ORONO, Maine — Jackson Pollard, 18 months old, enjoys going to University of Maine field hockey games.
He’ll run up and down the sidelines and play with different types of balls.
When he takes time to watch the action, he’ll see a familiar face.
It belongs to his mom, Black Bears senior center back Mallory (Shute) Pollard.
“He can actually pick me out on the field now,” said the proud mom.
“But when he sees any field hockey player, he’ll say ‘Momma’,” grinned Mallory.
Motherhood is certainly agreeing with the Norridgewock native and former Skowhegan High School star.
She hasn’t registered any points but has helped anchor a Bear defense that has held teams to just one goal in four of the last seven games.
The Bears will try to combine their defensive play and explosive attack into an America East championship beginning today when No. 3 Maine (12-6 overall, 3-2 AE), faces No. 2 Boston University (8-11, 4-1) at 4 p.m. in Albany. Regular-season champ Albany (12-4, 4-1) and No. 4 New Hampshire (12-6, 3-2) meet in the 1 p.m. opener.
Saturday’s title game will be at 4.
Pollard has been a source of inspiration to her coaches and teammates as she juggles school, field hockey, marriage and motherhood.
“She’s amazing,” said junior midfielder Brittney Cummings of Belfast. “We all admire her so much. I don’t know how she does it.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of her for everything she does,” said coach Josette Babineau. “She has been doing well at everything and her commitment level to us has been very high. She has had a phenomenal season for us.
“She’s a good tackler, a good defensive player and you know what she’s going to give you every game. She steps up well back there,” added Babineau.
“She’s a great role model,” said senior left back and captain Jamie Flagg of Swanville. “[In addition to field hockey], she’s like a 4.0 student in accounting and she takes care of her son. You never hear her complain.”
Pollard, who played in just eight games last year due to an ankle injury, counts her blessings and said she has had plenty of help juggling her responsibilities.
“I am so thankful for the opportunity to be here and to have everybody around me supporting me like my husband [Zach], coaches and teammates,” said Pollard. “I know I have the right people around me. My husband doesn’t get a lot of credit but he does more than anybody knows and, without him, I wouldn’t be able to do it. He works full time and he takes classes. He does just as much as I do but no one sees it.”
She said her teammates are like having “20 aunts” for Jackson along with “20 babysitters” and “20 best friends” for her.
And she is realizing a dream.
“I love playing for Maine. Ever since my freshman year in high school, I wanted to play for Maine,” said Pollard.
She has been pleased with her season to date.
“I can definitely tell I’m a senior because I have that maturity now,” she said. “I’ve been working hard and the team has been great.”
She knows winning the conference title won’t be easy but feels the team is ready.
Maine dropped 1-0 decisions to Albany and Boston University but she doesn’t anticipate getting shut out.
“We’ve been working hard on our in-the-circle play so we can score on them. We know we can win the tournament,” she said.
Sacre, Newton first-team picks
Sweeper Lelia Sacre, who has been sidelined for more than two weeks with a virus that required a brief hospital stay, has returned to practice and could see some duty this weekend according to Babineau.
Sacre is one of two Black Bears to earn All-America East first-team honors along with forward Kelly Newton.
Sacre, who transferred to Maine from Syracuse, and Newton, the league’s Rookie of the Year last season, are both sophomores.
Junior midfielder Maire Dineen and sophomore forwards Stephanie Gardiner and Jocelyn Mitchell were second-team selections and back Zoe Adkins and forward Chelsea Wagner were named to the All-Rookie team.
In addition to her defensive play, Sacre has been a weapon on penalty corners and had five goals and eight assists. She had three defensive saves.
Newton is Maine’s leading scorer with 16 goals and 9 assists and also leads in game-winning goals with four.
Mitchell had 16 & 5 including three game-winners, Gardiner had 10 & 8 and Dineen produced 2 & 5 while teaming with Cummings to control the midfield.
Adkins was a steadying influence on the back line and also had two goals and Wagner (1 & 1) supplied the Bears with quality depth up front.