Lindsay Bowman has made a career out of proving people wrong.
The Massachusetts’ freshman standout from Palmyra, Pa. didn’t have field hockey on her mind until nearly high school, and it was sheer chance that she picked it up.
One of three sisters, Bowman was a star soccer player throughout middle and high school and the only brief experience she had with field hockey was a distant memory in her past; she had given up the sport after travel soccer became too much of a commitment for her.
One day her cousin Jaime, who played field hockey for a rival school, challenged Bowman, saying that she didn’t think the soccer star would be able to switch back to field hockey and compete for a spot on Palmyra’s storied team. She was, after all, in eighth grade and had already chosen soccer over field hockey earlier in elementary school.
“It was kind of a joke between the two of us,” Bowman says. “It was kind of a bet to see if I could do it and see how things worked out. I hadn’t played in a while, and she just bet me that I couldn’t do it.”
Palmyra High School’s field hockey team is known for being a breeding ground for developing solid talent. Girls start playing at a young age, typically around first grade, and they stay in the town’s “Weed Whackers” program until they reach middle school. At that time, those who have been involved in field hockey join the middle school team to hone their skills in game situations before making the leap up to field hockey in high school.
To put things in perspective, the Cougars are one of the top programs, not only in the state, but in the country and have multiple Division I caliber player’s graduate each year. It’s not every day that a person can begin playing so late in their career and have a realistic chance of making and playing for the Cougars.
Driven by her coaches and her own will to succeed, Bowman quickly regained all the skills she had acquired when she began playing in the past, and she also picked up some new ones along the way. By the end of middle school and the start of high school, it was impossible to tell she hadn’t played in years.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to pick up things again,” Bowman says. “But I guess I’m somewhat athletic so it was easy for me to get back into it.”
Bowman’s work ethic and intensity allowed her to prove her cousin wrong and make varsity in her freshman season, just one year after making the bet. She helped the team reach the state championship in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, and became an invaluable part of the Cougars’s attack. Known for her great stamina, she earned her teammates’ affection and was subsequently given the nickname of “Energizer Bunny,” because she simply never stopped running.
Bowman was named captain in her senior year, something that, in her words, “made me feel really special,” and won the Strength Courage Intensity Joy Award as well. The SCIJ Award is given out by Palmyra to the player who exhibits the best skills on the team as well as the best attitude, mental toughness and leadership.
Not many players can pick up a stick and start playing less than one year before high school and hope to accomplish all that Bowman did, and if you ask her about it today, it’s something she is very proud of.
“I feel really accomplished,” Bowman says with a smile. “It’s definitely one of the things that makes me, me. My hard work has paid off in the end, and I’m glad I chose field hockey.”
But despite all her success in high school, Bowman didn’t believe she would play field hockey in college. She still felt the passion for soccer burn deep inside her, and she only decided to give it up when she began being recruited at the start of her senior year.
“Our high school [field hockey] team was more successful than soccer,” Bowman says. “So I felt like [sticking with field hockey] would make it easier to get looked at by colleges. But it was also really stressful because I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to study. It opened up a lot of doors but I had to make decisions, and I wasn’t ready for that yet.”
When she came to UMass for her first field hockey camp, she was nervous and excited. Amherst was far from her home in Pa. and she was hesitant about whether she could play at a Division I caliber school. However, Bowman immediately felt at home with the members of the team and got her first individual meeting with UMass coach Justine Sowry.
“She was one of the latest recruits we picked up,” Sowry says. “What we had noticed about her was her athleticism and her competitive spirit or nature. We thought we had been lacking that athleticism and that competitive drive as a team in the last two years. She comes from a great high school program with great coaching, and they spoke very highly of her.”
Likewise, Bowman was impressed with Sowry’s attention to detail and how genuine she seemed as compared to all the other coaches she had been recruited by.
“I looked at a lot of the other [Atlantic 10] schools that we compete with, but coach Sowry is a great coach,” Bowman says. “She really has your best interests at heart, and everything she does is to make you a better player and a better person. UMass just clicked for me and she was a big part of it.”
Bowman made up her mind and decided that of all the A-10 schools, UMass fit her best, regardless of the distance from her home and her parents, Rodney and Christina, who wholeheartedly supported her decision.
Now a freshman playing in her first season at UMass, Bowman’s expectations for herself have not diminished. Even after making the team upon arriving on campus, there were few people who expected her to make much, if any contribution to the team so early in her career.
Bowman has done just the opposite, once again proving her critics wrong. In her opening season, she has seen playing time in 21 games, starting in eight of them and amassing four goals on 11 shots.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the most skilled player, but my speed and work ethic definitely helped me get out there and get going,” Bowman says. “It was great to get a good start to the season and make myself feel like I really belonged [at UMass].”
In the fifth game of the season against nationally-ranked Connecticut, Bowman streaked past a defender and scored the only goal of the contest and the first of her collegiate career.
The very next day, against a tough Yale team, Bowman contributed another goal en route to a 3-2 victory for the Maroon and White.
“Freshmen can go either way,” Sowry says about Bowman. “They can freeze a little bit and be overwhelmed at the ‘big time’, but Lindsay has been one who has always gone out at 100 percent. She’s a competitor, she wants to do well, she wants the team to do well and she provides that spark for us defensively and on the forward line.”
Bowman gained more and more playing time as her performance increased throughout the season, particularly after her teammate, Nicole Cordero, was injured right before the A-10 championship tournament.
Cordero went down against West Chester and had to be hospitalized and without its forward attacker, the line had little leadership and direction. Bowman was pushed into more playing and immediately became a focal point of her team’s attack.
She ended the season in the same fashion as she started it.
Against West Chester, Bowman scored the final goal in a 3-0 UMass victory and helped the team to a perfect record in A-10 play. A week later, in a semifinal match against Temple, she scored the lone overtime goal to send the Minutewomen to the championship game.
“The play that stands out for me for Lindsay is our semifinal win against Temple,” Sowry says. “She ran all day and in overtime, Temple had the ball on her side for three minutes, and she ended up being in the defensive corner, exhausted and keeled over, but we couldn’t take her out. But she got up and stole the ball, and instead of subbing out like she could have, she sprinted from one end to the other and she put the final goal in to win it. It just showed incredible heart and work ethic and character. I think it was a defining moment for her.”
Bowman attributes her success to work ethic and simply trying to fit in with her teammates. Her perceived expectations of the Minutewomen family are exceeded each day in practice and her transition to the college game has been simplified thanks in part to those around her.
“The coaches and the girls here remind me so much of my own family,” Bowman says. “The coaches here relate so well with the coach I had in high school, so that has helped a lot and as a team, we’re all mixed in together. There are no cliques or anything. We’re a team and we really are like a family.”
Watching Bowman play, one thing is immediately evident: she’s having a lot of fun running around playing the game she has grown to love.
“I love everything about college,” Bowman says. “I love being more independent, being able to be me now. I don’t need people telling me what to do every day; I know what I have to do on my own. It’s great living with all the girls and it’s been a lot of fun so far.”
Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]