Katie Perkins is Jess Merrill’s security blanket. When the offense or defense begins to bog down, the Winthrop field hockey coach looks to Perkins, her junior center midfielder, to pick things up.

“She’s our energizer bunny,” Merrill said. “I know she’s going to be where she needs to be at all times.”

Perkins is one of several outstanding players in central Maine to play that position, one that comes with several requirements.

“Center mid is the point guard of a field hockey team,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “(She) needs to be a player with incredible endurance, can see the field better than anyone and make smart decisions under an immense amount of pressure.”

McLaughlin has one of those players in senior Haley Lowell. So does Skowhegan (Maliea Kelso), Gardiner (Mikayla Bourassa), Winslow (Weslee Littlefield), Maine Central Institute (Alison Hughes) and just about any team that enjoys success at this time in the season. It’s no coincidence that the aforementioned six teams are all at or near the top of their respective divisions. Three — Winslow, Gardiner and Messalonskee — are unbeaten.

Lowell moved into the center mid position her freshman year and has been there since. She also plays there for her club team, the Maine Majestix. She enjoys being in the middle of the action and making decisions on when to pass and when to shoot and the ball generally spends more time on her stick than any other player.

“One of the most challenging parts is navigating through all the traffic,” Lowell said.

Lowell, who has committed to playing for Boston University next fall, thrives in traffic, due not only to her considerable stick skills but also to the mental requirements of her position.

“There’s definitely a toughness you need to have and a drive to get to that ball first,” she said. “And it’s a little physical.”

Lowell has a hard shot she utilizes on penalty corners, and drawing those corners is one of the things she likes most about playing center mid.

Playing center mid also means playing defense and running from end line to end line most of the game. Skowhegan has a player who fits those requirements in Kelso, a junior who has committed to playing field hockey for Northeastern University.

“To be an elite field hockey player today, you’ve got to be able to do it all,” Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty said. “She’s just a skilled dedicated player. It’s not like it was 10 or 15 years ago when kids could just show up and play.”

Doughty said field hockey doesn’t preclude playing other high school sports but dedicated players need to maintain their skills throughout the year and particularly during the summer. Littlefield is one of those athletes who excels at three sports, and when it comes to playing center mid, she listens to coach Mary Beth Bourgoin.

“Coach wants me to get rid of the ball,” Littlefield said. “Pass, pass, pass. Two dribbles and a pass that’s what we say.”

Added Bourgoin: “I look at my center back and my center mid as kind of like, we’ve used the word quarterback for both of them. A lot of things funnel through them. I think (Littlefield’s) instinct about where to bring the ball, where to deposit it, left or right, she’s very good at making that judgment.”

One of the aspects Perkins most enjoys about her positions is it allows her to play both ends of the field. She participates in penalty corners at both ends of the field and is involved in nearly every sequence of plays

“To have a player like that is invaluable to a team,’ Merrill said. “A lot of our girls take their cues from her. It’s a lot of the little things you can’t really teach. You’re kind of at a loss if you don’t have that strong presence at midfield.”

The demands of the position also require a thick skin.

“You’ve got to be mentally tough and take criticism,” Doughty said.

Added Perkins: “You can’t dwell on your mistakes.”

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