University of Maine senior Hana Davis has enjoyed a standout season. Davis was named the America East Midfielder of the Year. Peter Buehner photo/University of Maine athletics

Over the course of a long, curious field hockey season, one that was moved from fall to spring, the University of Maine players formed a tight bond, as upperclassmen got to know the incoming freshman better than ever before.

And the Black Bears have needed that bond throughout this surprising America East spring season. In earning a co-championship of the America East regular-season title, Maine won five one-goal games. In fact, seven of Maine’s 10 games this spring were decided by one goal.

“I think when you’re put in that position (of playing close games), you have to continue fighting for it,” said senior Hana Davis, who was honored as the America East Midfielder of the Year on Wednesday. “It helps us in coming together (as a team) because we have to be accountable for each other. Sometimes, in those instances, I’ll make some mistakes. But it’s about what I can do after that to help my team. It’s those little things, like running back (on defense) or digging down to make sure we can close out with the win.”

Now the Black Bears will need to draw on that resilience at least one more time.

Maine (7-3 overall, 7-1 in America East) will play 19th-ranked Stanford (8-2, 6-2) in the America East semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Monmouth, New Jersey. Co-champ Monmouth, which earned home field because of its 3-2 win over Maine on April 2, will play UMass Lowell in the other semifinal at noon.

It’s expected to be another tight one for Maine, which defeated Stanford 3-2 last Thursday, and in 2019 lost 1-0 to Stanford in the America East semifinals.

“It seems every year we play Stanford, and it’s a game I love,” said Davis, who hails from Tsawwassen, British Columbia. “The speed, the skill, I love everything about playing them. It’s always a great game.”

Davis knows Stanford will be especially inspired. Last summer, the school announced that field hockey was one of 11 sports it would cut because of budget restraints.

But the Black Bears have dug deep all season, and especially lately. In addition to excelling in close games, Maine has dominated the fourth quarter.

The Black Bears have outscored opponents 8-4 in the fourth quarter. They have also outshot their opponents, 32-25, and have had a 16-10 edge in penalty corners. In their last two wins, Chloe Davis scored with 1:41 remaining to beat Stanford, then Brittany Smith scored with 4:31 remaining to tie UC-Davis in a game Maine won 3-2 in a shootout.

Maine Coach Josette Babineau, who along with associate head coach Michelle Simpson earned America East co-Coaching Staff of the Year honors Wednesday, said there were a couple of reasons for that late success: her players’ competitiveness and the experience of having played four quarters for the first time in 2019.

College field hockey transformed from two 30-minute halves to four 15-minute quarters in 2019.

“Managing the game is a little different (with four quarters) as the game goes, and we’re a little more experienced as a group to do that,” she said. “But also what comes to my mind is it’s a competitive group, the level of competition and desire to want a positive outcome in the game and their fight … It’s a fun group to see, their competitive level and desire to win the game. And whether they’re down a goal or up a goal, managing that last quarter, they’ve done a great job.”

Davis said the Black Bears know the fourth quarter is special.

“I feel the fourth quarter is always where you get down to it,” she said. “I can see in practice and games – we are a competitive bunch of girls and we know when to get it done, I guess. Especially those last 15 minutes. There’s something that changes inside you.

“I know the fourth quarter is the hardest. But it’s also the funnest to play.”

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