Colby’s Cindy Giandomenico (5) tries to stuff the puck past Bowdoin goalie Dani Marquez as her teammate Julia Surgenor defends during a NESCAC quarterfinal game last season in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College senior Julia Surgenor isn’t attending school this year because of what she’d miss during the coronavirus pandemic. 

No in-person learning and no women’s hockey season, at least in the traditional sense.

“There were several factors that went into my decision. But not being able to have a senior season definitely played a factor,” said Surgenor, a Meriden, New Hampshire native. “A lot of the reasons that I chose to come to Bowdoin wasn’t going to be fulfilled this year due to the modifications in place. Small classrooms, being able to connect with your professors, collaborating with classmates, all of that has been changed this year.”

The New England Small College Athletic Conference announced Oct. 8 it had canceled conference competition and championships for the 2020-21 winter sports season in response to the pandemic.

The 11-member league includes three colleges in Maine: Bowdoin, Bates and Colby. NESCAC schools, which compete in NCAA Division III, will be allowed to schedule nonconference contests this winter if they choose, but much uncertainty remains.

Some Bowdoin student-athletes said they were disappointed, but not surprised, to learn of the league’s decision.

“I feel for all the seniors on the team and around the league,” said Bowdoin junior men’s hockey player Kyle Janitz said. “I learned first hand on how much effort and work it takes to get there. It’s tough for all the seniors.”

Bowdoin Athletic Director Tim Ryan said a number of challenges loom for the Polar Bears to play even a nonconference schedule this winter, particularly COVID-19 testing protocols. 

“Knowing that not much has changed in regards to the virus and the approach the schools in the conference have been taking, it was not surprising that NESCAC decided to move in this direction,” Ryan said. “We have considered options to play outside of a conference schedule, but there are several hurdles to overcome.” 

Bowdoin, Ryan said, would need to find another school with similar testing programs. Furthermore, the school is prohibiting visitors on campus and restricting off-campus travel, which would make it difficult for athletic teams to compete elsewhere.

NESCAC schools can continue to hold practices and workouts, providing COVID-19 safety measures are followed. Bowdoin student-athletes have been practicing and working out since late September, and will continue to do so into the winter.

Ryan said Bowdoin is offering its student-athletes access to a nutritionist and a sports psychologist.

“The well-being of our students is important to us, thus why we partnered with these resources,” said Ryan.

Janitz has not been on campus this fall, but said the freshmen on the men’s hockey roster were able to get into the rink and skate for the first time last week. Members of the women’s hockey team were on the ice Oct. 15.

“Bowdoin is a place where collaboration is a huge part of success, not being able to meet with teammates and classmates is a challenging transition,” Janitz explained. 

Surgenor said she hopes to return to Bowdoin next year for senior season, if the conditions allow for it to happen.

“This year has been a challenge, but I am looking forward to playing my senior season with my teammates,” she said.

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