After finishing second in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament and setting a new program record with 16 wins in a single season, the men’s lacrosse team will start its NCAA Division III tournament run this Saturday against Colorado College at Whittier Field. The team is coming off an already successful postseason, where it defeated Amherst College by one goal in the NESCAC semifinals before losing to Tufts University in the championship.
The win against Amherst required a comeback by the Polar Bears. Attacker Patrick Fitzgerald ’25 led the rally with two goals in the fourth quarter.
“We hadn’t had a lot of close wins like that. I think that it was a very exciting game and showed that we could battle through a lot of adversity,” Fitzgerald said. “We had a lot of players step up and make plays.”
Midfielder Ethan Barnard ’23 scored the go-ahead goal against Amherst with just eight seconds left in the game after winning the faceoff, sprinting down the field and taking a shot as he got checked to the ground.
“It’s a blur of adrenaline. I just remember running down the field and seeing that there was an open lane and just shooting it,” Barnard said. “I remember getting up and just being hugged by all my teammates. Everyone was cheering, and it was definitely an awesome moment.”
The next day, the team fell to Tufts, but the players are shaking off the loss and using it as motivation to win the NCAA tournament.
“I think we can play against anyone if we play at our best,” Barnard said. “Even if we had the setback with Tufts, our main goal of a national championship is still there, still possible.”
Attacker Will Byrne ’24 believes the team took away several lessons from the loss.
“If anything, we’ve learned that no matter what, through thick and thin, we are really good at staying together,” Byrne said. “We win as a team every single weekend. And this time, we lost, but we lost as a team.”
Barnard echoed this sentiment, adding that he believes the team’s work ethic is one of its greatest strengths.
“Everyone’s very adaptive and learns from their mistakes quickly and is able to just take that to help advance their game. When we get pushed, we don’t fall,” Barnard said.
The players attribute much of the team’s positive mentality to Head Coach Bill Mason.
“Coach is innovative with his strategy and game preparation. Our practices are very fun and fast-paced, transition focused. He brings the best
out of every player. He always knows what to say at the right times,” Barnard said.
It is the third time in program history that the Polar Bears received an at-large NCAA bid. Additionally, Bowdoin is one of eight schools out of the 32 participating teams that get to host games. Heading into the tournament, the players are trying to focus on the skills and camaraderie that got them this far.
“I genuinely believe in this group. I’m playing with some of the most talented kids I’ve ever played with and [with] the best coaching staff I’ve ever had in my life. I love our coaches to death. I love my teammates to death,” Byrne said. “But more importantly, we care so much. No team outworks us.”
While the goal is to become national champions, Byrne emphasized that the inclusive team environment is what has made this season so special.
“My favorite part, hands down, is just the unconditional support that we give one another no matter what. [If] someone’s going through a hard time, or not having a good day, you have 45 brothers there to pick you up and make you feel better,” Byrne said. “There’s just nothing like it.”