ORONO, Maine — Australians Emily Hindle and Samantha Wagg knew they were coming to an area far different than their native land when they decided to play field hockey at the University of Maine.
They knew the winters were going to be snowy, cold and long.
They also figured they would never find Vegemite in Orono. Vegemite is the thick, black food spread used in sandwiches and popularized in the song “Down Under” by the Aussie band “Men at Work.”
“We’ve got jars of Vegemite at my apartment. We stocked up before we came back,” chuckled Hindle.
They don’t have Vegemite in New Zealand, teammate Casey Crowley’s native country.
“We have Marmite. It’s similar to Vegemite but it’s bitter,” pointed out Crowley, who moved to Victoria, British Columbia, when she was 10 years old because her father, Kieran, was named the head coach of the Canadian national rugby team.
Her father used to play for the world-renowned All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby union team. He is now coaching in Italy.
Wagg and Crowley, who are juniors, and sophomore Hindle will be three key components for the Black Bears this season.
Center midfielder Crowley led the Black Bears in scoring last season with 10 goals and 10 assists. Wagg was a top-notch defender who also tied for third on the team in scoring with nine goals and six assists. Several of her goals and assists came off penalty corners. Hindle didn’t register any points but was a valuable midfielder who will return to her natural position in the back this season according to head coach Josette Babineau.
“They are all great players,” said Babineau.
Wagg and Crowley were All-America East Eastern Conference selections and Crowley was an All-Northeast Region first teamer while Wagg was a second-teamer.
“Sam Wagg has so many tools,” said Babineau.
Babineau said in addition to being a good defender and distributor of the ball, Wagg has exceptional knowledge of the game and has a “all the skills on penalty corners and can score and be such a threat in that spot on her own.”
Babineau said Crowley is “self-motivated. She wants to get better and better as a player. She will play up a little bit higher as a center mid this year and, hopefully, that will provide her with even more scoring opportunities.”
The UMaine coach said Hindle will be the left back this year and is very reliable, which is required at that position.
“The left back gets the lead amount of credit for how difficult that position really is. You have to be steady. You can’t be a flashy player. You can’t be trying to make the all-star play. You just have to make the safe pass. You can’t create major turnovers or be too frantic on attack.”
The trio has embraced living in Maine.
“When we got our first blizzard, we went out and ran around in it,” said Wagg. “We had never seen so much snow before.
“And when I go home now, the cold doesn’t really bother me at all because I’m so used to the snow and being here,” added Wagg.
“We make the most of it. I’ve been here for a winter now so I know what to expect,” said Hindle. “I really enjoy it here.”
Crowley said her adjustment wasn’t as dramatic as Hindle or Wagg’s because she has lived in British Columbia, even though Victoria’s winters aren’t nearly as harsh as Maine’s.
“It’s easy to adjust to when everyone around you is going through the same thing,” said Crowley. “And there is a family atmosphere, especially in the field hockey community and within the whole athletic department. We all share the same training room so we get to know the players on the other teams.”
Hindle said she was nervous at first when she first came to UMaine last year.
“I didn’t know Division I was such a high level. I didn’t know what to expect. But things went pretty quickly. I’m looking forward to this year. Now I know what to expect,” said Hindle.
The trio is optimistic about the upcoming season. UMaine went 13-7 a year ago, losing to the University of California 3-2 in the America East quarterfinals in Stockton, California.
“We have a great team. We’re going to have a good season. We’ve got a real good group of girls,” said Wagg.
The Black Bears will return six of their top seven scorers off a team that scored 65 goals in 20 games and they will also have fifth-year senior goalkeepers Emma Cochran and Emily Corbett, who combined for a 1.80 goals-against average.
“Expectations are higher this year because we have more experience than last year,” said Babineau who has been joined by first-year associate head coach Michelle Simpson. Simpson spent eight seasons as an assistant at the University of Albany, where she was an All-American midfielder.
Wagg and Hindle will be joined in the back by junior Ella Mosky and sophomore Morgan Anson along with newcomers Cassandra Mascarenhas, Hana Davis and Lydia Dexter of Oakland’s Messalonskee High School. Mosky had three goals and nine assists a year ago.
“Some of them can also play in the midfield,” said Babineau.
Crowley headlines the midfield along with sophomore right midfielder Riley Field (3 goals, 4 assists) of Sidney and Messalonskee, who was chosen to the AE All-Rookie team.
Brittany Smith, a sophomore who wasn’t eligible to play last year, will give the Black Bears a boost at forward or midfield and Clinton native and Lawrence High of Fairfield product sophomore Lilla Tilton-Flood can play in the midfield or in the back.
Belfast senior Madison Cummings (11 & 1) was UMaine’s leading goal scorer a year ago and junior Libby Riedl (7 & 12) was the second leading point-producer. They will play up front along with sophomore Brianna Ricker (7 & 2), an All-AE Rookie Team pick. Junior Lydia Gavner (3 & 1) is a forward-midfielder and freshmen Brooke Sulinski of Old Town and Abby Webber of Garland will also play up front.