About a week ago, the New York Institute of Technology Bears donned their uniforms, organized in rows and took the official women’s lacrosse team photo. This annual preseason activity was nothing new to most of them. In fact, 14 of them were together in a similar picture last year.

The most noticeable difference: the name on the jersey top.

Last year, it was Dowling.

“The other day, we got our new uniforms,” said senior attack Katie Meinecke, one of 14 former Dowling players who transferred to NYIT last spring after the Oakdale college closed its doors. “When we put on the new uniforms and took a team picture on the field, it really set in that this is finally getting started.”

As Dowling’s demise became imminent, the NYIT administration acted quickly to hire coach Kerri Handras, a Stony Brook University graduate who was 115-39 and won two East Coast Conference titles in nine seasons at Dowling. Dowling was 17-4 last season under Handras, ranked as high as fifth in the nation among NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse teams, and won its first NCAA Tournament game.

After a long offseason that was characterized by stress early and eagerness late, Handras’ “new” team is scheduled to open Feb. 25 at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey. The Bears will play their first home game Feb. 28 against Merrimack.

“We’re just really excited,” senior defender Erin Smith said. “We’ve been counting down the days to get into President’s Stadium and start breaking into our new home.”

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With Meinecke (52 goals and 37 assists last season) and Smith leading the way defensively, the Bears are ranked 15th in the latest national coaches’ poll and behind only LIU Post in the ECC preseason poll,

“I’m hoping that as a team we can get back into the NCAAs and hopefully go further [than the quarterfinals],” Smith said. “Even though it is a new team, we all have good momentum together to keep pushing forward.”

The Bears have not forgotten they were Golden Lions in a previous life. They take pride in what they accomplished at Dowling.

But now it’s time to begin writing a new chapter.

“As much as we came from Dowling and understand that, we want to be known as NYIT,” Handras said. “We’re starting the program here and want to make something special.”

With Steven Marcus