UMF junior forward Alex Bessey takes the ball upfield during a recent field hockey game.  University of Maine at Farmington photo

You could say Alex Bessey picked up where she left off when she reached for a field hockey stick to play for the University of Maine at Farmington this season.

For the Spruce Mountain High School and Central Maine Community College graduate, the sport of field hockey is like riding a bicycle for her.

She was a standout in the sport for the Phoenix field hockey squad, and, apparently, hasn’t forgotten how to play the sport after a three-year hiatus.

“I thought it was going to be (difficult), but not really,” said the UMF junior forward, who is majoring in early childhood education. “I think with my teammates and with coach (Cynthia) Pratt and (associate head coach) Hattie (Huston), I think they were a huge help in transitioning back to the sport.” 

“I watched a couple of games when I was not playing. I definitely missed it because I thought I would never play again. But now being back is pretty exciting. I feel comfortable. I think that huge part has to do with my teammates welcoming me into the team.”

For Bessey, attending UMF to complete her four-year degree was a no-brainer and has become a family thing, as well.

“My dad is here, my mom went here and my bother goes here,” Bessey said. “It is close to home; I will save a lot of money.

“It is a little different than CM. I knew coming into it, but I like it. CM is a really small campus. One building and everybody knows everybody.” 

Bessey happily makes the 15-minute drive from her home in Jay to spend her days on campus. She will also be playing for the UMF women’s basketball season as soon as the field hockey playoffs conclude.

She was recently named New England Collegiate College Conference (NECC) Rookie of the Year, after leading all rookies with 15 goals and scoring a pair of game-winning goals for the Beavers. She was named to the NECC’s 2019 Field Hockey All-Conference first team, joining teammates Kasey Talarico, Gracie Foss and Lydia Wasina, who made the second team. Teammate Chole Horn was selected to the Del Malloy Sportsmanship Team.

“I think that is just a natural reflection of her athletic ability, and I think she has a lot of really good field hockey skills — you know, great hand-and-eye coordination — and really has adjusted and caught on quickly and really excelled in our conference play,” Pratt said. “She brings speed, and obviously I think in field hockey, speed is a difference-maker. You have that ball and stick and beat other people down the field. But to go along with that speed, she has really good natural instincts, good stick-handling skills and outstanding hand-and-eye coordination.”

Bessey is just one of the reasons why the Beavers have advanced to the conference semifinals. They will take on Thomas College in Purchase, New York,  Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the NECC championship Sunday at noon.

But Bessey, whose father Chris Bessey coaches the UMF baseball team, immediately noticed the difference between college and high school field hockey.

“It’s a lot faster,” she said. “Every player has skills. It is a lot faster game than high school.”

To prepare herself for college field hockey, Bessey played in a summer pick-up league at Bates College.

“I did (play) a couple of times, but with my schedule, I only went there twice, but it was definitely helpful (after) not playing for three years,” she said.

Bessey was impressed with how the Beavers moved on from a slow start and ended up as the No. 3 seed in the NECC playoffs.

“I think we started off a little rough, but we got better as the year went on,” Bessey said. “I think it feels pretty good, because in the beginning I thought (the postseason) was out of our reach, but then having it right in front of us, it is a pretty good feeling.”

COACH’S PERSPECTIVE

Before Bessey opted to attend CMCC and play basketball for the Mustangs, Pratt had her eye on the then-Spruce Mountain senior.

“Yeah, I watched her play in high school and was interested in having her join us at that time,” Pratt said. “But she chose what was better for her at the time, to go to Central Maine Community College.

“She didn’t make that decision (to finish up at UMF) until this summer. I knew that was an option, but she had other options, too. I think it was the middle of the summer that she contacted me. She decided to attend UMF and she wanted to tryout for field hockey

“Great surprise for us, and certainly worked out good for our team.”

Pratt was not concerned with Bessey’s layoff from the sport.

“Once she made that commitment, I knew she was going to come out for our team, also played summer field hockey so she tried to get herself acclimated back to the sport before our preseason even started,” Pratt said.

“I think it was just a matter of adjusting to college field hockey. She has the skills, and even though she hasn’t played field hockey for three years, she has been an athlete and probably improved herself as an athlete. Her athletic skills weren’t a concern.”

And Bessey’s contributions have certainly helped steer the Beavers to the playoffs.

“We have a pretty small roster,” Pratt said. “Every single person on our roster played a role in getting us to the playoffs. Alex is no different.

“Alex is a really easy person to coach … and really is a team player and will do anything to help the team. It has certainly been a pleasure to have her on our team this year. I think the team certainly enjoys having her there, and that’s what it is really all about.”


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