Growing up, Lily Posternak loved playing soccer. Then she discovered field hockey.

“My older sister (Cari) played, and I grew up watching her play and kind of got sucked into it,” said Lily Posternak. “Then I picked up a field hockey stick and really liked it. So I stuck with it.”

Good thing. Posternak may only be a sophomore at York High, but she plays with a maturity and skill level that belies her youth. She is a member of the U.S. under-17 national team and will compete in the Netherlands next spring.

She is also the Maine Sunday Telegram field hockey Player of the Year for her efforts in helping the Wildcats win the Class B state championship this fall. Posternak scored 16 goals and 15 assists for York, but Coach Barb Marois, a former U.S. Olympian field hockey player, said those statistics didn’t tell the whole story.

“She shows what hard work can develop into,” said Marois. “She has worked very hard at the sport and because of that she is the player she is, but she is very humble about it and is very encouraging of her teammates. She challenges them at practice and works to make everyone around her better.

“She is a leader on the field, taking charge in key situations, and is the type of player that works all over the field.”

Marois added that Posternak has “the highest level of stick skills that I have ever seen in my coaching career for a high school player.”

That was evident throughout the season when she would “air dribble” – balancing the ball on the hook of the stick at knee level while moving through the defense. It is not an easy skill to perfect, but it is nearly impossible to defend without fouling.

Beth Murphy, the veteran Westbrook coach, called Posternak “the best player, the most talented player, I have seen in my coaching career. I can’t wait to see what she does in the next two years.”

Krista Chase, the coach at Mt. Ararat in Topsham, said Posternak has brought an excitement to the sport. “When I saw her reverse chip goal on the news one night, I thought to myself, ‘That just doesn’t happen all that often in Maine field hockey,’ ” said Chase.

Posternak, who also plays basketball for the Wildcats, said she just took to the sport naturally. She hopes to play at the Division I level in college and continue on her national team path.

“It’s a fun sport in that it is different from other sports,” she said. “It focuses on your skills instead of the physicality of the sport.”

She also feels fortunate to be learning the sport from Marois.

“She is such a huge role model for me,” said Posternak. “She has given me great advice. She knows where I want to go with field hockey in the future. And she’s passionate about helping me grow my game.”