Caitlyn Poulin and Abbie Charrier have stuck together on defense for years — seven of the last 12 to be precise.

They were tasked with preventing goals in field hockey during their days toiling at Mount View High School and continued to do so in the sport at Thomas College in Waterville.

However, the more things change, the more they stay the same, the adage goes, as in 2018 the students became the teachers.

The 22-year-old Poulin accepted the position as head field hockey coach of Waterville over the summer, and shortly thereafter Charrier, 24, joined her staff as an assistant coach for the Purple Panthers.

Poulin, a 2014 Mount View graduate, went on to graduate from Thomas College in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and an associate’s degree in accounting.

“I took a lot of college classes my senior year of high school so I was already 35 credits ahead when I went into college,” she said. “So it cut out almost a year and a half. My senior year of college was just me taking my internship and one class so I could play field hockey.”

Charrier graduated from Mount View a year prior in 2013 and graduated from Thomas College with a degree in sports management in 2016.

Poulin played sweeper at Mount View and continued to do so at Thomas, in addition to other defensive positions. Charrier played in the cage in her days with the Mustangs and Terriers.

Mustang coach Gloria Hewett said Poulin "was a patient, calm player who focused her energy effectively."

"She was masterful at reading the movement of the ball as it was worked down the field," said Hewett. "This ability was instrumental in her success as a sweep because she could be in the correct position to meet the ball. Caitlyn was also a very smart player and she often outplayed her opponents by watching them closely and stealing the ball off their dribble. She was good at taking the ball past her opponents by hesitating with the ball until they committed to a movement and then she would easily dodge them and send the ball down the field for an offensive charge."

Poulin said, in the past she had “passing thoughts of, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll be a coach some day,’ like an assistant or something just to keep playing field hockey.’ ”

She certainly did not envision having a head coaching job mere months after college graduation. But, Terrier head coach Andrea Thebarge heard of the opening at Waterville and “I immediately thought of Caitlyn.”

“Caitlyn was an amazing player for us and was the ‘team mom,’ ” Thebarge said. “All of the girls joked about it often. She has a motherly, soft-spoken, caring demeanor, but was very competitive, aggressive and an amazing player. She is very knowledgeable about the game and was always a great coach with our tournaments and camps.”

“[Thebarge] reached out to me halfway through the summer and said, ‘Hey I know this is going to be your first year off of field hockey, but there’s a coaching position open at Waterville and I think you’d be perfect for it,’ ” recalled Poulin. “I didn’t think I’d be good enough to be a coach. I’d never even thought about it.”

Ultimately, Poulin said, “I knew it was too good of an opportunity to pass up just to learn, get my feet wet in coaching and see if I really would want to do it.”

Poulin said she met with Waterville athletic director Heidi Bernier, who told her, “Our program could really use a fresh start.”

After she was hired, Charrier was Poulin's first call. Or rather, her first text.

“During the summer Cait found out she got the job as head coach and texted me, asking me to be her assistant,” said Charrier. “I said yes without hesitation and we were off to the races after that.”

Hewett said she was "really pleased to see Cait and Abby step forward to become coaches."

"I always put a plug in at the end of the season, usually during my time when I give out letters, etc, encouraging my players to give back as coaches or officials," said Hewett. "I remind them of all the help they've received from coaches and officials and that it's important to give back if they want their sport to continue into the future."

Thebarge said Charrier “was a very good goal keeper for us and always a competitive, vocal leader.” She added the two young women compliment each other very well on the field and off.

“Abby is more of the tough love, get-it-done coach and Caitlyn is more of the soft-spoken, build-the-girls-up type,” Thebarge said. “I think it is amazing that they are coaching together. It really makes me proud to have been their coach and seen them play together and then now continue on and have them give back to the sport.”

“I was definitely viewed as the ‘bad cop’ to her ‘good cop’, but that’s what makes it great because we balance each other,” said Charrier. “Cait understands the game better than most coaches twice her age. And, more importantly, she knows how to teach and share that knowledge. Waterville is extremely lucky to have her.”

Of course, the Purple Panthers were in need of a fresh coat of paint. Waterville had qualified for the playoffs four times since 2010 and was 0-4 in those contests.

“[There’s] no feeder program, nothing until you go to junior high, so a lot of the girls I coached this past fall, have never played field hockey before,” said Poulin. “I had six that I think had never even touched a stick. So it was definitely challenging.”

The most challenging feat was to find a base for practices that could satisfy the more experienced players, while also challenging the newer ones.

“We had two weeks of preseason where we just spent the time doing basic skills with the girls trying to get them to know what field hockey is [and] how they go about playing it,” said Poulin. “We’d have meetings with them where we’d just watch game film from the Olympics down to the Division III schools just so they could see how it works and the speed it should be played at. And all the skills they could be doing and learning.”

While Poulin called the experience “challenging,” the players had a desire to learn and to get better. And slowly, but surely, progress ensued.

After starting the season 0-6, the Purple Panthers prowled to their first win, a 2-1 victory over Hermon, and bested Maranacook of Readfield two days later by the same score. A 1-0 win over Erskine Academy of South China highlighted their season — three wins in four tries — before dropping their final four games of the campaign.

Two of those losses came against their alma mater Mount View. In fact, their Sept. 13 road game in Thorndike — getting off the bus in opposing purple-and-white colors in lieu of the green-and-white Mustang colors they had once donned — was “crazy," Poulin said.

“The second we got off the bus we were like, ‘This is weird,’ ” said Poulin. “And all the girls were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what does this feel like to you?’ It’s weird to think this is where we spent four years and now we’re rivaling them hoping to win this game. Gloria greeted us so happy to see two of her girls were coaching and still playing field hockey.”

Charrier drove herself to the field, “walked down the hill to the field and it was complete déja vu.”

“Everything looked the same,” said Charrier. “I got to the benches and accidentally put my stuff on the home bench before I realized that this was not my ‘home’ any more. The game was a good one. My parents came and watched, just like they did for every high school and college game. Seeing Gloria was great, but I would never see her as an opponent. She will always be my coach in my eyes and the reason I love the game. She just happens to be the coach of the other team now.”

The Purple Panthers ended the season 3-11 — well short of the Class C North playoffs — but the seeds are perhaps being planted for more success down the road.

“Just this first year one of the best things was one of the aunt’s of one of our girls came up to us and said, ‘Wow, there’s a serious improvement watching the girls play this year compared to previous years,' " Poulin said. The aunt said, “ ‘We’ve watched them for the last four years’ " because her niece was a senior and said, ‘The improvement from game to game was so incredible.’ ”

"I was proud to see them coaching even if it was against me," said Hewett. "I think that the two of them will be able to get Waterville back on their feet. I predict that next year they will be winning more games than they did this year. They have a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of skill development to offer their athletes. Having a goalie and a field player as varsity coaches is a perfect combination."

Poulin and Charrier already are excited about the opportunity to coach next year.

“We’re already looking into ways to start a youth program,” said Poulin. “Even just opening up a practice to inviting all younger kids to come and just learn about field hockey and try playing. It’d be a great start.”