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Women’s soccer bests William Smith 1–0, advances to first sweet sixteen in program history

November 17, 2023

Courtesy of Jesse Nickelson
SWEET SIXTEEN: Kyra Hacker ’26 powers up for a corner kick during the team’s game against Williams Smith last Saturday in the NCAA tournament.

Mary Rainey ’27 received the ball just inside the box, spun left, dropped a defender and slotted the ball past the William Smith keeper’s near post. When the final whistle blew five minutes later, the Polar Bears made history.

The Bowdoin women’s soccer team (11–4–5; 5–2–3 NESCAC) is heading to the NCAA sweet sixteen for the first time since the program’s inception in 1977, a feat on the back of an unforeseen NESCAC championship appearance and an upset against unbeaten William Smith College (14–1–4) on a cold, cloudy day at Cozzens Field.

For the 90 minutes of regulation, the teams were locked in a stalemate. The Herons held a 7–3 edge in shots in the first half, but the Polar Bears turned it around in the second half with an 8–2 advantage.

“It definitely shifted from [William Smith] having control and the power in the game to us having it, but I think that the whole time we stayed positive and stayed together, and then once we got control, I think we gained confidence,” Rainey said.

Morgan Smiley ’24 was responsible for Bowdoin’s only shot on goal in the first half, while Greta Farkas ’24 missed the frame in the final minutes of the game. The 0–0 draw persisted through the first 15 minutes of extra time, when Rainey scored her second game-winning goal of the season.

“It was really surreal. I was just so happy,” Rainey said.

This weekend, the Polar Bears will fly to Rochester, N.Y. to play Tufts University (9–5–4; 3–4–3 NESCAC) in the sweet sixteen. If the team wins its Saturday matchup, it will play again the following day against the winner of NYU (14–2–2) and Rochester University (14–0–5).

For goalkeeper Charlotte Iannone ’26, the team is only focused on Tufts.

“I see this as a very big challenge, and one that we can completely overcome. I think Tufts is up there with Williams and Amherst as one of the most difficult offenses we’ve faced—probably better than Williams or Amherst,” Iannone said.

While the Polar Bears lost to Williams (10–4–5; 6–2–2 NESCAC) and Amherst (18–1–1; 8–1–1 NESCAC) in the regular season, they were victorious in a hard-fought 3–2 home win against Tufts last month. The five-goal thriller was an uncharacteristic win for Bowdoin, who has built an identity on low-scoring, defensive performances. The win last weekend against Williams Smith was exactly this.

Iannone finished with five saves in her tenth shutout of the season, including a confidently caught half volley from the top of the box in the second period of extra time.

“It was a nice shot. I feel like that was their best scoring opportunity all game. If she had struck that with power at either corner, the game would be over. It just so happened that from where I was positioned, she just hit it through the crowd right to me,” Iannone said.

After a nerve-wracking moment for the Polar Bears, Iannone was happy to grind out a 0–0 draw and embrace another penalty shootout—something Iannone has thrived in this season. However, the angst of a penalty shootout proved unnecessary when Rainey’s match-winning goal propelled the Polar Bears into the sweet sixteen.

“I was just thinking, we can hold this game. I just have to hold it to PKs, but right after that [Rainey] scored an absolute beauty. It was amazing,” Iannone said.

The Polar Bears’ postseason success this year came as a surprise. After falling out of the first round in both the NCAA and NESCAC tournaments last season, the team’s postseason expectations were relatively low this year. But after a gritty run to the NESCAC championship and back-to-back wins in NCAAs, the team has left all early-season doubts far behind.

“I want to play in the final four,” Iannone said.


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