July and early August are jam-packed with elite field hockey competition for Josie Varney, so the 15-year-old from Oakland plans on taking it easy over the Independence Day holiday.

Varney is headed to USA Field Hockey Junior National Camp as one of 50 players from across the country trying out for the Under-17 national team in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her teammates with the Waterville-based Maine Majestix Under-16 field hockey team will join her in Lancaster as they return to the National Club Championships for the third year in a row on July 10-12. After that, it’s off to Houston, where she and teammates Autumn Littlefield and Maliea Kelso will be three of 128 players from around the nation competing in the Junior Olympics, August 2-6.

For now, Varney is trying to keep the whirlwind tour on the back burner.

“I tend to over-think things a little, so I’m trying to relax,” said Varney, who attends St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. “I play a lot of field hockey, so I’m going to take a few days and sit back and relax and hang out with my friends and family so I’m rested and ready for it.”

The Majestix have come a long way since the first week of March, according to coach Amy Bernatchez. Practices at Thomas and Colby colleges and the Alfond Youth Center included some hard-learned lessons from the Majestix U19 team. But it was great preparation for May’s New England regional for the National Club Championships.

They finished third at regionals, losing to champion North East Elite by one goal a day after beating them. Since more than half of last year’s team, which finished 11th at the 2015 Club Championships, moved up to the U19 team, Bernatchez was pleased with the outcome and prepared for a quiet summer. But then she learned the Majestix won an at-large bid to be one of the 16 teams competing in Lancaster.

“There are a lot of great teams they could give that bid to and we’re thrilled they gave it to us,” she said.

Bernatchez said the Majestix’ presence at last year’s tournament and their impressive performance at regionals, where they outscored opponents 18-4 over the two days, helped give them the inside track.

She admitted there were times early in the spring she “thought it would be a miracle” for her young team were to reach nationals. But the players’ resilience and hard work, and some lopsided scrimmages with the U19 team, paid off,

“The U19 team really challenged us every single week in practice,” she said. “I think they’re as good as any U16 we’ll see at nationals.”

Veterans such as Varney, Littlefield, of Messalonskee, and Amy Gaiero of Belfast stepped up into key leadership roles this year, Bernatchez said. New contributors called up from the U14 team such as Lexi Lewis of Lawrence scored key goals, and McKenzie McConnell of Skowhegan and Brooke Richards of Belfast filled the void in the cage when starting goalie Brooke Bolduc of Mt. Blue tore her ACL during softball season.

The veterans expect the experience and confidence gained from last year’s tournament will help them in Lancaster next week. Ranked 21st in the nation by USA Field Hockey, they also relish their role as underdogs going up against teams that play together year-round.

“We were really happy with how we finished last year,” Varney said. “It was a tremendous improvement from previous teams. We want to do even better this year. We’re really excited.”

“We know it’s going to be a challenge,” Bernatchez said. “We know we’re going to see great teams. We’re in a tough pool, but we’re ready.”

Besides the competition, another feature of the tournament is that it draws college coaches from all over the country and gives them a rare opportunity to see some of Maine’s top players in person. Those players, who watched Majestix alumni Kristy Bernatchez play in the NCAA championship for the University of North Carolina and saw former teammates such as Riley Field, Ally Corbett, Haley Lowell, Emily Hogan, Lydia Dexter and Lilla Tilton-Flood commit to Division I schools recently, value that exposure.

“Being competitive on a national stage, it’s nice to see Maine kids get those opportunities we might not otherwise get,” said Varney, a midfielder who will be a sophomore at St. Paul’s in the fall. “The youth tournaments are how you get recruited to the big colleges, so it’s really important, especially for us in Maine because we probably don’t get that exposure otherwise.”

A number of Majestix players opened eyes at the National Futures Championship in late June. The tournament brings together the top 10 percent of all players in the USA Field Hockey system.

Representing the Majestix in the U14 tournament were Annie Corbett and Chloe Tilley of Messalonskee; Littlefield, Kelso, Varney, Lizzie York of Skowhegan and Moriah Hajduk of Winthrop took part in the U16 games. Lowell and Field, of Messalonskee, and Delaney Wood of Winslow played in the U19 championships. Lowell and Varney were selected to play in the all-star game.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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