WATERVILLE, Maine — Playing field hockey, any sport for that matter, year round has its upsides and down sides.
“It can get a little tiring,” said Elise Tilton of Holden. She plays for John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor during the fall in addition to the Maine Majestix club team in Waterville.
“I get a little sick of it at times, but it helps me keep up with the sport,” said the 16-year-old junior.
Tilton and her Majestix Under-19 teammates are preparing for Sunday’s indoor field hockey regional tournament in Mount Holyoke, Mass. The team is based in Waterville and draws players from eastern and central Maine.
“We have a really nice team,” she said. “We should do well.”
Coach Andrea Thebarge is optimistic as well.
“This is the most talented indoor team I’ve had,” said Thebarge, who is in her third year coaching indoors.
Thebarge has been the field hockey coach at Thomas College in Waterville since 2008. She was an assistant coach at the University of Maine from 2002 to 2005 and was the interim head coach in 2006.
Part of the reason for Thebarge’s optimism is that she has two national team players on her nine-player squad.
“One is a member of the national indoor team, Sarah Finnemore,” said Thebarge, “and one is on the national outdoor team, Kristy Bernatchez.”
Finnemore is a junior at Skowhegan High School and Bernatchez is a junior at Messalonskee of Oakland.
Tilton wouldn’t mind following in the footsteps of Finnemore and Bernatchez.
“That’s an awesome goal,” she said. “First I have to make the U-19 [national] team, but it’s a good goal.”
The other team members are Katie Bernatchez, a senior at Messalonskee and Kristy’s sister; Leah Edmondson of Nokomis of Newport, goalkeeper Lexi Cole and Lynnae Leuttich of Messalonskee, Allison LeClair of Winslow and Allison Lancaster of Skowhegan.
Indoor field hockey has a few significant differences from the outdoor sport, the most dramatic being the size of the playing surface. The outdoor field is 100 yards long by 60 yards wide, while the indoor game often is played on a basketball court.
To reduce congestion somewhat, the number of indoor players on the court is six: five forwards and backs and a goalkeeper.
Because of the indoor court, the sidelines are lined with 4-by-4-inch timbers and they’re treated like the boards of an ice hockey arena. The ball is in play when it caroms off them.
A bouncing ball or a ball in the air is an automatic turnover.
“The ball can’t be lifted. There is no backswing,” Thebarge said. “If a ball you receive comes up even half an inch, it’s a turnover.”
“All of your skills have to be a lot more precise,” said Tilton. “You have to make the perfect pass. In order to do that, you have to have [good] receiving skills.”
Those skills will be put to the test in Sunday’s regional. The Majestix are sending two U-19 teams and two U-16s, one for each ability level.
Sixteen teams will be vying for four berths in the national tournament, which is March 2-4 in Virginia Beach, Va.
“There are four pools of four teams,” said Thebarge, “and then there are crossovers.”
The top two teams in each pool go to the crossovers, where a No. 1 team from one pool plays a No. 2 team from another. Those four winners automatically go to the nationals, and they still play on to decide a winner.
“It’s important how you rank regionally because that’s how you get placed [seeded] at the national tournament,” said Thebarge.
Tilton went to Virginia Beach last year with the U-16s.
“It was a good experience going to Virginia Beach. I know what to expect,” she said.
The U-19 Majestix warmed up by winning a pre-regional event, also at Mount Holyoke, Mass., on Dec. 19. They went 5-0 against teams from Vermont, Massachusetts and New York.
“I don’t want to jinx anything,” said Thebarge, “but I feel very confident we will make the [national] tournament.”