WATERVILLE — It opened the season with four straight victories. Then came an eight-game stretch in which the University of Maine at Farmington field hockey team alternated wins and losses. The Beavers then closed the season with five consecutive victories and the North Atlantic Conference championship.

To hear the Beavers tell it, it was a lot of little things that added up to the one big thing — the program’s first berth in the NCAA Division III tournament since 2007.

UMF (13-4-0) travels to the University of New England in Biddeford on Wednesday for a first-round meeting with the No. 3 Nor’easters. The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

“We weren’t clicking as a team at first, but since all of our team nights and bonding together, we’ve honestly just clicked together,” said freshman Nickyia Lovely, who was the 2015 Kennebec Journal Player of the Year at Gardiner Area High School. “Some people have moved from different spots on the field. It’s little things that coach has done that have made a huge difference.”

Head coach Cyndi Pratt, who is in her 13th season at UMF, isn’t surprised that the Beavers are returning to the tournament for the first time in nine years. A 3-2 victory over Wells in the NAC championship game Saturday, in which Lovely had a goal and an assist, underscored the type of effort the coach has seen from the team over the last couple of weeks.

“Like any sport, we have some good positive momentum going. It’s just carried us through these last few wins,” Pratt said. “I certainly believed in our team. We had high goals going into the season and thought we could accomplish a lot. It’s exciting that we’ve gotten here, but it’s not surprising to us.”

There is a nucleus of local talent in the Beaver lineup. Winthrop’s Emmah Spahr, who led the Ramblers to Class C state championship appearances in both 2011 and 2012, leads UMF in scoring with 19 goals and 39 points in 17 games.

The junior said that UMF has been a perfect fit.

“It’s been really nice,” said Spahr, the NAC leading goal scorer this season. “I’ve wanted to play field hockey in college for a long time, and coming here allowed me to do that. I think it’s perfect for me; I get to focus on school but I also get to do this, which I love. It’s the perfect balance for me between the two.”

In addition to Spahr and Lovely, juniors Lee-Anne Greenleaf (Gardiner), Sarita Crandall (Mt. Blue), Alyssa Arsenault (Winthrop), sophomore Chelsea Ballard (Lawrence) and freshman Taylor Hall (MCI) all hail from central Maine and all have appeared in 13 or more games for UMF this season.

Lovely’s six goals and 16 points rank fourth on the team.

“It’s a lot to take in. I wasn’t expecting to play as much as I did, but I worked really hard over the summer,” Lovely said. “Freshmen don’t usually play a lot, but if you work hard, it pays off.”

“High school field hockey in central Maine is very strong,” Pratt said. “There’s a lot of really talented players that want to keep playing, and fortunately we get a good share of them that come to UMF. We’ve been able to kind of keep that tradition and some of the momentum going in our field hockey program.”

The Beavers face a stiff test Wednesday in UNE. Third in the New England East rankings, the Nor’easters went 12-0 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference and are led by CCC Player of the Year Nicole Matarozzo. The senior from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, netted a hat trick in the CCC title game against Western New England on Saturday, giving her a school-record 52 goals for her career.

Sophomore Kersey Boulay of Liberty, a Miss Maine field hockey finalist in her senior season at Mount View in 2014, has started all 46 games to date in her career at UNE. She’s fourth in scoring (11 goals, 25 points) on a team that is fourth in the region in both goals per game (4.33) and scoring margin (3.48).

Even with a daunting task awaiting, and the top-ranked team in New England’s West region Tufts University looming in a potential second-round matchup, UMF isn’t looking at Wednesday as the proverbial icing on the cake.

“I’m not surprised (to be here), not with the hard work we’ve put in,” Spahr said. “We didn’t expect it, but we came in and we worked hard for it. I think some people think we’re just happy to be going, but we’re not. We’re going there to win.”

“They steamrolled their way through their conference. They’re undefeated in their conference and played a really strong non-conference schedule,” Pratt said. “They’ll be a formidable opponent, but I think we can compete. That’s what we’re looking to do, and to keep the momentum that we have going. We’re looking forward to a really great game on Wednesday.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC