University of Maine captain Hana Davis has enjoyed a standout season for the Black Bears this spring. Davis was named the America East Midfielder of the Year. Photo provided UMaine athletics/Peter Buehner

Much of leadership is innate, but it needs to be nurtured, too. If you have that leadership spark inside you, and it’s stoked and sparked into a roaring fire, you can handle whatever the universe throws at you. The universe has a twisted sense of humor, and it will throw a lot at you. Stuff you never expected, from every angle.

University of Maine senior Hana Davis paid attention to the leaders who came before her in the Black Bears field hockey program. She let them stoke her leadership fire. Now she’s guiding the team on the field as an all-America East Conference player, and the conference midfielder of the year. More importantly, Davis, along with her fellow co-captains Cass Mascarenhas and Brittany Smith, are leading the Black Bears off the field, during a pandemic, in what could be the most challenging season in college sports history.

Davis and Maine (7-3) will take on Stanford in the America East semifinals Thursday afternoon in Monmouth, New Jersey. A win sends the Black Bears to the conference championship game Saturday, with a chance to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

With COVID-19 at the forefront of everything, Davis knew what should be the primary focus of her team.

“We wanted to have an environment that allowed everyone to have a voice. My freshman year, I wanted to have opportunity, too. Being with Cass and Brittany my fellow captains, we kind of had this conjoined idea that we wanted to have an environment that allowed each other to feel safe in these unknown times, and also have an area to grow and develop. I know that was a really important aspect of the fall, and especially coming into this season,” Davis said. “Obviously there’s a lot to manage and go around, but again, all the personalities on the team, just overall the culture we’ve helped create over the last few years since I’ve been in the program, I think really allowed us to create that kind of environment.”

“We knew at the beginning of the year we had a team that had a lot of experience, but we also knew that it would be a very difficult year as a team. We knew that we had to take things day by day, and it’s just been tremendous to see our captains and our senior players really take on the role and the challenge,” Maine head coach Josette Babineau said.

A native of Tsawwassen, British Columbia, a city on the Canada-United States border just south of Vancouver, Davis was learning from some of her future teammates at Maine even before she knew she would play college field hockey at Maine.

“Being from British Columbia, I actually had the opportunity to play against some of our past seniors and captains, like Casey Crowley and Libby Riedl. I think that was (players) I really looked up to, especially growing up and not even knowing I was going to go to Maine at that time,” Davis said.

Leadership means knowing the little details and passing on that knowledge. Something you take for granted, like knowing where  to put your laundry, for example. Being taught the little things can mean as much as learning how to conduct yourself on the field. Davis cited players like Crowley and Riedl, Ella Mosky, Samantha Wagg and Riley Field as a few of the players who helped her learn what it means to be a UMaine field hockey player. If culture isn’t passed on, it wilts.

“I really commend them and honor them and respect them for all that they’ve done for me,” Davis said.

Davis even found a bright side to the season’s postponement from fall to spring.

“Sometimes when you’re a freshman, you come in in the preseason, especially if you’re starting to play right away, you don’t really have time to form those connections. You’re learning how to play DI field hockey, and that sometimes is the hardest challenge of them all. Allowing that fall time to have the freshmen join us and get to know us, even get to know the style of play. It allowed us to grow deeper connections with those freshmen,” she said.

That Davis can put her leadership into action on the field as one of the best players in the conference gives her words added weight. If you weren’t listening to Davis before you saw her take the ball from one end of the field to the other, using her speed and stickwork to transition the Black Bears from defense to offense in seconds, you’d better be taking notes now.

“She came in as a player already with a lot of experience. To see her development with her confidence and her skills, and also her understanding of the game. I think when you watch the game, you can definitely see she’s a very dominant player on the field, and I’m sure she’s a player the other teams have to be careful about,” Babineau said. “When she does get started with the ball and she has her speed going, moving up the field, definitely a lot of force coming at them to enter the circle.”

Michelle Simpson, Maine’s associate head coach, knows a thing or two about strong midfield play. That America East Midfielder of the Year award Davis earned this season? Simpson won the inaugural midfielder of the year playing for Albany in 2008.

“Right since Hana’s freshman year, she’s just grown and developed into just such a technically gifted player. Beyond this weekend, I’m excited to see what she can do into next fall, and hope she can repeat next year,” Simpson said.

Ah yes, next year. Davis is a senior, but thanks to the NCAA extending athletes’ eligibility an extra season in response to the pandemic, Davis plans to return to the Black Bears when they get back to a fall season later this year. A double major in communications and business, Davis started work on her MBA this semester. She’ll be back to finish it next year.

There are younger players paying attention. There are leadership fires being nourished.

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