“The hard thing for this group is, we’ve got a lot of young ‘puppies.’” MMA Coach Craig Dagan
Things are slowing down for a bit in the world of Maine Division III women’s basketball.
Husson University of Bangor, Maine Maritime Academy of Castine and the University of Maine-Farmington are among the North Atlantic Conference teams that will enjoy a two-week break from games.
Things are also quiet for the University of Maine-Fort Kent, UMaine-Presque Isle and UMaine-Machias, who compete in the Sunrise Conference.
It’s time to take a look at the performance of some of the region’s teams and individuals.
Coach Craig Dagan’s MMA squad continues to round into shape with a youthful lineup. The Mariners (3-5) continue to develop as they build around their ability to play defense.
MMA has allowed only 59 points per game on 37 percent shooting, which ranks fourth and third, respectively, in the NAC statistics. The Mariners lead the league in rebounding margin at plus-7.9.
MMA dropped a 72-60 decision to Endicott College in Sunday’s championship game of the Mariner Invitational in Castine. Although shorthanded, Dagan said his team has given him cause for great optimism.
“If we play with that intensity and that desire and with the intangibles that we brought out on the floor, we’re going to be able to compete with any team in our conference and win a conference championship,” he said of the Mariners’ effort against Endicott.
The only thing holding MMA back is its lack of proven players.
“The hard thing for this group is, we’ve got a lot of young ‘puppies,’” Dagan said. “They don’t have a lot of experience to pull from and they’re doing it on the fly.”
Leading the way for the Mariners is sophomore center Tatum Welch of Newport. The aggressive 6-footer is averaging 13.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.
Up top in Fort Kent, coach Lucas Levesque’s Bengals look to build on a 4-5 start. UMFK has won four of its last five, including a 74-71 victory over Saint Joseph’s of Standish in Sunday’s consolation game of the Mariner Invitational.
The Bengals have an effective combination of guards and frontcourt players. The X-factor is 6-4 senior center Ashley Ames of Dexter, who is averaging 18.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots.
Ames is shooting 55 percent from the floor and 76 percent from the foul line.
She ranks third in scoring, seventh in rebounding and ninth in field-goal percentage in the NAIA Division II ranks.
UMFK also has benefited from the presence of junior transfer Kristen Violette of Fort Kent, who is averaging 11.0 points and 7.0 rebounds.
The Bengals don’t have much depth and are hoping a midyear transfer guard could provide some needed depth to complement gritty starters Shir Fuchs (14.3 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Amber Garrison (8.7 ppg, 4.4 apg).
“We’re really one guard away from turning the corner,” said Levesque, who is looking for more leadership and heart from his team, especially late in close games.
“Overall, it’s just a matter of a maturing process where everybody has to step up and make adjustments,” Levesque said.
UMaine-Farmington stands at 3-4 entering the holiday hiatus. Coach Jamie Beaudoin’s team has tested itself with a tough nonleague schedule that has included nationally-ranked Southern Maine, Bates College of Lewiston and the University of New England of Biddeford.
A pair of upperclassmen are leading the way for the Beavers. Junior forward Caitlin Laflin of Farmingdale leads the squad in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 ppg), while senior guard Erin Porter of Bangor has elevated her game while averaging 15.1 points and 5.5 rebounds to go with an .816 free-throw percentage.
Other mainstays for UMF include guard Ashley Busque of Belgrade (10.0 ppg), forward Jillian Ross of Belfast (7.9 ppg) and guard Amanda Byrne of Winslow (5.0 ppg, 5.1 apg).
Local soccer players honored
Shelby Bradford of Husson University in Bangor and Ashley Sanford of Holden have been named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America all-region teams.
Bradford, a junior forward from Lee, registered 61 points last season, including 25 goals. She was an All-North Atlantic Conference first-team pick for the Eagles, who reached the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship.
Bradford, a former standout at Lee Academy, also was chosen for the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Soccer Association All-New England second team.
“Shelby is our leader and does a tremendous job representing our program,” said Husson coach Keith Bosley.
Sanford was a junior defender at Norwich University in Vermont. She was instrumental in the Cadets’ making their first NCAA tournament appearance (a loss to Husson) last fall.
Sanford, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-star, helped Norwich limit opponents to 0.97 goals per game and post 10 shutouts. She played her high school soccer at John Bapst High in Bangor.
Other players with Maine ties honored were Dana Riker of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, first team; Ali Trafton of the University of New England in Biddeford, second team; and Su-Lin Del Guercio of Colby College in Waterville and Maggie Mahoney, UNE, fourth team.
Benson named All-New England
Jon Benson of Husson recently was named to the New England Football Writers Division II-III All-New England Team.
The junior offensive lineman from Biddeford was the lynchpin of a group that helped the Eagles produce 351 yards of offense per game. Benson, a team captain, was on a line that paved the way for Husson to average 239 rushing yards per contest on its way to a 7-3 record and a berth in the ECAC Northeast Bowl.
“It’s a great honor for Jon and the program,” Husson head coach Gabby Price said in a press release. “It is a tribute to the year we had and Jon’s commitment to the program.”
Benson joins two former Eagles, including his brother Matt and Brian Biggers, in earning All-New England honors.