Overcoming injury, Olivia Deschenes named WMC field hockey Player of the Year

PLAYER PROFILE
Olivia Deschenes
Town: Naples
Four-year varsity player (injured her junior year)
Leading scorer for the Lakers her freshman and sophomore years
Three-time Hancock Lumber Player of the Week selection (twice for lacrosse, once for field hockey)
Member of National Honor Society, Interact, Math Team, Student Council and Varsity Club
28 career goals
11 career assists
Western Maine Conference Honorable Mention as a freshman
First Team All Conference as a sophomore and senior
Maine Field Hockey Association All State Team as a sophomore and senior
National Field Hockey Academic Squad as a junior and senior (only juniors and seniors are eligible for this award)
MFHA All State Academic Team as senior (only seniors are eligible for this award)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When Olivia Deschenes heard the dreaded words athletes fear the most — “ACL tear” — she was determined to get back on the field sooner than later, and be a better player than she was before the injury.

There were lots of hours spent with a physical therapist.

There was plenty of sweat and soreness.

Rehab required patience, focus on the task at hand, and drive.

Olivia conquered her biggest athletic challenge to date, returning to field hockey this fall to play a pivotal role in helping lead Lake Region to the Class B South semi-finals — a whisker away from knocking off defending state champion York, losing 2-1 in overtime.

Her play also landed Olivia the Western Maine Conference Player of the Year/ Linda B. Whitney Award.

“When I found out that I had earned this award, I felt very honored. It was extra special to me because this past season Coach Whitney was one of our coaches and the award is named after her,” the Laker senior said. “I am thankful to have such amazing teammates and coaches, who helped me get here.”

Lake Region varsity coach Pauline Webb nominated Olivia for the award at the WMC’s end-of-the-season meeting.

“Any coach who feels they have someone worthy of the award nominates their player. I believe there were four players nominated. Coaches then vote. I cannot vote for my own player,” Coach Webb said. “Olivia is a leader; she leads by example. She plays with confidence, which I believe elevates everyone else’s confidence level.  She works hard and plays with intensity, passion, determination and a ‘refuse to lose’ mentality. She’s an offensive threat, a tenacious defender, and a very well rounded player, who could play anywhere in the field.”

Olivia’s return to the Laker lineup gave the team a legitimate shot at reaching the state final.

“Having her on the field this year elevated everyone else’s level of play. She couldn’t wait to play as a Laker again and help her team be the best they could be,” Coach Webb added. “She’s positive on the field with her teammates and encourages them and helps lift their spirits when she notices someone may be struggling. She’s vocal on the field, a player-coach, kind of player, something we lacked last year.”

IMMEDIATE IMPACT — After missing a season due to an ACL tear, Olivia Deschenes (left) had an immediate impact on the Laker field hockey team and helped lead the squad to the Class B semi-finals. (Rivet Photo)

Olivia actually suffered the serious knee injury during lacrosse — a spring sport.

“I got hurt during the second lacrosse game of my sophomore year. I was running the ball up the field and went to change directions to lose a defender when my knee gave out beneath me,” she remembered. “I didn’t think it was anything serious when it happened. It just felt like my kneecap had popped out.”

The ACL tear put Olivia on the sideline for her junior field hockey season.

“The average recovery time for an ACL injury is nine months to a year. Luckily, I was able to do my rehab during the summer, where my schedule was more flexible so I was able to get into PT (physical therapy) more often. I went into Portland about three times each week, where I would work with my physical therapist on strength and movement and would also do my own rehab at home,” she said. “When PT got difficult or I felt like I couldn’t do an exercise, I would think of being back on the field and that always helped me get through it. There were times when rehab felt like a fulltime job, but it definitely paid off when I was cleared to play after only five and half months.”

When she wasn’t rehabbing, Olivia was back on the Laker sideline.

“She was a big part of the team last year, even though she was not on the field. She was at every practice, game or team event, unless she had PT. She helped the younger players with their individual stick skills. She helped run some of the drills in practice. She knows the game and has great individual skills so she was able to share her knowledge with her teammates,” Coach Webb said. “During games, last year, she was on the sidelines cheering her teammates on. I think having missed out on a full season and being able to watch the games helped her be a better player on the field. It certainly made her thankful and appreciate her health and appreciate every minute she was on the field knowing that one never knows when it could be your last game.”

No question, Olivia missed being a player.

“What I missed the most my junior year was definitely being on the field and playing. There would be games where I would find myself running up and down the sidelines yelling to my teammates, forgetting that I was not actually out there with them,” she said. “It was certainly a heartbreaking experience, but I learned how important it is to still be there for your team even if you can’t physically play with them.”

Olivia did make it back to play lacrosse this past spring. And when fall arrived, she was eager and determined to shine at the sport she will play in college.

“Surprisingly, I was not nervous at all the first time I played again. I had done so much training that I felt more than ready to be back,” Olivia said. “A few of the most difficult things that I faced during my return were running long distances, breaking down my steps, and quickly changing direction. These are all common when coming off an ACL injury and it took a lot of practice and patience to regain full strength.”

Setting goals was also part of the rehab process.

“One of my goals during my injury was to be cleared by six months. My doctor told me that it did not happen often, but it was possible,” Olivia said. “I worked on strengthening my knee seven days a week and did everything that I could to be sure that I reached my goal.”

Another goal was to make it to the field hockey playoffs this fall.

“Our team worked hard at every practice and we put trust into all of our coaches to decide what was best for us,” she said. On reaching the semi-finals, Olivia added, “I could not have asked for a better way to end my last season.”

Field hockey has always been something special for Olivia Deschenes.

“I love the friendships and experiences that field hockey creates. I have met so many amazing people from all over the world who share the same passion that I do,” she said. “The game has given me so many opportunities and I am so thankful that I began playing this sport at such a young age.”

As a freshman and sophomore, Olivia played center midfield, but this year, Coach Webb changed formation and Olivia was able to play on the forward line.

“I feel like I have improved as a player in making scoring opportunities for both myself and my teammates. My freshman year, I was always nervous when I got in front of the goal, but now that my confidence has grown, I feel like I am able to make quick decisions in order to get a shot off,” Olivia said.

Next fall, Olivia will play at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. She will become a Falcon.

“Bentley was one of the last schools I toured, but after stepping foot on the campus, I was truly amazed at all the school had to offer. I had also met with many field hockey coaches, but Coach Spencer (at Bentley) was by far my favorite,” she said. “I know the school will be a perfect fit for both field hockey and academics. I plan to major in marketing, but want to remain open minded so that I am able to study a field that I enjoy. As for field hockey, I want to keep improving my fundamental skills so that I am flexible to play any position that I am needed.”

Coach Webb is confident Olivia will be up for the challenge.

“Olivia has the discipline, work ethic, desire and passion to play at the next level. She’s not going to settle for just being on the team at Bentley; she’s going to work to be on that field in games. Playing with other players who are as good as she is and better will make her work that much more to take her game to the next level,” Coach Webb said. “Her academic accolades are also proof of her work ethic in the classroom. She could have played at several DII colleges, but she chose Bentley because of its academic reputation.”

High school is a time of many lessons, and Olivia believes her experiences will help her succeed in the next chapter of life.

“My injury taught me many valuable lessons. One of the most important things I learned was that when life throws an obstacle at you, you can either let it tear you down or build you up. And although there were days when I felt like giving up, I always pushed through because I knew how good it would feel to finally be playing again,” Olivia said. “From Coach Webb, I learned that it was still possible to be a team leader even though I couldn’t play. She helped me be the best teammate and leader I could be from the sidelines. I am forever grateful for the support I received from all of my coaches and teammates throughout the process.”

 

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