|As an 8-year-old, Lydia Caputi, in blue, was a huge fan of the Bowdoin women's basketball team as they made their way to the national title game. This year, Caputi won't miss the trip, however. She'll be in uniform.
Bowdoin athletics file photo
By Brian Lester
Lydia Caputi remembers the last time Bowdoin made the NCAA Division III Final Four.
She was 8, and the team’s biggest fan. The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games are still some of her most vivid memories of the Polar Bears’ magical 2004 postseason run.
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“It was standing-room only for those games and it was so loud,” Caputi said. “My 8-year-old self was in heaven watching being there and watching them play."
But she didn’t get a chance to go to the Final Four to cheer on her favorite team. She wasn’t there when the Polar Bears beat UW-Stevens Point in the national semifinals and she wasn’t there when they lost to Wilmington in the national championship game.
“My mom and sisters went but I didn’t go because I realized how much I loved basketball and I didn’t want to miss my own game. No way was I going to do that,” Caputi said.
Sometimes you get second chances to do something in life.
Caputi gets one this weekend.
This time she won’t be there as a fan. She will be playing with Bowdoin in the national semifinals in Rochester, Minnesota. A Friday night date at the Mayo Civic Center with Wartburg awaits.
“I couldn’t go then, but I found a way to get there now,” Caputi said.
|Lydia Caputi, right, and Sam Roy celebrate Bowdoin's Sweet 16 win at Scranton.
Bowdoin athletics photo
Just thinking about the opportunity in front of her is something she is still trying to wrap her hands around. It’s been a whirlwind for her since the Polar Bears topped Tufts 66-48 on in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Saturday in the national quarterfinal round.
“The fact that I get to be part of something like this, the same way that (2004) team was, it’s pretty sweet. I really don’t know how to put it into words,” Caputi said.
Courtney (Trotta) Ruggles was a captain on that 2004 team and remembers Caputi well.
“I totally remember Lydia and her sisters. They were super fans before the whole community caught on,” said Ruggles, who now works in administration at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. “Lydia was in a group of girls who would sit courtside with signs, cheering their hearts out.”
As a player at the time, Ruggles always thought about how much she inspired young girls to play the game. Caputi has said that the 2003-04 season was the year she made basketball her favorite sport, crediting that team for inspiring her to fall in love with the game.
Ruggles saw the full impact she and her teammates made on others when she ran into Caputi at a game last year.
“I guess I didn’t truly realize the impact we had on Lydia until last year when a group of us were back on camps for Lora (Trenkle) Cooperman’s induction into the Bowdoin Hall of Fame,” Ruggles said. “You could see Lydia was sincerely pumped to reconnect with Lora and some of the other alums who were there. While peeking into their season, I have been thinking about how awesome it must be for Lydia to have grown up around Bowdoin basketball, and to have a chance to contribute to creating another special season. It’s just awesome.”
Lydia is loving having the chance to experience such a special season. And she thinks about how she is now one of the stars inspiring young girls to play the game.
“I think about running into the locker room at halftime or after a game and kids are hanging over the railings cheering. I think, ‘Yep, that was me at one time.’ It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Caputi said.
She gets to see the impact she has on others while helping out at Polar Bear camp every fall, the same camp she attended as a child.
“My favorite week until I got too old to go was the camp. Those are some of my fondest memories,” Caputi said. “And now that camp has been among my fondest memories while here at Bowdoin.”
Caputi is one of three seniors on the Polar Bears roster. She’s averaging 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. D3hoops.com Northeast Player of the Year Kate Kerrigan and Lauren Petit are the other two seniors, averaging 10.7 and 8.0 points per outing, respectively, for a team that is 28-2 on the season.
“I think about running into the locker room at halftime or after a game and kids are hanging over the railings cheering. I think, ‘Yep, that was me at one time.’ It’s a pretty awesome feeling,”
- Bowdoin senior
“The three of us have come a long way. We live together, so we spend a lot of time off the court together, and we’re great friends,” Caputi said. “We’re so grateful we get more week together and we’re fired up about the opportunity.”
The daughter of former Bowdoin football coach Dave Caputi, Lydia grew up in a competitive household. Her brother and two sisters both played sports.
“Growing up, we had the biggest yard in the neighborhood and so everyone came over. We’d play basketball, backyard football, two-on-two hockey games. We were always doing something outside,” Caputi said.
Caputi even competed against Blake Gordon, a senior on the men’s team at Bowdoin this season. He lived in the neighborhood.
“He was my best friend growing up and we’d play a lot of basketball against each other in the driveway,” Caputi said.
Those days are memories now and more memories are on the verge of being made.
Ruggles sees a lot of similarities between this Bowdoin team and the one she played on more than a decade ago.
“We were a team that tried to keep it light and maintain perspective, even during a special season,” Ruggles said. “We brought intensity to every drill, every practice, every game, but we also played with the freedom that we were playing for each other and at some level, that had to be enough. From what I’ve seen from this year’s team has a similar outlook. It is easy to see that they have a lot of love for playing each other and a lot of skill.”
Two more wins is all that stands between Bowdoin and a national championship.
Caputi doesn’t want to just be happy getting this far.
“We don’t want it to be ‘congrats on a great season.’ We want to win. We feel like we have a chip on our shoulder and we want to prove how good we are. We know if we play Bowdoin basketball, we are a tough team to beat," Caputi said.
Ruggles won’t be able to make the trip to Minnesota for the final four but she’ll be watching online.
“I’ll be following the live streams,” Ruggles said. “I’m sure they’ll have a great crowd and lots of support with them in the stands. Bowdoin is a special place, and they’re a special team that is representing the college so admirably.”