Date Posted:09/05/2003,  11:00AM

2003 Field Hockey Preview

BRUNSWICK, Maine - The Bowdoin College field hockey team has posted a 25-7 record in the past two seasons- easily one of the best in the NESCAC. But in each of the past two years, the Polar Bears have seen their season come to a halt in the NESCAC playoffs against rival Williams College. First in the semifinals of the 2001 Tournament and then again in the 2002 Championship game. For a team that returns all but three players from last year's 12-4 squad, Bowdoin appears poised to claim the conference crown in 2003 and return to the NCAA Tournament.

"I think although we lost three strong players from last year, we're excited about the corps of returnees we have," according to head coach Nicky Pearson, who enters her eighth season at Bowdoin with a 86-26 mark as a Polar Bear.

The Polar Bear defense has been the strongest facet of the squad in the past few seasons, beginning with senior goalkeeper Gillian McDonald (Hudson, Que.). McDonald already holds nearly every record in the book at Bowdoin, including career wins (35), shutouts (24) and has an astounding 0.44 career goals-against average. First-year Kate Leonard (Eliot, Maine) will back-up McDonald in goal.

Supporting McDonald will be a group of strong defenders, led by seniors Britney Carr (Conway, N.H.) and defensive midfielder Faye Hargate (Cleveland Heights, Ohio). Junior Kate Brady (Bethesda, Md.) saw action in 11 games last season, while a group of first-years that include Ali Sozio (Dedham, Mass.), Gail Winning (Wayland, Mass.), Susan Morris (Englewood, Colo.) and Kate Halloran (Plymouth, N.H.) will fight for playing time.

"Obviously, returning Gillian was huge for us," says Pearson. "Defensively, we're looking for Faye and Brit to play well, in addition to our first-years."

Senior Amanda Burrage (Brookline, Mass.) earned several regional and national honors last season assisting on 10 goals, and will be the focus of the midfield this season for the Polar Bears. Junior Jess Ross (Ipswich, Mass.) played 12 contests last season, while sophomore Abby Daley (Canton, Conn.) will join classmate Margaret Gormley (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) in more crucial roles this year. First-years Gessy LePage (Cumberland, Maine) and Taryn King (Georgetown, Mass.) will make immediate impacts on the squad.

"We'll be looking for our midfielders to step into a more offensive role this year," says Pearson. "Amanda's awards were fantastic last year and we'll be looking for her to be a key transition player for us this year. Gormley will be playing a bigger role for us defensively, and we're looking for Abby Daley to build on her experience from last season."

Leading the attack for Bowdoin will be junior Marissa O'Neil (Manchester, N.H.). O'Neil led the team in scoring as a first-year and added 11 more goals last season. Classmate Colleen McDonald (Greenfield, Mass.) scored four goals last year, while sophomores Christi Gannon (Boston, Mass.) and Allyson Craib (Harrison, Maine) will look to carry more of the scoring load this season. First-years Ashley Conti (Amherst, N.H.) and Sarah Horn (Delmar, N.Y.) will add depth to the team?s youngest position.

"Marissa and Colleen will be important for us in front," says the head coach. "We'll be looking for Aly and Christi to make a bigger impact on the forward line."

Bowdoin will, as always, have an extremely difficult schedule that includes away games at Amherst, Middlebury, Tufts and Wheaton and home games that include Williams, Wesleyan and Colby. Bowdoin opens their season on Saturday at Wellesley.

"We?re going to approach this season in the same way that we?ve done the past few years," says Pearson. "We?re anticipating the league to be as competitive as it has been in recent years. It will be a challenge for us to take every game at a time and hopefully still be playing come November."