Boothbay Harbor’s Sydney Meader admitted that there was a time she wondered about her future with the University of Maine’s field hockey team.
“I was just physically and emotionally drained,” Meader said of her first spring season in 2019. She had been a redshirt the previous fall as a freshman.
UMaine had a veteran team and she was making a huge jump from Maine Class C field hockey to Division I.
But she believed in herself and stuck with it. Now her decision is paying dividends for her and the Black Bears this season.
“I knew I could do it. I just had to power through it. I had to figure out what was best for me and how to manage my time,” said Meader, now a senior. “Getting a chance to play at your state school was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Meader, a forward, appeared in eight games in the fall season of 2019 and then played in all 11 games this past spring after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the fall season to be moved. She averaged more than 37 minutes of playing time per game this spring.
But after going without a goal or an assist and mustering just three shots on goal through her first 19 games, she has had a breakthrough season this fall.
Meader will enter Friday’s America East game at Albany tied for second on the team in scoring with four goals and four assists for 12 points in UMaine’s 10 games.
She has three goals and three assists in her last six games and had her first two-goal game in an important 5-3 win over two-time America East regular season champ Monmouth (New Jersey) last Friday. She also had an assist against Monmouth.
“I have more confidence in myself this year,” Meader said. “I have confidence in my ability to get the ball, knowing where to be on defense, knowing where to receive the ball and in being able to make good decisions.”
The speedy Meader also had to transition from being the best player in her conference to being someone who had to find a role on a college team with players who were better than she was.
“We had a lot of great seniors my freshman year so I learned a lot from watching them,” Meader said.
“Her first two seasons, we had really good forward lines. But she got more playing time this spring and has made a big jump,” said UMaine coach Josette Babineau. “She is more comfortable now. She is much better, defensively.”
Offensively, Babineau said “she knows where she needs to be and she can make reads that make her more dangerous. Her movement off the ball is better.”
“I made some big strides between the spring and the fall,” agreed Meader, who is the daughter of Michelle Bouchard and Bernie Meader.
The Miss Maine Field Hockey finalist, who also played basketball and lacrosse in high school, had the ball on her stick most of the time during her Boothbay Regional High School field hockey career and she owns the school records for goals in a season (24) and a career (48).
“Defense definitely wasn’t my strong suit,” she quipped.
Babineau and assistant Michelle Simpson made it clear that no matter what position you played, you were going to have to be solid defensively.
“And that’s why I’ve improved my defense,” Meader said.
The Black Bears are 5-5 overall, 2-0 in the conference, and have already played six teams currently ranked in the top 24 in the country.
They beat No. 22 Monmouth and lost in overtime to No. 10 Boston College, No. 11 Harvard, No. 21 UMass and No. 24 Kent State. They also lost to No. 4 Northwestern.
“It has been an amazing experience. We had a really tough schedule early in the season and even though our record may not show it, we proved we have ability and can play with the best teams in the country,” said Meader, who added that having six Maine natives receive significant playing time this season is a “source of pride for all of us.”
There are nine Mainers on the team.
The pre-med student loves her teammates and said they are fixated on hosting the America East Tournament which they could achieve by winning the regular season title.
“But we’re going to take things game-by-game,” she said.