Three national championships in four years. The word dynasty is sneaking into conversations about the Bowdoin College field hockey team.

And that D-word will be very prevalent if the Polar Bears are successful this weekend.

Bowdoin, 19-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, goes for a fourth title when the NCAA Division III Final Four begins Saturday at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass.

Bowdoin, the top seed, will play NESCAC rival Middlebury (16-3) in an 11 a.m. semifinal. That match will be followed by the other semifinal between The College of New Jersey (22-2) and Ursinus (19-3) at 2 p.m.

The championship match is 1 p.m. Sunday.

This is Bowdoin’s third game against Middlebury this year. Bowdoin beat the Panthers 3-2 in overtime during the regular season, and then 2-1 in the NESCAC title match.

“They are very athletic and fast,” Bowdoin Coach Nicky Pearson said. “They have a very good transition game.”

One of Middlebury’s leaders is senior Hannah Clarke of Falmouth. She has 12 goals and one assist.

Bowdoin is led offensively by junior Cathleen Smith (17 goals, six assists), senior Katie Herter (12/9) and senior Elizabeth Clegg (10/12).

Bowdoin also has the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, Ella Curren, as well as defender Kassey Matoin of Springvale. Kayla Lessard has a 0.51 goals-against average.

“We have a lot of characteristics of the teams we’ve had in the past,” Pearson said. “Very team-oriented. Good chemistry on the field.

“We don’t have a superstar. But we can score goals from many avenues.”

CROSS COUNTRY runners will flock to Winneconne, Wis., for the Division III championships Saturday.

Both the Bowdoin and Bates men’s teams qualified, as did three individuals in the women’s race — Molly Carl of Southern Maine, and Bowdoin’s Olivia MacKenzie and Madelena Rizzo.

Rizzo and Carl finished 10th and 11th in last Saturday’s regional at Bowdoin, covering the 6K course in 21:37.61 and 21:42.15. MacKenzie, who ran cross country at McAuley High, was 16th (21:51.47).

Carl, a junior, was the Class B 300-meter hurdles state champion in 2009 for York High. She ran for UMaine-Farmington her freshman year before transferring to USM. She emerged as an elite runner this year.

“She’s only been training for mid-distance/distance for little over a year,” USM Coach George Towle said. “This past summer was the first summer of consistent training.

“Molly doesn’t take shortcuts in workouts.”

MAINE HOCKEY, which has lost four straight, will try to rebound tonight, but the task will not be easy at the University of Massachusetts.

UMass is only 4-4-2 overall and 2-4-2 in Hockey East, but the Minutemen have a 4-0-1 home record and have won their last three games, including a 4-2 upset of Boston College.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge to get back on track against them,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “Still, we’re very determined to take our first step back in the right direction.”

Maine (3-6-1, 3-5) has not played consistently well on defense, and its penalty-killing unit has faltered. In Saturday’s 4-3 loss to UMass-Lowell, the Black Bears gave up four third-period goals, three of them on power plays, the other with the teams skating four-on-four.

In each of the past two weekends, Maine has pulled a goalie — Dan Sullivan two weeks ago and Martin Ouellette last week. Tonight’s starter has not been announced.

If there was a bright spot last Saturday, it was the play of freshman defenseman Jacob Rutt of Scarborough.

Rutt was one of those who took a penalty in the third period, but overall his play stood out.

“I thought he played a great game,” Whitehead said. “Very assertive. A lot of poise with the puck. He did not look like a guy playing the first game of his college career.

“He seized the moment.”

Whitehead said Rutt will dress for tonight’s game.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases