In pretty much any sport, you want defenders who can hold their ground. Renee DesPres, a 5-foot-3 junior center back on the University of Maine at Farmington field hockey team, doesn’t look like that kind of player — until you see her play.

“She’s not a real big kid,” UMF coach Cyndi Pratt said, “but she’s definitely very tough, and she doesn’t back down from anybody.”

DesPres, a Skowhegan Area High School graduate, has been a starter for three seasons, first at Franklin Pierce for one year, then the last two at UMF. DesPres started all 18 games as a freshman at Franklin Pierce, but opted to transfer after one semester.

“I was looking for something a little closer to home, with a little better academics,” DesPres said. “I’m really glad that I made the switch.”

After arriving at UMF, DesPres was moved to center midfielder. She admits she’s most comfortable at back — where she played all through high school — but she handled the position well until switching to the backfield for this season.

“I think (it was) a combination of our center back from last year graduated, and she has great defensive skills, and another player stepped in to that center midfielder position,” Pratt said.

DesPres has started all 14 games for UMF this fall and leads the Beavers with two defensive saves. Pratt says she’ll likely stay in the backfield for next season, but acknowledges DesPres’ versatility.

“Renee’s the type of player, she could play anywhere,” Pratt said. “Wherever you put her, she’d be successful. She definitely has a very high understanding of the game and where the ball needs to be at what time. She just has an overall good view of the field. I think that’s why she plays in the middle for me.”

As for her physical stature, DesPres laughed when she heard Pratt’s comments about her size and fearlessness.

“I know I’m on the smaller side,” DesPres said. “I try to stay as low as I can to the ground. That usually keeps me from being knocked over. I’m not really afraid of the ball — kind of an unconscious effort. I just throw myself in front of it.”

DesPres previously had a double major of English and Biology, but is now concentrating on English and plans to attend law school after graduation. At 7-2 in the North Atlantic Conference this season, UMF certainly has a shot for the conference title.

“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” DesPres said. “Communication on the field, working hard offensively and defensively, conditioning so we’re intense the whole 70 minutes and just not let down.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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