In recent years, the University of Maine women’s basketball team has fallen into the shadows of the other sports teams on campus. The women’s team has not won more than eight games in a season, over the last five years. Although it has been a rough stretch, there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel.
After a respectable turnaround last season that saw the team reach the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament, the women are preparing to take the program to new heights this season. That hard work and preparation was put on display Saturday morning at the annual Blue vs. White scrimmage held at Memorial Gym.
The scrimmage gave fans an opportunity to preview this year’s squad, but UMaine head coach Richard Barron saw it as a test for his players.
“We’re looking forward to our blue and white scrimmage to give us a measuring stick of how much we have learned in the first three weeks,” Barron said prior to the event.
Barron noted that the girls had been working tirelessly on their offensive sets and chemistry throughout the first three weeks. That practice showed Saturday. The offense for both sides showed plenty of continuity as they were able to execute give-and-go’s and demonstrate their ability to move without the ball.
Included in the offensive showcase was the team’s strong shooting from the perimeter. There was a barrage of 3-point field goals that found the bottom of the net from the likes of sophomore guard Courtney Anderson, freshman guards Lauren Bodine and Brittany Wells and freshman forward Liz Wood. Barron did not say whether the team would rely heavily on shots from beyond the arc, but he did indicate that it is definitely a strength.
“The ability to shoot the ball from behind the arc opens up the defense and will be a huge key,” Barron said. “If people start to take that away, then that will open up our inside game and cuts.
“When you get one thing going then it will open up other opportunities for you,” Barron added.
According to Barron, the focus on offense during preseason has come at a price, as the team is now suffering somewhat of a defensive disadvantage. While the full-court press looked to be top-notch, the transition defense on fast breaks and defenders hedging screens seemed to still be developing. With the offense clicking so well, it was not as surprising to see the defense falter. But Barron believes things will get better with time and experience.
“It’s going to be key for us to develop our overall defense and rebounding as the season goes on,” Barron said.
While there are many new faces to the program trying to get acclimated with the system, there is still a veteran presence on the club, with players like senior forward Corinne Wellington. Wellington has endured the various highs and lows the team has gone through in her first three seasons, but she has been encouraged by what her and her teammates have done so far.
“All these girls are very talented and bring something to the team,” Wellington said. “We are a lot better right now than we were last year at this time.”
Being one of the few veteran presences, Wellington has committed herself to doing whatever is needed for the the team to be successful. The senior explained how she had been working on all facets of her game during the offseason, including an outside game that Barron jokingly deemed as a cause for “cardiac problems.”
“They told me if I put in the work that I would be able to take those kinds of shots, and that’s exactly what I did,” Wellington said. “I’ve put a lot of work into becoming a better player for my team’s sake.”
The effort towards improving has not just been limited to Wellington, as each player has come a long way in Barron’s eyes. Barron praised his players for their work ethic and dedication to get better, noting that each and every player has made strides.
“There is nobody right now that we are disappointed in or feel that we couldn’t put out on the floor and feel confident in,” Barron said. “There isn’t a lot of separation in the ability of our players and we believe that they all can help us at some point in a game.”
Though there is still a lot to work on, the pieces seem to be in place and now it is just a matter of execution and maintaining the high level of play. Barron says that practice will be key in developing continuity and getting the team where they need to be in order to get the season off on the right foot.
“Our flow is a lot better than at any point last year,” Barron said. “We just need to continue the intensity in both practice and games, but I think this a team that will get better as the year goes on.”
The Black Bears’ season tips-off this week as they host New Brunswick Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m in the Alfond Arena.