BRUNSWICK – Told her sixth-ranked Bowdoin College field hockey team looked very businesslike in Wednesday’s 6-1 dismantling of SUNY-New Paltz in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament, senior captain Cathleen Smith had a simple response.
“That’s good,” said Smith. “Because we take each game we play, especially now that we’re in the NCAAs, like it is a job. It is our job to get out there and play our game and take our skill to the team that we’re playing.”
With SUNY-New Paltz (16-5) dispatched from its first-ever NCAA tournament, Bowdoin will put its combination of skill, speed and championship history (national champs in 2007, 2008 and 2010) against MIT in Saturday’s regional semifinal at William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y.
Bowdoin (15-3) is 15-1 in its last 16 NCAA tourney games and has now won 32 straight at Ryan Field. Its losses this year have been one-goal setbacks to NESCAC rivals No. 1 Middlebury and No. 10 Tufts (14-2). Tufts beat Castleton State 8-0 in a snowstorm Wednesday to advance to the Geneva regional.
In last weekend’s NESCAC tournament, Bowdoin beat Tufts in the semifinal then lost in penalty strokes to Middlebury 3-2 in the title game.
“Once you find out you’ve been selected to be in the NCAA tournament, your absolute goal has to be to win it,” Bowdoin Coach Nicky Pearson said. “The fact that we played Middlebury so well on Sunday, and they’ve been identified as the number one team in the country, we know that we can compete with them. So if we’re competing with the number one team in the country, you have to dream about winning the national championship.”
Last season Middlebury upset Bowdoin in the national semifinals.
On Wednesday, Bowdoin scored five first-half goals in a 21-minute span, with junior Katie Riley scoring two. Riley also scored in the second half, giving her a team-high 16 goals.
Freshman Rachel Kennedy opened the scoring with her 15th goal of the season with 26:55 left in the first half.
Brooke Phinney made it 2-0 on a vicious shot off a penalty corner stopped cleanly by senior Kassey Matoin of Sanford.
Riley quickly made it 3-0 when she buried her own rebound past athletic New Paltz goalie Antonija Pjetri (9 saves) who entered the contest with a national-leading .887 save percentage. The goal was set up when Matoin, a former forward who was switched to defense prior to her junior year, alertly saw an opening in the forward zone and called for the ball before sending a quick pass into the circle.
“When I can and the high forward that is marking me isn’t really paying attention I try to help them out,” Matoin said.
In short order, Smith scored and then made a 1-on-1 drive into the circle before dishing to her left to set up Riley for a 5-0 lead with 5:58 left in the half.
New Paltz, coming off its first-ever winning season, got on the board with a goal from Dani Ackerman. It was New Paltz’s only shot on goal.
Riley finished the scoring with 20:45 in the second half.
Nine current Polar Bears were on the 2010 national championship team, including Matoin.
“I wouldn’t say this was our best game. We definitely have some things we can work on when we get back to practice,” Matoin said.
“But I think it was a good first showing getting us ready for playoffs. Definitely we’re setting our sights on a national championship.”
Staff Writer Steve Craig can be reached at 749-6413 or at: