Katie Bernatchez briefly considered the question of whether she would cross sticks with sister Kristy when they meet Saturday in an NCAA Division I field hockey second round game in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Both Belgrade sisters play left back — Katie for underdog Boston University, Kristy for No. 2 North Carolina — so a showdown is unlikely.

“The only scenario I can think of is if she breaks out on a penalty corner and we have to go one-on-one,” said Katie, a senior for the 15th-ranked Terriers.

Kristy would welcome such a scenario.

“I think it will be fun, but I’m not really going to stress too much over it,” said Kristy, a junior with the Tar Heels.

Both girls insist they will be all business well before the game begins at 11:30 a.m., although they admit they are just as excited that field hockey has once again brought the family together.

“The best thing will probably be having the whole family around,” Kristy said.

“I’m hoping for a good game,” Katie added. “I’m really excited about it and really nervous about it.”

The sisters who will watch each other from across the field on Saturday have been following each other from afar for years. They haven’t seen each other since the end of summer break. They’ve occasionally tuned in to live streams of each other’s games. Kristy couldn’t watch Katie’s play-in game — a 6-1 victory over Fairfield — on Wednesday because the Tar Heels were practicing.

They’ve seen their parents, Amy and Brian, at games during the season, but rarely together because the couple employs — as Amy put it — a “divide and conquer” strategy. That allowed them to see as much of their daughters and younger son, Jack, a senior football player for Messalonskee, in action as much as possible.

Katie and Kristy have visited each other on campus at various points in the offseason, returned home for most major holidays and get a little time together each summer, when Kristy isn’t busy with the U.S. Under-21 National Team and Katie isn’t coaching for Amy and Brian’s Maine Majestix club team.

On Saturday, mom, dad, the three kids and Amy’s aunt Karen Norman will all be together.

Kristy’s season started late due to a stress fracture in her tibia. She had to take five weeks off starting at the end of July and missed the Tar Heels’ first couple of games. She’s played in 18 games, started 14, and dished out a couple of assists.

Katie took over at left back this year after spending most of last year as a defensive center-mid. Her transition was interrupted when she broke two ribs in the middle of the season and was forced out of the Terriers’ lineup for three weeks. She returned for their last regular season home game on Oct. 24. She’s played in 15 games, starting 14, and does not have a point.

As left backs, neither is expected to score for their prolific attacks. But both make contributions that stretch far beyond the box score.

“It’s not a glamorous position at all but it’s a gritty position,” Amy said. “You have to really smart with you passing and your pressure.”

Amy expects Saturday to be an emotional day — it will either mark the end of Katie’s college career or Kristy’s junior season — but can’t think of a better way for her daughters’ college paths to cross.

“If I had scripted this, I couldn’t have a better ending than this,” Amy said. “Both girls have worked so hard and have been so committed and overcome so much.”

The Bernatchez family almost had their dream matchup during last year’s tournament. They could have met in the national semifinals, but Syracuse quickly spoiled that with a 2-1 first-round win over the Terriers. The Orange then eliminated the Tar Heels in the semifinals before losing to Connecticut in the national championship.

Kristy got a measure of revenge for the siblings when the Heels defeated the Orange 2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game last Sunday. It was the program’s 19th ACC title and Kristy’s first.

“That was probably the best moment I’ve had since I’ve been here,” she said.

The Bernatchez family started toying with the idea of their dream matchup again a couple of weeks ago when it became clear both teams would compete in the national tournament. The Terriers assured that when they toppled American in the Patriot League title game last Saturday before they dominated Fairfield on Wednesday.

“We’ve always pushed each other”

The sisters grew up playing field hockey and other sports together. Amy coached the girls throughout childhood so it’s not surprising that they grew up in a competitive environment.

“Katie was the first-born (18 months before Kristy) and could do no wrong,” Amy said. “Kristy being the second child always had to be the center of attention. She was really more competitive in that she always had to one-up her sister if she could. They were different in every way.”

“I always picture her breathing down my neck and trying to do better than me,” Katie joked.

“We’ve always pushed each other,” Kristy added.

In her senior year at Messalonskee, Katie was recognized as the top back in the state, a two-way threat and the 2011 Kennebec Journal Field Hockey Player of the Year. A year later, Kristy, a midfielder, succeeded her sister as KJ Player of the Year and was named Miss Maine Field Hockey while scoring a state record 47 goals.

The sibling rivalry has faded quite a bit since the sisters enrolled in their dream colleges (Katie is a political science major, Kristy an exercise and sports science major). Playing the same position and the shared experience of being Division I field hockey players with demanding academic schedules has brought them closer together, thanks to social media.

“They’re different people and different athletes, but one thing that is the same is they are both team players,” Amy said.

The Terriers (15-6) are decided underdogs against the Tar Heels (18-2). The two teams are almost virtual opposites in terms of style. The Terriers play with emotion and like big hits. The Tar Heels play a more controlled, disciplined style.

The fans in the Bernatchez clan are hoping for a good game, no injuries and may the best team win. They also hope the matchup of sisters inspires more girls from their home state.

“For two little Maine girls, this is huge,” Amy said. “I hope a lot of little Maine girls look at this and believe that anything is possible.”

Kristy and Katie said they’ve often talked about the possibility of playing against each other at some point in their college careers. Now that it is going to happen, Katie is a little more sure how she’ll react than Kristy.

“It’s weird because we’ve never really played against each other,” Kristy said, “so I really wouldn’t know what to expect when it happens.”

“Regardless of the outcome, I’m going to be happy for her and she’s going to be happy for me,” Katie said. “I’m hoping our team brings their best and then we get some good pictures after the game.”

There will be someone missing from those photos that will make Saturday a little bittersweet for the family.

Sandra Corbett, Amy’s mother who inspired her daughters and granddaughters to play the sport, died after a brief illness in January. Both have dedicated this season to her memory, so Amy wouldn’t be surprised if the matriarch had a hand in bringing the family together on a mid-November Saturday in North Carolina.

“Somehow,” Amy said, “she aligned the stars in such a way that this all could happen.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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