establish their roles on the team. For example, Rachael Peacock ’23 has already cemented her position as a regular starter; in fact, Peacock co-leads the team in goals, with two scored so far this season. The team also returns six regular starters (players who started more than 10 games) from last season, as well as goalkeeper Penny Rocchio ’22, who has proven herself to be extremely effective this season, with 22 saves and only six goals allowed over seven starts.
The challenges the team has faced so far—a challenging schedule, limited time to prepare and injuries that have prevented Smithson from being able to field a consistent lineup—have put Bowdoin in early jeopardy.
The team is choosing to look on the bright side going forward.
“We have just come off of two good team wins, and the team is committed to building off of everything we have learned so far,” wrote Smithson. “The team has put forth a tremendous amount of effort in spite of the rigorous schedule and injuries, which says a lot about [its] character.”
That character and the team’s experience is there, and the roster is still loaded with talent. For the next few weeks, Bowdoin’s NESCAC fate will truly be a test of whether the Polar Bears can convert those close losses into wins.