LEXINGTON, Va – After the conclusion of the first week of the NCAA Division III Field Hockey Championship, the field of 24 has been whittled down to the four teams that will travel to Lexington, Virginia and Washington & Lee University for the 2015 national semifinals. The four teams and the two matchups bring history and intrigue to the game’s largest stage. The four institutions have combined to win 17 National titles, while three of these teams competed in last year’s national semifinals, and all four of these institutions were represented in 2011 national semifinals.
The first semifinal will be a battle of the Bears between the Bowdoin College Polar Bears and the Ursinus College Bears. Bowdoin was one of the two colleges to make it to the National Championship game in 2014, where they fell to The College of New Jersey. Ursinus fell one step short of the Semifinals in 2014, losing to Middlebury College in the quarterfinals.
Bowdoin enters the game with an undefeated record, having won all 20 games during the year. BC earned its qualification to the NCAA Tournament after winning the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament by defeating Middlebury 2-1. After achieving so much during the regular season, the Polar Bears earned a bye into the second round, where they hosted Keene State University. Kimmy Ganong scored the opener and the game-winner as Bowdoin advanced to the Quarterfinals with a 5-1 win.
The Polar Bears found themselves matched up with Wellesley College in a rematch from earlier in the season. Bowdoin once again shutout WC with a 3-0 victory to advance the Semifinals.
Ursinus has lost only three times this year, with one of those coming against a team from Division II, and the other two coming against teams that each won a game in this year’s Division III Tournament. One of those losses came against Franklin and Marshall College, but the Bears avenged that defeat in the Centennial Conference Tournament Championship to earn the automatic berth.
UC earned a bye to the second round, and won its two contests by a combined score of 15-0. The Bears had four players score twice in the second round win over Stevens Institute of Technology. In the Quarterfinals, Ursinus shutout the University of Rochester 5-0, as Megan Keenan scored twice to give her four goals for the tournament. Keenan leads all players with nine points in the tournament.
The other side of the bracket brings a rematch of last year’s national semifinal. TCNJ defeated Middlebury 2-0 last year to advance to the championship game, where it beat Bowdoin for the title. These two colleges also played for the 2011 National Championship, where the Lions were victorious once again. This season has seen the two programs lose a combined three games, with all three losses coming against the two remaining squads on the other side of the bracket.
Middlebury enters the game with an 18-2 record, dropping both contests with Bowdoin. The Panthers earned an at-large berth and a bye into the second round of the NCAA tournament. Annie Leonard and Grace Jennings scored as MC beat Franklin and Marshall 2-0 to advance to the Quarterfinals. In the next round, the Panthers did what no other semifinalist had to do, win on the road. Middlebury won at William Smith, as Leonard assisted on the opener and scored the final two goals and seal the 3-0 win.
The only blemish on TCNJ’s record came in a contest at Ursinus. The Lions lost that game 2-1, but have otherwise been perfect all year. The College of New Jersey earned the New Jersey Athletic Conference automatic berth after defeating Rowan University 3-2 in the championship game and like every other member of the Semifinals, earned a bye into the second round.
TCNJ defeated Rhodes College 3-0, with Elizabeth Morrison scoring two goals in the victory. The Quarterfinal proved to be more difficult. The College of New Jersey scored first, but Messiah College answered with two in a row to take the lead. The Lions fought back, and scored three-straight goals to win and advance to the Semifinals.
With the history of these four programs combined with the history of Lexington, VA and Washington & Lee University, the national semifinals should prove to be an exciting one.