Last Saturday, the field hockey team handed Middlebury its first loss of the season in a tense 2-1 match.  With the win, the team defended its No. 1 ranking and improved its perfect record to 4-0.

This win was hardfought for the Polar Bears. The Panthers scored within the first five minutes, setting a tone for the first half.

“We started off pretty flat,” captain Colleen Finnerty ’15 said.  “They scored and that kind of put us back on our heels for a little bit and I think we came out a bit scared.”

The team regrouped, making changes throughout the first half.

“We made a few more adjustments at the halftime and then in the second half, we played a lot better,” said Head Coach Nicky Pearson.

The team fended off the Panthers’ offense for the remainder of the game, holding them to only six shots and six penalty corners in the rest of regulation.  Goalkeeper Hannah Gartner ’15 stayed composed after the early goal to keep Bowdoin in the game.

With just three minutes left on the clock and still down by one goal, it looked as if the Panthers were going to make the Polar Bears relive their defeat in last year’s NESCAC championship game in which Bowdoin fell to Middlebury in overtime.

However, three minutes proved to be just enough time.  Liz Znamierowski ’16 broke free on a breakaway and went for an open shot on the net before being pummeled by a defender, leading to a penalty shot. Bowdoin’s top goal scorer Rachel Kennedy ’16 stepped up to take it and scored to tie the game.

“I give the team a lot of credit, because [at that time] a lot of teams would have sat back and been happy with a tie and then regrouped for overtime,” Pearson said.  “But we didn’t.”
The team maintained their offensive pressure and with only a minute left in the game Kim Kahnweiler ’16 fired the ball into the right corner of the Panther’s net for the game-winning goal on her second shot of the season.

Still, Middlebury did not let up,  gaining a penalty corner, but the Bowdoin defense shut down the attack.

“We responded really well with no time left on the clock,” Pearson said.  “They brought their whole team back [on our side] and our defense unit held them.”

Middlebury, ranked No. 4 in the nation before the game, is a frequent rival for the Polar Bears in field hockey.

“We always battle tough with Middlebury,” Finnerty said.  “It’s one of those really respected rivalries with us, where we like to play them because it’s always a good, fast-paced game.”
Despite losing to Middlebury in the championship last year, Bowdoin also beat the Panthers during the regular season.

“[The regular season game last year] was kind of a similar game,” Finnerty said.  “I scored on a penalty shot, then someone else had another goal. Then we played them again in the NESCAC championship game and it was just back and forth again.”

As much as this victory seems like payback for last year’s NESCAC title game, the team refused to get caught up in past defeats.

“It’s a new year,” Pearson said.  “We try not to use losses as our whole motivation and try to focus on what the strengths are of the team this year.”

But Finnerty still attests that it can feel good to beat a rival on their field.

“Having that taste in our mouths during the five-hour bus drive to Middlebury, it just feels so much better on the ride back when you come back with a win,” Finnerty said.

Playing both Middlebury and Amherst, which is now ranked No. seven in the first three weeks of the season, at first seemed daunting.

“You look at the schedule and go, ‘Wow are we really going to be ready for that?’” Finnerty said.  “But the fact that we came out and played both those teams fairly well  and for us to know that we can still improve feels pretty good.”

Last night the team shut out  the University of Maine Farmington 4-0. Adrienne O’Donnell ’15 scored in the third minute and Emily Simonton ’15  added two goals of her own 10 minutes later to give the Polar Bears a comfortable 3-0 lead only 14 minutes into the game. 

The team has the weekend off and is preparing to play Wellesley College next Wednesday at home before it gets back into conference play. Bowdoin will also host Trinity next Saturday.

“In practice our big emphasis is on being better in our next game than the previous one,” Finnerty said. “That’s always the idea of how we work our season. We just build from each game. The big hope is to just keep going up from here.”