Jeff Ward: What a Month!

Jeff Ward, Bowdoin’s Ashmead White Director of Athletics, describes thirty memorable days for the Polar Bears.

It was a good month to be the Bowdoin Athletic Director.

Bowdoin seniors celebrate another CBB Championship at Colby

It’s hard to believe it was only four weeks. It seems more like a career! On Saturday, November 13, the field hockey team had their 2nd round NCAA game with Babson well under control at half-time, so I could scoot up to Waterville for the Colby football game a little early. (Why does the Waterville trip seem longer than a drive to Boston?) I knew it would be a tough game. Colby was playing for a winning season and I worried that our guys, with all the injuries we had sustained, would be thinking about next year. Foolish me. It was a great game with several outstanding individual performances. But the scene I’ll remember most vividly took place after the game.

Kyle Duncan (a junior from New Canaan, Conn.), broke his ankle on our last drive of the game. Kyle is a vivid reminder that big, intense football players are often kind, thoughtful gentlemen. As the team prepared to sing their victory song, they realized that Kyle was on the bench with his foot propped up. They made a beeline to him so he could be part of the celebration. It really is all about the team.

Zach Danssaert

The next day, I bounced between the NCAA games in men’s soccer and field hockey like a ping-pong ball. While men’s soccer played with my emotions by allowing a late goal, the field hockey overtime actually aged me. When Ingrid Oelschlager (senior from Roanoke, Va.) scored with a little over three minutes left in OT, I was totally drained. I was particularly happy for Ingrid. She’s a fantastic two-sport athlete. Early in her career she was a forward and scored lots of goals. For the good of the team, she moved into the midfield. Her number of goals went down, but she dominated the center of the field with her speed and stick work.

I made the trip to Virginia with field hockey for the NCAA Championship while men’s soccer was at home. I spent two days trying to watch one game on the field and listen to the other on my phone. The five minutes on Sunday between the overtime goal in soccer and the win in strokes in field hockey was surreal. When soccer lost to Middlebury in the NESCAC final in penalty kicks, Coach Fran O’Leary’s message to the team was one of praise for those with the courage to take the kicks, even if they missed. Wouldn’t you know that the player who scored the winning goal in the NCAA game was one of those who missed two weeks earlier? Zach Danssaert (first-year from Solana Beach, Calif.) banged home the game winner with one second left on the clock. (Believe me, we checked the video.)

Emily Neilson '11 (right) with Kayla Lessard '13 and goalie coach Chris Waltham with the national championship trophy.

My favorite moment from the field hockey championship was seeing Emily Nielson’s (senior, Chatham, Penn.) smile in the post-game press conference. We talk a lot about the lessons learned in athletics. I believe deeply in those lessons, but athletics is also about having fun. Emily’s smile after the game was pure joy. She’s battled a bad back for a couple of years and actually started playing goal with a brace this fall. To have her star, was a tribute to her dedication. And she did mention she took off the brace for strokes!

Lost in the thrill of those games, was the performance of Carolyn Baskir (first-year, Chapel Hill, N.C.) who placed 26th at the NCAA Women’s Cross Country championships the same weekend. Ho-hum, All-America in your first fall on campus.

Friday's win over Colby. (Photo © J. Felice Boucher Photography)

At the same time, winter sports were off to a great start with both men’s ice hockey and women’s basketball nationally ranked. It was capped off this past weekend with four victories over Colby (women’s ice hockey, men’s basketball, and two in men’s ice hockey). One of those lessons we try to teach is the importance of perseverance. Brendan Reich’s (senior, Montvale, N.J.) goal with 18 clicks left against the Mules on Saturday night will be as good an example as we’ll get. It definitely left a stunned Waterville crowd silent.

We’re taking a deep breath now as we break for finals. Hopefully, we’ll generate the same kind of excitement in the second semester.


  1. Carol Messina says:

    Having my son, Stephen in goal as a freshman against Colby was tense. Having him post the win against a SRO crowd was priceless! We were so impressed with the pregame festivities, honoring the Men’s Soccer and Women’s Field Hockey teams. Bowdoin is a perfect fit for our family.

  2. Angus King says:

    Jeff–these victories were and are the culmination of a tremendous amount of work–first by the athletes but also by the coaches, the managers and everyone involved (even the fans). But they also reflect well on you and your team; as we learn every year watching the NFL, it’s usually the organization–starting at the top–that wins in the end. So while we’re handing out huzzahs, here’s one for you. Congratulations–and thanks.

  3. Robert Armstrong says:

    Jeff, congratulations on all of Bowdoin’s sports teams accomplishments this fall!

    Well done,

    Bob Armstrong, ’71

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