It is never easy for an athlete to return from a season-ending injury that requires surgery, and even more challenging when it happens a second time within two years
The rehabilitation often is agonizing as the athlete tries to return to pre-injury form. The pain can be excruciating, and the setbacks along the way can lead to tears.
But for former Bangor High School standouts Anna-Maria Dagher and Lauren Young, being able to put on a 2019 University of Maine soccer uniform has made it all worth it.
Dagher, a senior midfielder, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her knee her senior year at Bangor. Eighteen months later, during the spring season of her freshman year at UMaine, she tore it again.
Young, a sophomore back, broke the tibia and fibula in her right leg while playing for Seacoast United during a national tournament in July 2017. Nine months later, again playing for Seacoast United, she tore the ACL and meniscus in her left leg, requiring another surgery.
Dagher appeared in one game as a UMaine sophomore in 2017 and played in five games last fall, while Young missed all of last season but is trying to work her way back into game fitness this year.
“It does get really hard at times,” Dagher said. “But in the back of my mind I always knew it was going to be worth it. Coming back from injury can be discouraging, but you have to keep working hard and believe in yourself that you can make it.”
UMaine junior defender and tri-captain Jane Stevens said the Bangor duo has been an inspiration to the team.
“When you see how hard they are working in the training room every single day, it pushes everyone to want to be better,” she said.
UMaine soccer head coach Scott Atherley said their stories are a testament to their determination, their resiliency and their passion for the sport.
“They are very committed,” he said.
The UMaine coach said that in their most recent physical testing session, Dagher was the winner.
“She is arguably our fittest player,” Atherley said.
He also said Dagher has worked really hard on her game.
“She is good technically, she has good vision and she has really improved her athleticism,” Atherley said. “I think she is going to be impactful as a midfielder this season.”
Atherley said Young has made significant strides after starting from “ground zero” this year after sitting out last season.
“It’s a fresh start, but at the same time she has been here for a year, so she is itching and eager to play,” he said. “But she has to continue to be patient. She has really improved and her confidence is coming back, which is a big part of it. But we’re going to be careful with her. She has to get her fitness back.”
Young said she has learned a lot during her ordeal.
“I appreciate the game a lot more, and I appreciate my teammates and my coaches a lot more,” she said. “I like being back. It makes me happy.”
Dagher and Young both said the support of their teammates, including freshman Maria Low of Brewer, was important in their recoveries.
“Having three local players has made it very comfortable for us,” said Young, who has four years of eligibility remaining.
The addition of Low gives UMaine its largest contingent of players from the Bangor-Brewer area in a long time.
“I played club soccer with Lauren and I knew of Anna, so that was really comforting,” Low said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but all the girls on the team were so welcoming.”
Atherley has been pleased with Low’s progress.
“She has good speed for this level and can separate herself [from defenders] once she gets beyond the last line [of defense]. And she has been real composed. I think she’s going to get some opportunities [to play] this year,” he said.
The Bangor-Brewer trio is proud to be playing for UMaine.
“Growing up, this is all I wanted to do,” said Dagher, who has two years of eligibility left. “Sometimes you don’t know if it’s going to be possible. But once you’re here and you put in the work, it means a lot.”
Atherly enjoys having Dagher, Young and Low on his team’s roster.
“They’re all very good stories. What they have in common is they are all great people, great students and great teammates,” he said.
UMaine will play exhibition games at Northeastern at 6 p.m. Wednesday and at Boston University at 5 p.m. Friday before hosting Saint Anselm of Manchester, New Hampshire, in its season opener at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20.