DUDLEY, Mass. – Unfortunately for Bowdoin, the third time was the charm for Middlebury.

Lucy Jackson, Lauren Greer and Elinore O’Brien scored, and Middlebury handed the defending field hockey national champions their first loss in 26 games, a 3-0 defeat in an NCAA Division III semifinal at Nichols College.

Bowdoin (19-1), which was seeking its fourth NCAA title in five years, suffered its first loss since Oct. 29, 2010.

The Polar Bears had already beaten Middlebury twice this season and had won five straight postseason games against the Panthers (17-3). But Middlebury took control this time with a pair of first-half goals and earned a spot in today’s championship game against the College of New Jersey.

“It was a terrific game. I thought both teams played very well,” Polar Bears Coach Nicky Pearson said. “Middlebury is a very talented team; we knew that — we’ve played them twice before.

“I think the difference in this game was they took their chances in the circle and we just didn’t put enough good shots on goal.”

Bowdoin, which has five seniors on its roster, hadn’t allowed three goals since a 4-3 win over Lebanon Valley in last year’s NCAA tournament. Of the 13 goals yielded by the Polar Bears this year, seven were scored by Middlebury.

Pearson lauded her seniors, who helped the Polar Bears win NCAA titles in 2008 and 2010.

“They’ve been an integral part of the success we’ve had this year,” Pearson said of Ella Curren, McKenna Teague, Emily French, Katie Herter and Elizabeth Clegg. “I look at their career, and they’ve had a wonderful career. I am very, very happy for them because I am aware of their dedication on a daily basis.”

The Panthers went up 1-0 at 21:35 when Jackson tipped a shot by Catherine Fowler over the glove of Bowdoin goalkeeper Kayla Lessard.

Greer, the nation’s leading scorer, scored on a no-look backhander from 8 yards at 30:53 to make it 2-0. It was the 35th goal of the season for Greer.

“What happened on the field today was, really, what we hoped would happen,” Middlebury Coach Katharine DeLorenzo said.

“We planned on keeping a Middlebury style, very up-tempo game, wide-open game. That can only work really if your players are in tune with where you’re going to put the ball, and I thought our players did that well.”

O’Brien added a goal at 50:56, dribbling in from 25 yards out and beating Lessard to make it 3-0.

The Panthers had the Polar Bears flustered, and the final goal showed just how out of sync Bowdoin was while simultaneously putting a feeling of euphoria in the minds of the Middlebury players.

“For that third goal to be scored in that manner,” DeLorenzo said, “where there were a bunch of holes and a bunch of defenders spinning around just trying to make a play, I don’t think I had any thought that there would be any comeback or any change of pace for the rest of the game at that point.”