WATERVILLE — Eva Bickford got to take the field hockey stick back out, got to put the shin guards back on and got to head back onto the field. Just as she had been looking forward to doing.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” the former Maine Central Institute defender said. “I’ve been watching a bunch of field hockey and I was like ‘I just want to play.’ I’m so glad I got the chance to do this.”

She got the chance to play Saturday in the McNally Senior All-Star Game, and for her — and others among the 48 total players on the North and South rosters — it was a last chance. Not everyone who took the Thomas College field in the blistering heat will be playing field hockey in college. For players like Skowhegan’s Haley Carter (off to Hofstra), Messalonskee’s Haley Lowell (Boston University), MCI’s Addi Williams (Endicott) and Boothbay’s Sydney Meader, the Maine-bound forward who scored twice and was named the North’s MVP in a 6-2 victory, the All-Star Game was another chapter in their stories in the sport, and there are plenty more to come in these next four years.

For players like Bickford, Nokomis’ Chelsea Crockett, Stearns’ Peighton Ingersoll and several more, however, this was it. Some, like Messalonskee’s Ally Turner, who’ll play lacrosse at Wagner College, are leaving field hockey only because they’re pursuing another sport. But more are embarking on college careers away from varsity sports, and got to use Saturday both as a fun excursion and a farewell of sorts to a sport they’ve played for years.

“Not yet,” Crockett, the North’s goalie, answered when asked if emotions had started to set in. “I think it will eventually. Seeing some of the girls I played with last year playing, it’s so weird not to be playing with them.”

“I thought it was nice, it definitely made me want to compete again,” Ingersoll said. “I did enjoy it though, it’s good to get everybody together for one last game. … I’m not going on to play in college, it’s good to kind of wrap up my senior year.”

MCI coach Nancy Hughes, one of the three North coaches along with Skowhegan’s Paula Doughty and Winthrop’s Jess Merrill, said the opportunity to provide a finale is one of the game’s best features — and one the players are eager to embrace.

“I think you can tell by the attendance. There were a lot of girls who were invited to play in this, or qualified through their election to the All-State who didn’t show up,” she said. “So I think you see the kids to whom it’s really important, they’re the ones who came.”

And the ones who came took it seriously. The game didn’t have the tension and drama of October’s playoff battles, but the players on the field — both the ones that play year-round and the ones who took their sticks, like Ingersoll, out of “the back of my closet” — showed some of the intensity that made them some of the state’s best.

“These kids are competitive. They don’t get to be All-Stars if they’re just out there for a good time,” Doughty said. “They show up, and they want to compete. … It gives them a chance to say ‘I’m an All-Star player in the state of Maine’ and enjoy that day.”

And the players did enjoy it, even if on Saturday it meant running up and down a scorching turf field under a glaring sun.

“I think it’s a really awesome thing that they do here,” Crockett said, “not only because the high school players play during the day, but also because we always play against these girls and never get a chance to play with them. They’re the best in the state, so seeing the girls that I hate to play against, it’s fun to play with them.”

“You get to play with girls that are better than you or at your level, whereas sometimes you play teams that are not as good, sometimes you play teams that are way better,” said Ingersoll, who’s headed to Husson. “It puts all the girls on the same level.”

But for some, it’s a bittersweet feeling.

“I’ve been waiting for it, but I knew it was going to be sad. And it is sad,” said Bickford, who will attend the University of New England. “We talked about it a lot. It was a big joke, I always was the one crying throughout the whole summer with the field hockey team.

“I have been playing since kindergarten. It’s getting a little tough.”

They’ll miss the game for different reasons. Ingersoll said she’ll miss the competitiveness of the sport. Bickford and Crockett said they’ll miss the camaraderie.

“We all are in there, day in and day out, trying to win, and all across the state it’s like that,” said Crockett, who’ll go to Bentley. “I think I’m going to miss that atmosphere.”

As Hughes pointed out, however, the book isn’t closed.

“I think there are more opportunities now, so even if these kids aren’t going to play on the varsity level in college, a lot of them will play club, they’ll play intramural,” she said. “There’s just something about field hockey, once you’ve had a stick in your hand it’s hard to let that go.”

The players felt that for themselves Saturday.

“Some of the girls were saying how they don’t play, they put down their stick at the end of the season,” Ingersoll said, “and it was kind of an honor for them to get to play again one last time.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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