Polar Bears Look to Reclaim NESCAC Field Hockey Crown

Polar Bears Look to Reclaim NESCAC Field Hockey Crown

BRUNSWICK, Maine - The Bowdoin College field hockey team will look to win their sixth NESCAC Championship when they travel to play at the conference championship this weekend hosted by Tufts University. The second-seeded Polar Bears will face fourth-seeded Amherst at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinals with hopes of advancing to Sunday's NESCAC title game at noon.

The other semifinal game features top-seeded Tufts University and sixth-seeded Trinity College at 11:00 a.m. Saturday.

After going 10-6 a year ago, the Polar Bears (14-1, 8-1 NESCAC) returned to a form reminiscent of their back-to-back NCAA title runs in 2007 and 2008, as they put together another bid for a perfect regular season before being stopped in 1-0 loss at Tufts on Oct. 29. Bowdoin has been solid on both sides of the ball this fall, owning the league's best offense at 3.87 goals per game and a defense that ranks second only to Tufts in goals against with a 0.47 average. Since giving up three goals in the season opener to Amherst, the Polar Bears' semifinal opponent, Bowdoin has only allowed four goals over the remaining 14 games and has recorded a league-best 10 shutouts.

The Polar Bears punched their ticket to a sixth-straight semifinal with a 2-0 blanking of Connecticut College on Sunday. In net, the tandem of Emily Neilson (Chatham, Pa.) and Kayla Lessard (Enfield, Conn.) has shared time, with the senior Neilson seeing a majority of the minutes. Neilson sports a 9-1-0 record with a 0.24 goals against average and an .895 save percentage. Commanding the offense this season has been junior forward Katie Herter (Topsfield, Mass.). Herter's team-leading 16 goals and 36 points both rank fourth among all conference players. Senior Ingrid Oelschlager (Roanoke, Va.) has been the Polar Bears' primary setup person, as the former All-NESCAC honoree is second in the league with eight assists.

If Saturday's second semifinal is anything like the regular season match between Bowdoin and fourth-seeded Amherst (12-3, 6-3 NESCAC), then fans should be in for a treat. The Lord Jeffs are tied with the Polar Bears atop the stats rankings in the conference for offense, as both teams are humming along at 3.87 goals per game. The season-opener for both squads on Sept. 11 proved to be a battle. Bowdoin built a 3-1 lead early in the second half and Amherst responded with a pair of quick goals to knot the game at 3-all with just over 15 minutes to play. The Polar Bears scored the decisive goal minutes later, holding on for the 4-3 victory.

After starting the year 1-2, Amherst responded by winning 11 of its last 12 games. The Jeffs head into the weekend riding their longest streak of the season at six after dispatching Wesleyan in the quarterfinals, 3-0. A big part of Amherst's success has been the breakout performance of sophomore forward Katie McMahon (Denville, N.J.). The team leader in goals, assists, and points, McMahon is in a dead heat with Tufts' Brown for the overall conference scoring lead, collecting 52 points on 18 goals and 16 assists, and is making her case for consideration as one of the conference's top players in postseason awards. McMahon heads into the weekend riding an eight-game point streak, accumulating 14 goals and 11 assists over that span. Her best performance this season came against Smith on Oct. 19, tallying four times and assisting on three other goals in a 9-0 win. McMahon will look to lead her team into Sunday's final for only the second time in championship history (2001) on Saturday with what would be Amherst's first playoff victory over Bowdoin. The Polar Bears have won the previous two tournament meetings, including a 3-0 victory in last year's quarterfinals.

For a complete tournament preview, visit the NESCAC Website. Live coverage of the games (still TBA) will be provided on the Tufts Athletics website.