Josie Varney may be only 15 years old, but the mature Oakland native had a remarkable 2016.
She earned a spot on the United States Under-17 Junior National field hockey team, became the youngest player in the country selected as a first-team high school All-American and verbally committed to attend Duke University on an athletic scholarship.
Duke was the nation’s No. 1-ranked team before being upset 3-2 in overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals by eventual champion Delaware.
“It has been a dream. It has been one thing after another. It has been awesome. It has been so much fun,” said Varney, who is a sophomore central midfielder at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, where she also plays ice hockey and lacrosse.
She feels fortunate to have incredible parents, Jeff and Paula, who were willing to cart her all around the country as she pursues her dream.
Varney, who spent several years in the Waterville-based Maine Majestix field hockey program, will travel to Houston to train with the other 23 members of the U.S. Junior National team from Jan. 20 to 22. Eighteen players will be selected to play in Europe in May.
“I’ve never played over there before. It would be real exciting to see a lot of different coaches and the European style of play,” she said.
Varney survived five rounds of cuts over a seven-month span to earn a slot on the National Junior team.
Amy and Brian Bernatchez, who coached her during her Majestix days, said Varney is a special player.
“Her best quality is her individual skill,” said Amy Bernatchez. “She can easily beat someone one-on-one, she can win a one-on-two and a one-on-three. She has very fast hands and quick feet. She’s explosive.
“She is a great playmaker, and she has one of the hardest shots I’ve ever seen from a high school girl,” she added.
Amy Bernatchez also said Varney could play anywhere on the field although she is best suited as a central midfielder because she is good at creating opportunities for herself and her teammates.
“You could tell right away that she had the ‘it,’” said Brian Bernatchez. “She was one of the most creative players we ever had. She has a nose for the cage, and you can tell she is an ice hockey player because she has quick hands and understands angles.”
Varney said it wasn’t until eighth grade that she decided to pursue playing field hockey instead of ice hockey in college. But she said it is valuable to keep playing ice hockey and lacrosse in the meantime.
“Any time you play other sports, it definitely gives you an edge,” said the 5-foot-3 Varney. “You’re doing different things, and you’re using different muscles in your body. It’s nice to keep your muscles strong.
“If you play the same sport 12 months a year, you’ll get burned out,” added Varney, whose older brother James plays for the Walpole (Massachusetts) Express Junior A hockey team.
She elected to attend St. Paul’s over Messalonskee High of Oakland because it has a FieldTurf field, it plays better competition and has a strong academic regimen.
“I wanted to be challenged athletically and academically,” said Varney.
She said Duke was a perfect fit for her.
“They were ranked No. 1 virtually all season. The campus was perfect. The coaches and the vibe on the team also played a big part on it. And they have the CAPE [Collegiate Athlete Pre-Medical Experience] program, and I want to go into the medical field.”
CAPE provides primarily female student-athletes at Duke with a variety of clinical experiences at the Duke University Medical Center.