Date Posted:03/09/2005,  3:00PM

Lacrosse Season Previews

BRUNSWICK, Maine - The Bowdoin College men's and women's lacrosse teams will spring into action this weekend in the season-openers for the 2005 campaign. Both Polar Bear squads appear loaded, and ready for runs to the NESCAC crown.

The Polar Bear men's squad posted a 9-5 record last year and enters this season unranked in the national polls. Bowdoin returns considerable firepower as five of their top six scorers from a last year return, led by NESCAC Second-Team selection Connor Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald scored 25 goals and added 32 assists a year ago. Third-leading scorer Ford Barker returns (12 goals, nine assists), while senior tri-captain Phil Stern pitched in 14 goals in 2004, second on the squad. Bowdoin will also look for the continued improvement of junior Andy Nelson (11 goals) and sophomore Alex Weaver (12 goals), who both reached double digits in goals last season.

Defensively, Coach Tom McCabe's squad is led by two of the top defenders in New England, as senior tri-captain Andrew O'Brien and junior Bryan Duggan pace a veteran group. First-year John Lynch will look to make an immediate impact by supporting the unit as from the defensive midfield. In goal, sophomore Charles Legg has grabbed starting duties to begin the season, while sophomore Mike Peraza will serve as the primary back-up to start the year.

The Polar Bears will get rolling on Saturday in Williamstown, Massachusetts as they face NESCAC foe Williams at 1:00 p.m. Bowdoin, who beat national power Middlebury last year in Brunswick, will have to travel to play the Panthers on April 16. CBB rivals Colby (April 19) and Bates (April 27) will both be on the road as well this year. Key home dates include Tufts (April 6), Wesleyan (April 9) and Trinity in the season finale (April 30).

The women's squad has captured a number-7 ranking in the preseason poll as a number of key returners will look to push the Polar Bears into NCAA Tournament contention. Bowdoin went 11-7 a year ago and came within minutes of knocking off eventual national champion Middlebury in the NESCAC Semifinals, falling 9-7.

Bowdoin's preseason ranking is thanks, in good part, to an outstanding defensive corps that returns nearly intact from a year ago. Between the pipes, Kendall Cox earned first-team All-NESCAC and third-team All-American honors last year and returns for her senior campaign. Junior Betsy Rose was also a first-team All-NESCAC choice at defense, and will be supported by a strong unit that includes veterans Courtney Welch and Brigid Burke.

The Polar Bears will look to replace a good deal of scoring, however, as three of the top four scorers from 2004 have graduated. Senior co-captain Colleen McDonald is the top returner, having scored 35 goals last year. Sophomore Jill Steigerwald (15 goals) had a solid rookie campaign, as did classmate Taylor White (13 goals). Bowdoin will look for offensive contributions from a number of first-years, including midfielders Lyndsey Colburn, Bobbi Dennison and Bridget Keating.

Bowdoin will be put to the test immediately, as sixth-ranked Williams comes to town on Saturday. The Polar Bears will have one the toughest schedules in the nation, as they face six teams ranked in the IWLCA preseason poll. Key home games include Williams (March 12), Wheaton (March 30), Middlebury (April 16), Wesleyan (April 23), and Colby (April 20). The Polar Bears will travel to play at Amherst (April 30) and Bates (April 27).