BOWDOIN COLLEGE’S Celeste Swain (4), here celebrating a Final Four semifinal victory over the College of New Jersey last year, and her Polar Bear teammates get into NESCAC action on Saturday at Ryan Field against Connecticut College. The teams play their season openers at noon.

BOWDOIN COLLEGE’S Celeste Swain (4), here celebrating a Final Four semifinal victory over the College of New Jersey last year, and her Polar Bear teammates get into NESCAC action on Saturday at Ryan Field against Connecticut College. The teams play their season openers at noon.

BRUNSWICK

Thursday’s near 60-degree temperatures have melted away many of the snowbanks that typically surround Bowdoin College’s Ryan Field.

 

 

No matter, the Polar Bear women’s lacrosse team is ready to go, snow or not, on Saturday when Connecticut College pays a visit for a New England Small College Athletic Conference opener at noon. The Bowdoin women kick off the home slate, while the lacrosse men are on the road to face the Camels.

Meanwhile, the Polar Bear baseball and softball teams are set to take their annual spring adventure to Florida, with each squad slated to play 16 games.

Mike Connolly’s baseball team plays at Auburndale, opening with a doubleheader against Endicott on Monday, while Ryan Sullivan’s softballers get into action at Clermont on Thursday with games against Geneseo State and Franklin & Marshall. Both squads finish things up in Florida on March 23.

Women’s lacrosse

Liz Grote’s team had a fantastic run through the competition in 2011, with an 18-win season (18-4) and an 11-9 victory over the College of New Jersey in the Final Four at Garden City, N.Y.

The run ended in the title game with a 16-5 loss to Gettysburg College, but the pollsters have high regards for the Polar Bears coming into this season, awarding the team a preseason No. 4 ranking in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Division- III Poll.

“We really don’t look at the ranking, mostly because we know playing in the NESCAC, where everyone is good and nine teams are ranked in the Top 20, is a big reason why we take each game one at a time,” said Grote, who begins her 10th season at the helm.

The coach lost just two players from last year’s squad. However, Ingrid Oelschlager and Katy Dissinger will certainly be difficult to replace, considering the duo were groundballhawking dynamos.

Oelschlager finished her Bowdoin career with 128 career groundballs, fourth alltime in Polar Bear history, with Dissinger’s 78 ranking 10th.

“ They were both very important and great leaders, with Ingrid leading the defense and Katy the leader in the midfield,” said Grote. “ We have great leadership again this year in senior captains Chelsea Albright and McKenna Teague, plus this year we have six seniors who have started since they were freshmen.”

Bowdoin returns a solid offensive core, led by junior Carolyn Gorajek, who had 51 goals last season, third most in a season in Polar Bear history. Her 66 points were also third all-time, and Gorajek is supported by seniors Liz Clegg ( 37 goals, 12 assists, attack), Katie Stewart (36-6, midfielder), Teague ( 18- 11, attack), Katie Herter ( 20- 6, midfielder) and Albright (16 goals, attack).

On defense, seniors Libby Spaulding and Emily French lead the way, with sophomore Molly Padula gaining valuable experience during her freshman year.

Tara Connolly, coming off a superb hockey season manning the cage for the Polar Bears, looks to follow-up her program-tying record 15-win campaign in lacrosse. The junior allowed 7.53 goals a game while posting a 15- 3 mark.

“ I expect to get to the NESCAC Tournament and go from there, plus my goal as always is to see the team improve on a daily basis,” said Grote.

Men’s lacrosse

Coach Tom McCabe will walk the Bowdoin sidelines for the 22nd and final season as he joins his wife in becoming full-fledged members of the Peace Corps.

“We know that we’ll leave in October, but we’re not sure where we will go, though Africa seems to be our likely destination,” said McCabe.

McCabe faces several challenges in his final season, including replacing two goaltenders ( Jake McCampbell and Robert Buckhardt), and key midfielders Owen “Kit” Smith of Brunswick and Ben Chadwick, players who combined on 40 goals during an 8- 7 season last year.

“In goal, Chris Williamson returns after taking a year off, and has simply been outstanding and could quite possibly be the top goaltender in the NESCAC this year,” said McCabe, whose is one of 17 Division- III men’s lacrosse coaches with more than 200 career wins. “The big thing for us is replacing those midfielders, but we have guys stepping up in Keegan ( Mehlhorn) and Mark ( Flibotte). We’ll be OK there, with long- stick midfielder Ben Brewster leading the way.”

Defensively, Matt Egan is a senior captain, and Brunswick native and junior Max Rosner is expected to be a key, along with sophomore Dylan Hannes.

“ Both Max and Dylan played a lot last season,” said McCabe.

McCabe feels his attackers are deep. “We have six guys that are pretty good up there,” said the coach.

Juniors Billy Bergner (27 goals, 13 assists in 2011) and Pat Lawlor (27-7), along with senior Nate Fritts (9-6) are looked upon to carry the offensive load.

After visiting Connecticut College on Saturday, the Polar Bears head to Clermont, Fla., to face Nazareth and NESCAC rival Amherst. Visits to Keene State (March 21), Hamilton ( March 24) and Exeter, N.H. (facing Springfield March 27) follow before Bowdoin gets a taste of homecooking against NESCAC rivals Middlebury (March 31) and Williams (April 1).

Baseball

Bowdoin picked up 24 wins last season, including two NESCAC tournament victories over host Amherst on the way to the title game.

It wasn’t Tufts that finished off the Polar Bears, but Mother Nature’s swath of rain that sent the Jumbos to the NCAA D-III tourney and Bowdoin home after a 24-14 campaign.

Connolly begins season 14 on the bench, with a big job in replacing several top hitters who led the Polar Bears to a .303 team batting average.

Graduated Matt Ruane, Brett Gorman, Brendan Garner, Adam Marquit, Dan Hicks and Joe Comizio combined to score 158 of Bowdoin’s 255 runs last season while driving in 129.

Key returners include senior shortstop Jordan Edgett (.293 batting average, 27 runs scored, 26 RBIs), junior catcher Dan Findley (.255, 20 runs, 17 RBIs), and sophomores John Lefeber ( pitcher/ outfield, .393, 16 runs, 25 RBIs) and Kyle Leblanc ( outfield, .342, 18 runs scored, 13 RBIs).

On the mound, the return of senior hurler Tim Walsh, who sat out his junior season after Tommy John surgery, boasts the rotation, which includes solid sophomore Christian Martin ( 6- 1, 3.27 ERA in 2011), junior Oliver Van Zant ( 2- 2, 4.53), junior Drew LoRusso (4-1, 7.13) and Lefeber (303, 3.27). Also, freshman Henry Van Zant (brother of Oliver) joins the staff.

Bowdoin’s home opener, weather permitting, is slated for March 31 against Wesleyan.

Softball

Bowdoin hurler Kara Nilan was the leader of the pitching staff during her four years with the Polar Bears, often facing the top teams and sporting a remarkable 1.25 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 73 innings last season. At the plate, she was equally successful, sporting a solid .368 batting average as Bowdoin finished 22-18 in Sullivan’s eighth season.

“ Kara was exceptional,” said Sullivan, who will look for more from this year’s threesome on the mound.

Sophomore Melissa Della- Torre is back after finishing 10- 4 in her freshman campaign with a sterling 1.39 ERA. Her 108 strikeouts in 100.2 innings kept hitters offbalance. And, junior Tricia Thibodeau (4-8, 4.57 ERA) and first-year Nancy Walker are expected to fill the role left vacant by Nilan.

“Moving forward, we are looking for more from Melissa and for Tricia to perform to her capabilities,” said Sullivan.

“We feel with the ability of Nancy that we are set up well on the mound.”

Seniors Caroline Dewar (.358, 16 run) and Amy Hackett (.282, 18 runs, 11 RBIs) lead the offense, along with juniors Toni DaCampo (.310, 21 runs, 25 RBIs) and Gen Barlow (.245, five home runs, 25 runs, 19 RBIs).

“We’re excited coming into the season, and we’re looking to get back to where we were two years ago when we made the NCAA tournament,” said Sullivan. “Some of our kids fell off a little bit last year. If they get back to where they were, that will add the last pieces to the puzzle.

“We are leaving Wednesday for Florida, which is good because it allows us to get our lady basketball players (Hackett and freshman Siena Mittman) possibly back, plus we can prepare more as we have a tough schedule,” said Sullivan.

After returning from Florida, the Polar Bears play five more games on the road, including three key Eastern Division clashes with Tufts (March 30-31).

“We are hoping to find out where the returners are while we are in Florida while putting the new kids into different spots so when we return north we are ready for that first NESCAC test,” said Sullivan.

Bowdoin is slated to host Husson in the team’s home debut on April 2.


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