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Polar Bear of the Week: Samaya Bernardo ’24

September 15, 2023

Courtesy of Brian Beard
HAVING A BALL: Forward Samaya Bernardo ’24 finished second in the conference after netting 10 goals last season in addition to being named Second Team All-NESCAC and Second Team All-Region.

Last season, forward Samaya Bernardo ’24 put on a stellar offensive performance, leading the women’s soccer team to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2015. Finishing second in the conference in both goals (10) and points (23) last season, Bernardo was named Second Team All-NESCAC and Second Team All-Region. This year, Bernardo is hoping to continue being an offensive leader and help the team (1–0–2; 0–0–1 NESCAC) find success both in the NESCAC and NCAA.

Bernardo’s path to Bowdoin started when she discovered her love of soccer at four or five years old.

“I tried out a bunch of different sports, but I think that soccer was the only one that really allowed me to run around in circles for hours on end and just enjoy it,” Bernardo said.

After playing soccer throughout high school, Bernardo felt stuck when deciding where to play at the collegiate level. She credits her high school coach with sparking her interest in Bowdoin.

“[My high school coach] pretty much just said, ‘I think you should go here. I know you well enough to know it’s a good fit,’” Bernardo said. “So, I ended up committing really late to Bowdoin, and I ended up here because of that high school coach.”

Growing up, Bernardo’s primary position was center back, key to her team’s defensive line. However, in the middle of the 2021 season, Bowdoin coaches decided to move Bernardo up the field to be a bigger part of the offense. Despite her initial apprehension, a huge goal against Trinity College proved the shift could not have been a better decision.

“I was really unsure about it. I’d only ever played a bit up top previously,” Bernardo said. “But I think my favorite goal at Bowdoin was [in] one of the first games they put me out wide…. I think that was the first time I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I can do this whole offense thing.’”

Last season, Bernardo truly began to hit her stride, scoring three game-winners in addition to leading the team in goals and points. One game in particular—a 3–1 win over Middlebury propelled by a goal from Bernardo—helped the team grow its confidence going into the championship.

“I think after that huge win for us, we really gained our confidence and were really able to settle in as a team,” Bernardo said.

Bernardo believes that strong team chemistry led Bowdoin to success last season, and the team aims to continue building on that this year.

“I think that this year, as a team, what we’re looking at working on is our possession game, realizing how much talent we have and being able to work with the personnel that we have and make the best of it,” Bernardo said.

Her teammates and the atmosphere they cultivate, especially before games, are some of Bernardo’s favorite parts of her Bowdoin soccer experience.

“I think that my favorite things are our pre-games in the locker room. They are a lot of fun, and I think they really just showcase our energy,” Bernardo said. “I think the people really make it. I think that our team is really driven both on and off the field, and I think we’ve put in a lot of work to create that positive culture.”

While the team generally displays strong camaraderie, Bernardo’s connection with midfielder Greta Farkas ’24 is unique. Having attended the same high school, Bernardo and Farkas have a storied history of playing with one another.

“I played behind Greta for four years, and now I’m playing in front of her for the next couple of years. I think that we’ve played together for so long that we just instinctively know how to play,” Bernardo said.

Looking ahead to the 2023 season, the team is hoping to extend the success it found last year and prove the Polar Bears are a force not just in the NESCAC, but in the NCAA at large.

“I think that for the past few seasons, we’ve been looked at as an underdog team,” Bernardo said. “But after how well we did last year, and how good we looked, I think we finally have established ourselves as a program that can consistently succeed.”

Bernardo and the women’s soccer team return to action tonight at Pickard Field against Connecticut College (2–1; 0–1 NESCAC).


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