Difficult early schedule builds Eagles’ confidence

Posted Dec. 10, 2008, at 11:35 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Husson University women’s basketball team doesn’t get overly concerned about a few early-season losses.

That’s because coach Kissy Walker often puts her Eagles up against some of the best teams in Maine and the Northeast, including Southern Maine, Bowdoin, Bates and, this year, the University of Maine, during the nonconference schedule.

This season, Husson is off to a 1-4 start. Its losses include Norwich, Bates and Bowdoin. The Eagles know those tests will prove beneficial.

“It really helps us out. We do it every year,” said Husson senior guard Jenny Rollins of Corinth. “We don’t always win, but in the conference we succeed really well because we play that kind of competition.”

Rollins’ confidence in the Eagles’ prospects for this season are based on the squad’s significant levels of talent, experience and depth.

Despite losing seven players, Husson returns its top seven scorers, including a proven senior nucleus featuring Shelby Bradford of Lee, Rollins, Laura Archer of Ellsworth and Michelle Barden of St. Albans.

Bradford and Rollins both were All-North Atlantic Conference first-team selections last season, when the Eagles reached the league semifinals.

Bradford, a slippery forward, is strong inside and tenacious on the boards. She is averaging 14.3 points and 10.0 rebounds thus far to set the pace.

“The kids all look to her as a leader,” Walker said. “They all respect her so much. She’s such a good person.”

Rollins is a versatile guard who can shoot from outside or drive to the basket. She is averaging 14.6 ppg but is dealing with a chronic knee injury.

Both of those players are expected to reach the 1,000-point plateau this winter.

Archer (4.0 ppg) and Barden (4.0 ppg) handle duties at the point. Each is capable of scoring when needed.

Among the four juniors is 5-foot-11 forward Ashley Bragdon of Newport (5.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg), who boosts Husson’s inside presence. Other key contributors include sophomore guard Bethany Sevey (6.6 ppg), who is a legitimate 3-point threat, and sophomore post player Kelsey Lavertu of Howland (7.8 ppg).

Freshman forward Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag (9.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) has quickly emerged and has earned a starting spot for the Eagles.

“I scouted her a lot and I didn’t see her play like she’s playing now,” said a pleased Walker. “She’s competitive and focused. She makes things happen.”

Husson also will rely on sophomore guard Noelle Lincoln of Dixmont, another 3-point threat, along with junior forward Lindsay Barnes of Owls Head. Also in the mix are freshman guards Marissa Albert of Fort Kent and Brittany Belden of China, freshman centers Katie Kenney of Orrington and Athena Beaulieu of Gorham, sophomore guard Caitlyn Butterfield of Gorham and junior guards Jenn Plourde of Howland and Alex Huffman.

“We’re kind of in that stage of everybody learning their roles and trying to find consistency,” she said. “They’re a good group and they do work hard.”

Walker said with the Eagles’ level of experience and with so many potential contributors, she is able to work with several different personnel combinations depending on the opponent and the situation.

“By the time we start getting into conference play, we’ll be all right,” Walker said.

Husson heads to Presque Isle this weekend for the Star City Invitational and opens NAC play Jan. 13 against Thomas College of Waterville.

pwarner@bangordailynews.net

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