Winthrop senior Kinli DiBiase told coach Jess Merrill in preseason the Ramblers were going to the state championship game.

Given that DiBiase was the Ramblers’ lone senior and graduation had taken a toll on the team, the prediction seemed a litle bold.

“I kind of meant it as a joke,” DiBiase said. “I was more focused on the immediate goals.”

The team rallied around DiBiase and some of the other veteran players and by midseason it was evident the Ramblers were headed for something big. They finished on top of the Class C North standings and won the Mountain Valley Conference championship. They won three playoffs games before meeting unbeaten St. Dominic in the state title game, one they lost in double overtime.

Through it all, DiBiase provided leadership along with a knack for scoring big goals. For her efforts she’s been selected Kennebec Journal field hockey player of the year.

The first impression watching DiBiase play is her speed. She finished with 20 goals and 10 assists and was seldom if ever caught from behind.

“She’s one of the fastest kids in the state,” Merrill said.

Her teammates were well aware of her speed and made it part of their game plan to get the ball ahead to her whenever possible.

“People would know if they pass the ball to a certain area I could get there,” DiBiase said.

DiBiase worked on her game in the off-season with the Maine Majestix and as Merrill puts it “her stick skills caught up with her speed.”

Just as important were her leadership skills. She worked with some of the younger players in practice and set the tone with the example she set.

“It was her team from the get-go,” Merrill said. “Her work ethic is second to none. She really forced the kids to work harder in practice.”

DiBiase was well aware of her responsibilities.

“I knew I had a big role to play,” she said. “I knew I had to set the tone, keep everyone pumped up. It’s mostly about how much time you spend with each other and knowing how to function under pressure.”

Playing with the Majestix gave DiBiase a better overall sense of the game and how she and her teammates fit into it. She and midfielder Kate Perkins had a particular knack of knowing where one another were on the field and taking advantage of it. Perkins was adept at making long aerial passes and DiBiase great at running onto them, a skill always in the back of the minds of opposing defenses.

The Ramblers finished at 12-1-1 during the regular season, splitting with Boothbay before beating the Seahawks in the conference championship game. The loine tie came at home against Lisbon, a team that finished with just two wins. They expected to see a pumped up Greyhound team when they faced them again in Lisbon three weeks later, but Dibisae settled the outcome early by scoring four goals.

She plays indoor soccer in the winter and plans on working with the Majestix again in preparation for attending the University of Southern Maine where she plans to study biology and play field hockey.

She’ll also run track this spring in hopes of repeating her MVC title in the 400 meter dash, one of the more demanding races in the sport.

“I like it because it’s hard,” DiBiase said.

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