Three national championships in four years. The word “dynasty” is sneaking into conversations about the Bowdoin College field hockey team.

And that D-word will be very prevalent if the Polar Bears are successful this weekend.

Bowdoin, 19-0 and ranked No. 1 in this year’s national poll, goes for a fourth title when the NCAA Division III Final Four begins today at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass.

Bowdoin, the top seed in the tournament, will play No. 5 seed and NESCAC rival Middlebury (16-3) in an 11 a.m. semifinal. That match will be followed by the other semfiinal between No. 3 The College of New Jersey (22-2) and unseeded Ursinus (19-3) at 2 p.m.

The championship match is at 1 p.m. Sunday.

This is Bowdoin’s third game against Middlebury this year. Bowdoin beat the Panthers 3-2 in overtime during the season and 2-1 in the NESCAC title match.

“They are very athletic and fast,” Bowdoin coach Nicky Pearson said. “They have a very good transition game.”

One of Middlebury’s leaders is senior Hannah Clarke of Falmouth. She has 12 goals and one assist.

Bowdoin is led offensively by junior Cathleen Smith (17 goals, six assists), senior Katie Herter (12 and 9) and senior Elizabeth Clegg (10 and 12).

Defensively, Bowdoin features NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year Ella Curren and defender Kassay Matoin of Sanford. Goalkeeper Kayla Lassard has a 0.51 goals-against average.

“We have a lot of characteristics of the teams we’ve had in the past,” Pearson said. “Very team-oriented. Good chemistry on the field. We don’t have a superstar. But we can score goals from many avenues.”

• • •

Cross country runners will flock to Winneconne, Wis., for Saturday’s Division III national championship.

Both the Bowdoin and Bates men’s teams qualified, as did three individuals in the women’s race: Molly Carl of the University of Southern Maine and Bowdoin’s Olivia MacKenzie and Madelena Rizzo.

Rizzo and Carl finished 10th and 11th in last Saturday’s regional at Bowdoin, covering the 6K course in 21:37.61 and 21:42.15, respectively. MacKenzie was 16th (21:51.47).

Carl, a junior, was the state Class B 300 hurdle champion in 2009 for York. She ran for UMaine-Farmington her freshman year before transferring to USM. She emerged as an elite runner this year.

“She’s only been training for mid distance/distance for little over a year,” USM coach George Towle said. “This past summer was the first summer of consistent training.

“Molly doesn’t take shortcuts in workouts.”

• • •

Maine hockey carried a four-game losing streak into Friday night’s game at the University of Massachusetts.

UMass is only 4-4-2, 2-4-2 in Hockey East, but the Minutemen have a 4-0-1 home record, and they have won their past three games, including a 4-2 upset of Boston College.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge to get back on track against them,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said before the game. “Still, we’re very determined to take our first step back in the right direction.”

Maine (3-6-1, 3-5) has not played consistently well on defense, and its penalty-kill unit has faltered. In last Saturday’s 4-3 loss to UMass-Lowell, the Black Bears gave up four third-period goals, three on power plays and one with the teams skating 4-on-4.

In each of the past two weekends, Maine has pulled a goalie: Dan Sullivan two weeks ago, and Martin Ouellette last week. Tonight’s starter has not been announced.

If there was a bright spot last Saturday, it was the play of freshman defenseman Jacob Rutt of Scarborough. Rutt was one of those who took a penalty in the third period but, overall, his play stood out.

“I thought he played a great game,” Whitehead said. “Very assertive. A lot of poise with the puck. He did not look like a guy playing the first game of his college career.

“He seized the moment.”

Whitehead said that Rutt will dress out for tonight’s game.

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