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Denise Maloof | | November 24, 2013

Clash of the coaches

NORFOLK, Va. – Sunday’s NCAA Division III national title game between Salisbury and Bowdoin was more than a showdown between teams.

It also was a showdown between two of the division’s veteran head coaches.

Both Bowdoin’s Nicky Pearson – whose Polar Bears prevailed 1-0 on a polar-bear-like autumn day at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex  – and Salisbury’s Dawn Chamberlin have been in the field-hockey coaching business for a while.

Both likely will heap all the praise on their players. But their handiwork shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Pearson just completed her 18th season at Bowdoin; Chamberlin just finished her 27th at Salisbury.

They come from different places, with field hockey as a common background. A native of Hereford, England, Pearson is a graduate of St. Mary’s College of London. She played as a member of the National Field Hockey Club Champions. Chamberlin is an Iowa graduate and four-year letter winner for the Hawkeyes. 

The 2013 Division III title is Bowdoin’s fourth in seven years (2007, '08 and '10). It also ties Pearson with Chamberlin in a very respectable category – they share second place among Division III coaches with four NCAA titles each. Chamberlin’s NCAA Division III titles came in 2003, '04, '05 and '09.

“I have the utmost respect for them and their program,” Pearson said of Salisbury. “Watching them on Friday [during the national semifinals], we knew they had a lot of speed and that they handled the ball very well and defensively they were very solid.”

So was Bowdoin; the Polar Bears held the Sea Gulls to only two shots and one penalty corner, while logging 14 shots and nine penalty corners themselves.

The eventual national champions entered Sunday’s showdown with the nation’s top scoring average (3.36 goals per game) and Salisbury countered by yielding a national-high 0.62 goals per game.

“They were fast and they’re a really skilled team,” Salisbury’s Samantha Johnson said of Bowdoin.

On Sunday, all it took was one goal, scored at 36:51 by Bowdoin senior Katie Riley, who wore her national-champion T-shirt to the post-game press conference.

“It’s my new favorite shirt,” she announced.

The Sea Gulls thought they had tied it on a penalty corner goal at 38:24, but officials ruled the ball bounced off Salisbury’s Courtney Jantzen into the net, negating it.

Pearson said she knew Bowdoin had to play its best field hockey in order to beat another proven power in Salisbury.

“We talked a lot of about stepping up and being the first to the ball and we did that,” she said.

“They’re a very good team,” Salisbury goalkeeper Rachel Clewer said.