Delaney LaBonte takes the field for the University of Maine against Marist on Sept. 12, 2021. LaBonte scored the team's only goal in a 1-1 tie. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

Playing soccer at the University of Maine was on Delaney LaBonte’s radar for a long time.

In seventh and eighth grade, she attended UMaine’s overnight summer soccer clinic. Her older sister, Addie, was playing on the UMaine soccer team at the time. She had an impressive and extensive career as a solid and dependable center back from 2012-15.

Not only that, but her father, Rich, was a starting quarterback at UMaine and played from 1981-84. He started for 2 1/2 years before a shoulder injury kept him on the sidelines.

And her older brother, Trevor, is in his first year at UMaine after transferring from the University of Maryland. He will pitch for the UMaine baseball team as he did at Maryland.

Now Delaney, a 19-year-old York native, is the Black Bears’ starting midfielder — and continuing the competitive legacy of the LaBonte family at UMaine.

UMaine soccer coach Scott Atherley was a soccer player at UMaine when her dad was quarterbacking the Black Bears and said there is one family trait that definitely stands out.

“They are very, very competitive and Delaney is just as competitive as any of them, maybe even more,” Atherley said. “So we knew what we were getting and it very much attracted us to getting her here. She was also technical and had skills.”

Rich LaBonte agreed, saying Delaney is his most competitive child.

“She had the youngest-kid mentality. She always had to fight and scrap with her older sister and brother. They had a physical advantage but Delaney was relentless.”

Delaney, a York native, admits that there is a competitive spirit within her family.

“We’ll get into fights at home over which one of us is the most competitive. There is always some kind of competition going on. We are all so competitive with each other, it is fun although it can be stressful at times,” she said.

“They are always talking smack to each other,” Rich LaBonte said. “We didn’t teach them competitiveness. That comes from within. But they all have it and we love it.”

Delaney said the most important thing her dad taught her was “nothing is handed to you. You have to earn it. And no matter what happens, keep going, keep trying.”

After suffering a concussion this spring that limited her to just 92 minutes in seven games, Delaney won the starting holding-midfielder spot this fall as a sophomore and she will go into Sunday’s America East opener against visiting University of Maryland Baltimore County as UMaine’s leading scorer with two goals in five non-conference games.

One was a game-winner for the 2-1-2 Black Bears.

Atherley said Delaney has excellent anticipation which enables her to be very good at winning the ball. Her tenacity and speed helps her pressure the opponent and force turnovers and she has the ability to launch an attack if she gains the ball.

On the attack, Atherley said she distributes the ball well and can “navigate out of pressure” with it.

“She’s not afraid to get forward in the attack,” he said.

He also said she works “really hard” off the field to keep herself fit so she can keep up with the demands of the game.

“It’s part of the total package. You have to work just as hard off the field as on the field.”

Delaney has been pleased with her season so far. Even though she is a sophomore, she feels this is like her freshman season since she missed so much time this spring with the concussion.

She has played all but 22 of UMaine’s 490 minutes so far this season and is looking forward to Sunday. She and her teammates are anxious to prove themselves and reach the America East Tournament for the first time since 2016.

“We want teams leaving the field after the game never wanting to play us again,” LaBonte said.