Skowhegan field hockey players, from left, Mackenzie McConnell, Bhreagh Kennedy, Olivia Hatch and Emily Reichenbach sign their letters of intent to play in college. Photo by Darcy Fitzmaurice

SKOWHEGAN — Four Skowhegan Area High School field hockey players sat at a table in the gymnasium, letters of intent in front of them, wide smiles on their faces.

For Mackenzie McConnell, Olivia Hatch, Bhreagh Kennedy and Emily Reichenbach, who had played for years and won three state championships together, it was altogether fitting that they took the next step in their field hockey careers with each other as well.

The four seniors signed their letters of intent to accept field hockey scholarships in a mid-day event on Thursday. Kennedy, a back, is receiving a full scholarship to play Division I at the University of Maine, while Reichenbach, a forward, is going to D-II Adelphi University on a partial scholarship and Hatch and McConnell, a back and goalie respectively, signed partial scholarships to play D-II at Saint Anselm College.

It’s very special to me, because they’re all my best friends and we all grew up together,” Reichenbach said. “I think it’s very special for all of us to be here. …  It’s nice to know that everybody got what they wanted, and we all get honored in that way.”

It was special for the school as well. For all the championships Skowhegan has won and for all the players the program has sent on to college careers, head coach Paula Doughty said it was the first time she could remember that four players were signing at the same time.

I think everybody thought that these (seniors), from Day 1, just were amazing. And that wasn’t the case,” Doughty said. “Several in this group played JV games their junior year. … There were four or five of them that sat down with me and said ‘We want to be able to step up for next year, what should we do?’ And they did it. And that is a testament to who they are.”

Doughty was pleased to see Kennedy, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Player of the Year, make official her plans to stay in the state.

I’m so proud, especially with (Bhreagh) at the University of Maine,” Doughty said. “There’s nothing, I think, more special than going up to Maine and having one of your kids on the state’s team.”

Kennedy, who was wearing a cast in UMaine’s light blue color after breaking her hand in the state final, said she was looking forward to the D-I challenge, and thrilled about the offer she got to bring her to it.

“I think it’s a great relationship when you want to go to a school and they also want you,” she said. “I’m so excited to play against the players I’ve looked up to at Futures here. Just seeing that I can compete on the same level as them is really exciting.”

Skowhegan was known for an offense that frequently scored in the double digits, but the scoring often overshadowed the work of the defense, one that allowed one goal in the postseason. On Thursday, between Kennedy, Hatch and McConnell, that defense was well represented.

“I think it was the connection we all had with each other,” Kennedy said of the reason for the defensive prowess. “We knew each other inside and out, and we knew what we needed at certain times throughout a game.”

Two members of that defense will be teammates, as Hatch and McConnell will suit up together with the Hawks.

“I’d been interested in Saint Anselm for a while. They’d always been one of my top picks,” Hatch said. “It’s definitely going to make the transition easier (to go with McConnell). … She’s one of my best friends, and we will be able to go there together, creating new bonds. But it also helps to have someone I already know.”

McConnell shared the sentiment, and added that she’s happy to be staying with a strong program — Saint Anselm won the NE-10 conference championship and will play East Stroudsburg today in the D-II semifinals.

“(Olivia and I) talked a lot about it and what we were going to do, and what other colleges we were looking at. We both decided on it and we talked about it,” McConnell said. “I’m looking forward to all the girls and making connections in college … Just (getting) a feel for a different life.”

One of Saint Anselm’s conference rivals, however, is Adelphi, meaning Hatch and McConnell will soon have to stop someone they’ve spent four years cheering for.

It definitely makes everything worth it,” Reichenbach said. “Going to tournaments on Thanksgiving, staying in hotels, not having Thanksgiving dinner with my family. It definitely makes it worth it to know I’m going higher.”

Reichenbach said she’s ready for that next step.

“I think it’s going to be a mental thing, knowing that I’m playing against older girls,” she said. “I’ve just got to get it in my head that I’m still good and I can do what I did here.”

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