You cannot spell Desiree without desire, something former Georges Valley High School athletic standout and recent University of Maine at Presque Isle graduate Desiree Smith showed plenty of during the past four years, both from an athletic and academic standpoint, for the Owls.

A three-sport athlete that excelled at both soccer and softball for the Buccaneers prior to graduating in 2008, Smith continued along that same path at UMPI, which culminated in a fantastic senior season.

Smith, who recently graduated from UMPI with a degree in physical education but still must finish her student teaching, also was presented the 2011-12 Outstanding Physical Education Teaching Major Award, all the while making the Dean’s List with a 3.323 grade-point average.

Smith excelled on both the soccer pitch and softball diamond along with being a member of the Nordic ski team, participating in three of the six women’s sports the school offers. She also was captain of both the soccer and softball teams her senior year.

“I am exited to have graduated, but I am also going to miss school,” said Smith, who helped lead Georges Valley to back-to-back state Class C softball titles in 2007 and 2008. “It is one of those things where you want to get out into the world and do what you have been working for, but I also want to stay with all my friends. I am extremely blessed to have had such a successful season in all my sports and I am proud to have been a four-year starter and captain for UMPI.”

This past year Smith was named the 2011-12 most valuable player on the softball team, earned the most inspirational award for the women’s Nordic ski team and also earned the Stanley H. Small Coaches Award, which embodies a student-athlete who has demonstrated the ideals of character through sportsmanship and enhances the integrity of higher education.

Smith was the ideal choice for the award, given the fact she joined the team during her junior year solely because the team was one member short.

“The team was really good already, but they just needed one more person,” she said. “Basically, they told me all I had to do was finish the race.”

Based largely on that fact, Smith also was the inaugural recipient of the Donald N. Zillman Character Award during the 2010-11 season. Her work both in the community and at the school away from athletics also played a role in her receiving the award.

“I was so happy to get this award,” she said. “It caught me by surprise. I couldn’t believe that it was me that was chosen. It is an honor to go by the award on the wall and see my name up there at the top forever.”

Smith played catcher and third base for the Owls in the spring and led the team in hitting with a whopping .413 batting average, rapping 45 hits (33 singles, 8 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs) and scoring 39 runs in 109 at bats. She also drew 18 walks, knocked in 18 runs and stole 29 bases, with an on-base percentage of .496 and a slugging percentage of .578, leading the Owls to a 14-21 record, including 12-4 in their final 16 games.

Smith’s efforts on the diamond earned her first-team catcher for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association for independent schools.

UMPI is not currently affiliated with a conference after leaving the NAIA at the conclusion of last year, which is why the school does not participate in any sanctioned playoff format.

Regardless, Smith’s efforts were key to the team’s success.

“Desiree was the lead off batter for my team and was always looking to challenge the defense with her base stealing ability,” said Owls coach Peter Coffin. “She would go from first to third on bunting situations. As our catcher this season she was the team leader and managed the pitching staff effectively. Desiree was a captain and was a team leader off the field and on. Her leadership was a key reason for us reaching a 14-win season.”

Smith also led the Owls to a 10-4 record on the soccer pitch, scoring 13 goals, with 18 assists.

She will return to UMPI in January to finish her student teaching, while also returning to compete for the Nordic ski team.

Smith has used her four years of eligibility for both the soccer and softball teams, but can still compete on the ski team. She also hopes to be an assistant coach for the softball team next spring.

She certainly has the credentials.

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@courlerpublicationsllc.com.