Greenville’s Holly Hersey, left, and Richmond’s Danica Hurley go for a ball during the 2011 Class D Western Maine regional championship game in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

Danica Hurley remembers how she felt when she went to tell University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Athlerley that she was done playing.

“It was an extremely hard decision for me,” she said. “(I remember) being just in complete tears, rolling down my face.”

That door was closing, but another was opening up. Hurley switched her focus to nursing, and six years later, she hasn’t looked back. Hurley is in her first year as a nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital, and while soccer was her passion, pediatrics have emerged to fill that role.

“I think working with kids just adds fun to work,” she said. “You’re always able to be there with them. Kids are funny, they’re funny. What else can you ask for?”

Hurley, 26, started at BCH in April. She had previous stints working at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, Spaulding Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New England Baptist Hospital in Boston after graduating from UMaine in 2016.

“Pediatrics have always been my No. 1 goal,” she said. “(BCH) is only for kids, which is great.”

Hurley knew something about goals during her playing career at Richmond. She scored a bunch of them, 104 to be exact, while starring for the Bobcats, and though she was a three-sport athlete who also found success in basketball and softball, soccer always had the top place in her heart.

“Soccer, especially, was so special to me,” she said. “Soccer stands out to me. It was always the highlight of my year.”

Hurley graduated with school records for goals, assists (52) and goals in a season (38).

Danica Hurley

“She was fun to watch,” Richmond coach Troy Kendrick said. “Over the course of the years, you don’t have a lot of kids that are just plain finishers, and she was a finisher. She put the ball in the net for us, a lot.”

Above her ability, however, Kendrick remembered a player with an enthusiasm for the sport, desire to work at it, and hatred for losing in it.

“She was a very talented player, but the thing that stands out the most for me is her attitude and drive,” he said. “She was one of the most intense players I ever coached. When she was on the field, she was going hard. … She had the whole package. She was fast, she was aggressive and she was well-skilled, but she also had the mental aspect. She was very focused.”

That package was enough to draw UMaine’s attention. At Orono, Hurley made an appearance in one game as a freshman for the Black Bears, all the while making the difficult transition from Class D to Division I.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “Obviously (it) was a huge leap. I played a lot of travel soccer in high school and middle school growing up, so I had some experience with other talented players, but definitely not like I experienced at Maine.”

Hurley was looking forward to a bigger role when her sophomore year arrived, but a badly sprained ankle on the first day of preseason put her on crutches and dashed those hopes.

“I trained all summer, thinking ‘This year, will it be the year? Will I get some more minutes?’ ” she said. “I can actually remember going to get it X-rayed, and after talking with my trainer and the doctors, we were actually hoping that it was broken.”

The injury kept Hurley out for nearly the entire season. By the time her junior year was set to begin, she could tell the opportunity had passed.

“I definitely could have played,” she said. “But I just kind of decided after playing two years, it was the time of my life, I made lifelong friends, I had a great experience. But I just kind of thought it was time to really start focusing on my academics. I knew my future would be as a nurse, unfortunately not as a soccer player.”

Freed from the obligations of college athletics, Hurley had more time for the extensive lab and clinical work that medicine requires. Her career has taken form as a result, and her current job at BCH has her working as a circulating nurse and scrub nurse while constantly being around the children with whom she wanted to work from the start of her education.

Richmond’s Danica Hurley, left, tries to dribble around Seacoast Christian’s Jenny English during the 2012 Western Maine Class D tournament at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

“I love the patients,” she said. “I love the kids. They make every day a little bit brighter, with their cute personalities.”

The athlete in Hurley hasn’t left, however. One of her favorite places to work is the operating room, where everyone has responsibilities and works together toward an objective — just like a soccer team.

“It really actually has a team aspect, similar to sports,” she said. “We all work together, we all help each other. There are different levels of the disciplinary team, doctors, nurses, CNAs (certified nursing assistants) and others. We all work together with one main goal, and I really like that about nursing, and being in the operating room, specifically.”

She hasn’t forgotten about her other passion. Hurley plays soccer in a co-ed league in Boston, and while she may not be pursuing the sport anymore, she has no intention of letting it go entirely.

“Whenever I get the chance to play, I definitely do,” she said. “I never really lost my love for soccer. … It is a game that I loved, and still love, so much.”

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