There is a euphoric feeling among the players on a team after a victory.
The University of Maine football team is enjoying that dynamic this week, coming off Saturday’s 19-9 Colonial Athletic Association win over then-No. 19 Massachusetts.
While there has been much discussion about the numerous underclassmen playing important roles on this year’s squad, it appears coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears (4-4, 3-2 CAA) are learning how to win.
UMaine took a big step in that direction Saturday by holding a halftime lead — one it gained by virtue of cashing in a turnover late in the first half.
The Bears have been ahead or tied in every game this season, only to lose four of them.
“It was absolutely enormous for us for guys to be a part of it, to experience it and to understand that we can be winning at halftime and go on and build on that lead and still win a football game,” said senior tri-captain Mike Brusko.
“It’s more just for the confidence thing more than anything,” he explained. “We have that confidence. We’ve done it, we’ve done it against a good football team and it’s something that will be a focus of ours from now on. It was huge for the maturity of the team.”
Cosgrove said the Bears demonstrated some of their emotional growth during the two weeks between their loss to Richmond and the UMass game. The players practiced hard and with a purpose, and their efforts were rewarded.
“It really was something that gave you a good feeling going into the [UMass] game,” Cosgrove said.
“I think that’s what was most gratifying from Saturday; we finished the football game off the way we started it, playing hard and being disciplined and making plays,” he added.
Cosgrove senses that his team is beginning to believe in itself as a collective unit.
“Your desire to play, because of your success, increases tremendously and it’s a good feeling,” he said.
UMaine is preparing for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game against James Madison at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Va.
Black Bears building on youth
The UMaine women’s and men’s basketball teams continue to prepare for the 2009-2010 season with several underclassmen in key positions.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s women have four sophomores and five freshmen on the squad. At least two of the second-year players and one rookie were in the starting lineup Sunday against New Brunswick.
Three other underclassmen saw significant duty, while two freshmen sat out with injuries.
Sophomore Samantha Wheeler said a year of experience makes a huge difference.
“The players, they know what they’re good at, what their weaknesses are,” Wheeler said. “We all work together so well. I think everybody’s a lot more comfortable with each other this year.”
She also lauded the freshmen’s ability to make the adjustment to Division I.
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine men also expect to receive key contributions from underclassmen this season.
There are two freshmen and six second-year players on the squad, in addition to three transfers.
“The reason that we’re excited about this group is every good player usually makes their biggest jump between their freshman and sophomore year,” Woodward said. “They figure it out: They get in the weight room for a year, they get experience under their belt, they know what to expect.”
Sophomore guards Gerald McLemore and Andrew Rogers, along with center Svetoslav Chetinov, along with junior transfers Terrance Mitchell and Jerrell Boswell, and sophomore transfer Travon Wilcher (who becomes eligible for the second semester), all will figure in UMaine’s plans.
“[Sunday] was a very good sign for us. We had a lot of new people that stepped up and played their roles very well,” said Bears junior Sean McNally of Gardiner.
UM’s Martin, Peay in transition
Black Bears sophomore Ryan Martin is in the process of trying to make the transition from shooting guard to point guard.
Martin, a former Maranacook High of Readfield star, sat out last Sunday’s exhibition game against Laval University. The 5-foot-9 Martin may wind up using this as a redshirt year.
“It’s something that we’ve talked a lot about with him,” said UMaine coach Ted Woodward. “I think he’s doing a tremendous job doing that, never having played that position before. We’ll take it a step at a time with him.”
Martin appeared in 10 games as a freshman last winter, averaging 3.5 points on 50 percent shooting (13-for-26) in 5.4 minutes per game.
Another Black Bear who sat out Saturday’s exhibition was junior Malachi Peay. He won’t be competing with the team until the end of December.
The 6-6 guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., is concentrating on his studies. He averaged 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20 games during 2008-09.
“Malachi is sitting out this semester to focus on his academics,” Woodward said.