Few University of Maine teams have had as many Maine natives on their rosters as the 2019 Black Bear field hockey team.
Nine Mainers, all from different high schools, are among the 20 players on the roster (45 percent).
Maine-produced players have served the program well over the years.
Tara Bedard and Nicole Sevey of Skowhegan were among the school’s All-Americans, while Old Town’s Shaunessy Saucier and Kasey Spencer, and three-year captain Katie (Flaherty) McCabe of Winslow also were all-conference selections from the Pine Tree State.
UMaine head coach Josette Babineau said attracting Maine players is a top priority for her program.
“We feel we have Division I players in the state, so we try to secure them first,” said Babineau, who is in her 13th season leading the Black Bears.
She has guided UMaine to a 60-22 record over the past four years and the team has spent several weeks in the national top-20 rankings.
Playing for UMaine is a source of pride for the in-state players, most of whom grew up attending UMaine’s summer camps.
“I went to their camps, and I always wanted to come here,” said freshman forward Madisyn Hartley of Pittsfield, a former Maine Central Institute standout. “I knew Maine was going to be one of my top choices.”
“I used to come and watch their games,” junior forward Brooke Sulinski of Old Town said. “We have a lot of pride playing for our [state] school. It’s really cool to be playing here.”
Senior center forward Riley Field of Sidney, who attended Messalonskee High in Oakland, has not missed a game in her three seasons. The former America East All-Rookie selection has played in all 59 games with 58 starts.
“Field hockey is a very important sport in Maine,” said Field, who posted five goals and eight assists in 21 games last year. “It stems from having good club teams and the fact that a lot of former UMaine players are still coaching in the state.”
Top-notch club programs such as the Waterville-based Maine Majestix and Northport-based Black Bear Elite, which recently relocated from Orono, have exposed Maine players to top-notch competition across the Northeast.
Babineau noted that some Maine players have to redshirt their freshman season because they are trying to bridge the gap from club field hockey to Division I. That means they practice with the team, but don’t play in any games so as not to exhaust a year of eligibility.
“But, for the most part, they’ve had success. They’ve been able to do that,” Babineau said.