To watch the University of Maine women’s team go through pregame warmups, one would never suspect the Black Bears are struggling.
The smiles, high-fives and encouragement shared by the players is an indication of UMaine’s confidence, rather than a reflection of its 2-17 record and program-record, 13-game losing streak.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s Bears remain committed and display their determination on the court. A moment from Saturday night’s loss to Boston University speaks volumes about the Bears’ resolve.
With the Terriers leading by 16 points late in the game, UMaine freshman point guard Brittany Williams had a pass intercepted by BU’s Jeskya Burks-Wiley.
Burks-Wiley dribbled uncontested toward the basket, only to have the speedy Williams race down and block her attempted layup from behind.
“When she made the turnover and then chased the kid down and blocked her shot, that’s our future,” Blodgett said. “When I see that on the sideline, I see a kid and think, ‘so what, she made a mistake; she went down and made a play.’ That, to me, is very impressive.”
Williams, a 5-foot-7 guard from Rochester, N.Y., demonstrated the fight that exists within a UMaine team that knows better days are coming.
“Some teams go through adversity,” said Williams, who has earned increased playing time as the season has gone along. “We just have to work hard to overcome it. Right now we’re in practice trying to get better. Whatever we do there is going to come out on the court.”
Williams played sparingly at first, but has worked diligently behind the scenes while learning the system and increasing her impact on the squad.
Her forte at present is her defense. Her quickness and intensity allow her to have an impact guarding opponents.
“It’s tough any time you come in as a freshman,” Blodgett said. “I think as a point guard, it’s even more difficult at times because you’re asked to run the show.”
Williams and her classmates have been asked to play increasingly important roles on a team that also includes one senior, four juniors and a sophomore.
Swing player Samantha Wheeler has started 14 of the 17 games in which she has appeared, while post player Samantha Baranowski has made nine starts while playing in all 19 games. Combination guard Jasmine Rush has come on strong of late and made her first career start in 18 games against Boston University.
Williams said one key aspect of the transition for her has been believing in her ability.
“That’s one thing I wanted to work on this year is my confidence; just gain more experience and work hard in practice,” she said.
Williams and the Bears continue to hold their heads high and have focused on improving in practice. The goal is to become more competitive.
“I think they’re doing a very nice job of trying to fight through that. I’m sure there’s a great deal of stress that they put on themselves,” Blodgett said of the team’s struggles.
“For the most part, I think they feel confident because they’re practicing hard and they’re practicing well,” Blodgett said. “I really feel like for them it’s just a matter of time before they actually put it all together.”
Doehler, Spearrin commit to UM
Nate Doehler, who Sunday received the Fitzpatrick Trophy given to Maine’s best senior football player, and Bonny Eagle High School teammate Josh Spearin have verbally committed to play for coach Jack Cosgrove at the University of Maine beginning next fall.
The players led Bonny Eagle of Standish to back-to-back state titles and a 22-2 record. Last fall, the 6-foot, 175-pound Doehler passed for 1,472 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 1,294 yards and 17 TDs in the Scots’ spread offense.
It was the second consecutive season in which Doehler rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards each.
“He lives for the big game,” Bonny Eagle coach Kevin Cooper said of Doehler. “He never gets rattled. He’s got good athletic instincts above some pretty good physical skills.”
The versatile Doehler also played defensive back, returned kicks and handled punting and place-kicking duties. Cooper, a former UMaine assistant, said punting might be Doehler’s quickest route to playing time.
“I would think he’s a guy that would be perfect for that position,” Cooper. “He’s a guy that can handle bad snaps and who’s not going to get rattled.”
Doehler joins a UMaine quarterback group that includes returning starter Mike Brusko, Iona transfer Warren Smith and former Portland High star Chris Treister.
Spearin was a dominating two-way tackle for the Scots. The 6-3, 290-pounder is the brother of UMaine freshman lineman Matt Spearin.
“Josh had a phenomenal year for us,” Cooper said. “He’s a devastating drive blocker because he’s so strong.”
Cooper praised Josh Spearin’s ability to pull and block smaller, quicker linebackers in the spread scheme. The University of New Hampshire also recruited him.
“They’re both very hard workers,” Cooper said of the Spearins.
The Scots will have four players at UMaine, including receiver Ben Delcourt.