Nov. 21, 2010

By John Packett

Special to

After Bowdoin had won the NCAA Division III field hockey national championship Sunday for the third time in four years, the word dynasty was raised in the post-game press conference.

Not so fast, said Bowdoin (Me.) coach Nicky Pearson, following the Polar Bears 2-1 victory over Messiah (Pa.) in a tight defensive match that wasnt decided until the final option: penalty strokes.

We just feel very lucky,” said Pearson. And Im not taking anything away from my players. I wouldnt want to be anywhere else, coaching any other players.”

It does raise expectations, though, for a team that claimed back-to-back national titles in 2007-08 before missing the playoffs last season.

Its a high bar to set,” said Pearson. Of course, we go into every season hoping to do the very best we can, but its not always as easy as it seems. We lost about eight seniors off that [2008] team.

I think the fact we didnt go to the NCAAs and we werent as pleased with last season as we thought it could have been … that was a big motivating factor this year.”

Bowdoin (20-1) had taken a 1-0 lead into intermission after junior midfielder Ella Curren scored from the top of the circle off a penalty corner with one minute, 55 seconds left in the first half. Currens shot found its way through traffic in front of goalkeeper Kayleigh Stewart and into the right corner of the cage.

Katie Herter hit it straight out to me and I just took a shot,” said Curren. It was pretty much a textbook corner.”

The way Bowdoin was playing physical, suffocating defense, it appeared for a long time that one goal would be enough.

Finally, with 8:50 left in regulation, the Falcons (19-3) drew even on a penalty corner of their own, when reserve forward Emily Hursh deflected a hard shot from just inside the circle by Natalie Ziegler. The ball slid past keeper Emily Neilson and into the left side of the cage.

But that was it for either side the rest of the way. After regulation, the teams played through two, 15-minute overtimes - a total of 100 minutes overall - before it came down to penalty strokes.

Neither team had any good chances in the first OT, but in the second one, Bowdoin had a goal waved off because the whistle had blown for a foul on Messiah.

This was only the third time in the history of the D-III tournament that the championship was decided by penalty strokes.

Both teams failed to score on their first two penalty strokes, before Bowdoins Emily French beat Stewart. But Leann Carroll answered for the Falcons to tie it 1-1. Kassey Matoin gave Bowdoin a 2-1 edge, then Kilee Rosenberry missed wide to the left.

That brought up McKenna Teague with a chance to clinch it for the Polar Bears. Her low shot to the right beat Stewart, giving Bowdoin a 3-1 advantage and bringing all of her teammates streaming toward her to celebrate.

I was really nervous and wasnt really aware of what was going on,” said the junior forward. I wasnt focusing. And then I took a stroke and it happened to go in and the team was all around me. It was great.”

Neilson, who finished with seven saves during the game, had two in the stroke-off, using her 5-foot-10 height and long reach to her advantage.

Ive only been in the stroke-off one time before in my college career,” said the senior. And to have the second time be for the national championship is pretty unbelievable. I was just in goalie zone and focusing on the ball. My teammates put in the goals and that helped.”

Neilson joined teammates Ingrid Oelschlager, Herter and Shannon Malloy on the all- tournament team. Carroll, Amber (Philpot) Good and Julie Barton made it for Messiah. Others were Carolyne McManama and Lauren McCarthy of Skidmore and Michelle Wimmer and Megan Yoder of Ursinus.