Lydia Gavner of the University of Maine (left) pursues the ball during a recent game in Orono against UMass Lowell. The senior, who plans to become an Army officer, is successfully balancing field hockey and her ROTC program. Credit: Peter Buehner

For one of its most important games of the season, the then 16th-ranked University of Maine field hockey team was without freshman goalkeeper Mia Borley, who was sidelined by a concussion.

That meant that a field player was needed to fill in.

Senior forward Lydia Gavner put on the pads for the first time in her career last Friday against No. 22 Albany in Albany, New York.

UAlbany won 1-0 but Gavner made five saves. The only goal was scored on a penalty corner, and UMaine had only three defenders instead of four because of a penalty.

“It was fun. Our entire team came together to support Mia and me,” Gavner said. “They made sure they defended well and protected each other.”

Gavner had played in goal in ice hockey and said there were similarities.

“She was really aggressive,” UMaine head coach Josette Babineau said. “She wasn’t afraid at all.”

Babineau was pleased with Gavner’s unselfishness in stepping up.

“That she was willing to do it was a big thing for the team,” she said.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Gavner that she was willing and able to step into a tough situation. The UMaine student-athlete also is deeply involved in the Army ROTC program.

Upon her graduation in December 2019, Gavner will join the Army as a second lieutenant and will go through the 18-month Basic Officer Leaders Course.

To say she has been busy during her four years at UMaine would be an understatement.

“It has been pretty chaotic but it has been a lot of fun,” Gavner said. “Both field hockey and ROTC have taught me a lot of different things, but they are kind of interchangeable. They have helped me grow as a person and as a student through both dynamics.”

This year is particularly busy because as a senior, Gavner and her fellow seniors are in charge of the learning curriculum for the juniors, sophomores and freshmen on the team.

“You have to plan everything and make sure they’re doing things right. Every day is hectic,” Gavner said.

The native of Buffalo, New York, began developing an interest in the military in high school. Her older brother, Owen, is in the Navy. She said her grandparents served in the military.

“I like the regimentation, It’s an active lifestyle and you have career options,” Gavner said.

She has ROTC physical training sessions three days a week from 5:45 to 7 a.m. They also get tested once a month.

The women must meet standards in push-ups and sit-ups during a two-minute span: 19 push-ups and 53 sit-ups. And they have to run 2 miles in 18:54 or better.

She has exceeded all of those standards.

Gavner also balances field hockey practice and weight training and classroom work for both school and ROTC, and finds that each form of training benefits the other.

“How much she does here is crazy. It’s inspirational,” said sophomore forward Brooke Sulinski of Old Town.

“Everything she does she brings 100 percent to it,” senior back Emily Hindle said.

Gavner was a nursing major but has switched over to child development and family relations. An Army training trip to Africa last summer gave her a new perspective.

“It was a life-altering summer,” Gavner said. “We saw and worked with various military officers from 10 different countries. Seeing how their careers changed and how they had to adapt over their time in the service made me want to do something more than nursing.”

She is interested in combat arms and the infantry and might eventually want to go into military intelligence.

Gavner is having her best season at UMaine with four goals and an assist in 16 games after moving from defender to midfield to forward, where she has played the past two years.

Gavner said Babineau and her commanding officers have been understanding when there are conflicts between the two activities.

“If I have a really early morning with ROTC and I talk to Josette, she’ll let me come to practice early or late or will do an individual workout with me,” Gavner said. “If I have to miss ROTC, my peers will cover for me or catch me up when I return. There is a team aspect within ROTC as well.”

Gavner, who is on an ROTC scholarship, said one of the primary reasons she chose UMaine is because it was “one of the few schools that would let me do both field hockey and ROTC.”

Babineau said Gavner has demonstrated growth during her years in Orono.

“Her confidence level is high. She doesn’t shy away from wanting to do [different] things and when she does them, she does them well,” Babineau said.

Gavner has thoroughly enjoyed her time at UMaine, as busy as it is, and said this year’s field hockey team is special.

“We’ve never had this kind of family dynamic. Regardless of what we’ve done on the field, win or lose, we all come together in the locker room and in practice. It’s amazing to be a part of,” Gavner said.

The No. 15 Black Bears (13-3) play their “Senior Day” game Friday at 3 p.m. against Vermont. Gavner will be one of six seniors honored along with senior back Samantha Wagg (76 games, 31 goals, 17 assists), Ella Mosky (77, 8-16), Hindle (54 9-8), Libby Riedl (77, 32-37) and Casey Crowley (77, 29-28).

UMaine concludes the regular season at UMass Lowell on Sunday. Then it’s on to the America East tournament at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

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