Nov. 20, 2010

 

By John Packett
Special to NCAA.com

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -
Experience contributed mightily to Bowdoins 5-0 blowout of Skidmore in Saturdays Division III field hockey semifinal, but youth also played a big role.

The Polar Bears fielded eight players who took part in one or both of Bowdoin's back-to-back national championships in 2007-08. No player from Skidmore (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) had ever appeared in a final four.

I think it was a factor,” said Bowdoin (Brunswick, Maine) coach Nicky Pearson. Our senior and our junior classes, I really believe, shared their experiences and thoughts about the event and what it means to be here.

I also think they took some of the younger players under their wing and talked to them about having a lot of confidence in the team and having a lot of confidence in each other.”

Katie Herter, a junior forward who scored a pair of goals, knew just what to expect.

"Its a completely different thing, once you make the final four and everyone steps up their game," she said.

The juniors and the seniors really knew that from our past experiences, and we were allowed to help the younger kids know that they have to step it up.”

One of those younger players was sophomore forward Cathleen Smith, who accounted for seven points with two goals and three assists. That tied the tournament record for most points in a national semifinal, while three assists are the most in a semifinal.

The captains, the seniors and the juniors said they expected a lot from us,” Smith said. And I think that showed today.”

It was Smith who gave the Polar Bears (19-1) an early lead over the Thoroughbreds (20-2) in the game played at Christopher Newport Universitys Captains Field.

She scored just 2:28 into the game off a rebound. Herter had taken a shot that was kicked out by Skidmore keeper Liz Catinella.

I was very nervous going into the game,” Smith said. Getting a goal in the first five minutes kind of helped the nerves get out, I think, for all of us. Seeing our defense step up gave us confidence right away.”

Smiths goal was the only one of the first half for Bowdoin, which had to withstand an assault on their cage that included 11 penalty corners. Goalkeeper Emily Neilson had six saves in the opening half and finished with nine.

We scored that early goal and then they [Skidmore] stepped it up, and we were under an awful lot of defensive pressure,” Pearson said. I give our defensive unit and the goalkeeper all the credit for breaking up those corners.”

The Polar Bears added four goals in the final 21 minutes to assure themselves of a berth in Sundays 1 p.m. final against Messiah, which ousted Ursinus 4-0 in the first semifinal.

Herters first goal came off a nice setup by Smith, and gave Bowdoin some breathing room at 2-0.

It was scary because we knew we had to step it up and the next goal had to be ours," Herter said. "I think 2-0 motivated us to push even harder and harder.”

Freshman Olivia King made it 3-0 on a rebound, before Herter converted another beautiful pass from Smith into an open net. It was Herters 20th goal of the season. Smith put the capper on the afternoon with 1:13 left.

Skidmore had a lot of chances,” said Pearson. Defensively, I thought we did well to contain some of their players. Theyve got some of the best forwards in the country.”

None of them, including Skidmores all-time leading scorer, Christine Kemp, were able to push anything across the goal line.

I thought we were ready for the challenge,” said Skidmore coach Beth Hallenbeck. Unfortunately, they scored a quick goal and that set us back for a couple seconds. But I honestly thought we played hard and well in the first half and had some opportunities.

Once they scored the second goal, the floodgates opened for them. We couldnt recover from that.”

Added Kemp, I dont think the score was indicative of what happened on the field. It was a hard-fought game … a battle.”