Holding the No. 2 rank in the 2015-2016 America East Preseason Coaches Poll, and receiving a new title sponsorship from the Bangor Savings Bank, the University of Maine women’s basketball team is primed for success this upcoming season. Last year the team fought hard for a 23-9 record, earned a No. 19 ranking in the College Insider Mid-Major Top-25 Poll and grabbed the 2015 America East Regular Season Co-Championship. With a strong program run by a talented coach, and a group of experienced players returning, the Black Bears have all the ability to make a run to the top of the America East.
Led by Head Coach Richard Barron, the Black Bears are coming off of their best year since the 2004-2005 season. Their 2014 team averaged 61.1 points per game and entering into Barron’s fifth year leading the program, the team believes they can build upon a lot from last year.
“We’re hoping that we can retain a lot of what we learned from last year from an X’s and O’s standpoint, and also just from our experience learning in terms of being one of the best teams in the past, and having a target on our back,” Barron said.
With every great team, consistency is fundamental, and the Black Bears are seeing all five of last year’s key starters returning. It’s a benefit that the team looks forward to having.
“That’s certainly something we’re trying to take advantage of with all the returners,” Barron said.
Included in that group are fourth-year forward Liz Wood and third-year guard Sigi Koizar, both of whom have been the top scores for the Black Bears and they both have been named to the league’s Preseason All-Conference Team.
Named to the America East First Team, Koizar played all 32 games last season, and lead the Black Bears in scoring with an average of 14.3 points per game. Though she only started four games in her first season, she developed into a full-time starter during her second year, putting up 459 points. With another year in the program, Koizar has a chance to be a top player in the league.
Also a part of the America East First Team last season, Wood has been a fundamental player for the Black Bears since her first year. Finishing last year by earning the America East Co-Defensive Player of the year honors, Wood will play a huge role for the Black Bears. Averaging 12.3 points per game over her previous three years, Wood has grabbed 1,133 points in her career.
Though slowed down by an undisclosed knee injury in late September, Wood seemed to be at 100 percent when she played Vanguard University on Friday, in one of the team’s exhibition matches.
If last year was any indication, Maine’s biggest obstacle in getting to the top spot in the America East will be the University of Albany. Predicted to finish first in the Preseason poll, Albany found themselves with a 24-8 record and a NCAA tournament berth in the 2014 year. Their matchup against Maine on Jan. 16, and Feb. 14, will surely be must watch clashes.
Despite a lot of outside pressure to succeed, the team is just taking the season one practice at a time.
“Well you always have got to get the rust off,” Barron said. “It’s a new season, you’ve always got to work through the beginning. When you start practices, you’ve got to start with the basics.”
This basketball program is ready to show they can resume their run of domination from last year. The first game of the Black Bear’s season kicks off on Friday, Nov. 13 at 5:30 p.m when Maine hits the road to take on Harvard.