Ever since it first stepped onto the court this season, there has been a feeling of excitement surrounding the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
Whether it’s the four upperclassmen, the four sophomores or the five newcomers, the Black Bears are brimming with optimism and hope.
The UMaine contingent hopes to demonstrate why it has been so upbeat when it opens its 2009-2010 season tonight with a 7 o’clock tipoff against Central Connecticut State at Alfond Arena in Orono.
Coach Cindy Blodgett begins her third season as head coach with a group of players who hope to help fans forget about their on-court struggles (12-48 record) the last two seasons during the front end of the rebuilding process.
“It makes me feel really excited, just seeing the strides we’ve already made, seeing the cohesiveness we’re having already,” said Amanda Tewksbury, one of the Bears’ three seniors. “It’s a long season and, yes, there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’m just very excited about where we’re at right now and I know with this team that we’re just going to continue it.”
UMaine takes on a Central Connecticut squad that has plenty of experience and ample confidence of its own coming off last season’s WNIT berth.
“They won 18 games last year and certainly it will be a tough game for us,” Blodgett said. “We’re going to have to play very well on both ends. We’re going to have to stop them in transition because they’re very athletic, and they get up and down the court, and we’ve got to make sure that we execute on offense, that we run what we need to do.”
The Blue Devils’ quick pace may help the Bears play to their own strengths.
UMaine has adopted a more attack-oriented offense and plans to exhibit more hard-nosed defense in an effort to help foster an uptempo game.
“We’ve got to secure the rebound and then get out and run,” Blodgett said. “I don’t want us to be a slowdown team. We’re going to be at our best if we get out, push the ball ahead.”
Blodgett also is happy her team has the chance to open the season at home.
“Starting our season off in the comfy confines of Alfond I think is really nice for this team,” said Blodgett, who had commented on the importance of the good crowd that turned out for Sunday’s exhibition game against Husson as a big motivator for the Bears.
“I felt really energized getting out there [against Husson] and I can’t wait to feel the same way coming into a real game,” said UMaine sophomore center Sam Baranowski.
BEAR TRACKS: The Bears go into the season missing three players. Junior Tanna Ross of Newburgh is recovering from a broken left foot, freshman Rachele Burns of Gorham is sidelined for the season with a right knee injury and first-year forward Shareka Maner is out indefinitely with a shoulder ailment.