A week ago, the University of Maine-Presque Isle women’s basketball team was staring at an 0-9 record.
Even so, there was no sense of desperation for coach Tracy Guerrette and her team.
The Owls had played a tough nonleague schedule that included the likes of regional power University of Southern Maine and Colby College. And UMPI was slow making the transition from the fall season to basketball with several new players, including four, two-sport performers.
“I think my players were itching to get a win, but it didn’t really feel like we were 0-9, just because of the teams we played,” said Guerrette, a St. Agatha native and former University of Maine player. “There were little victories we had every day.”
The Owls received a big boost last weekend, opening their Sunrise Conference schedule with two road victories at the College of St. Joseph and Fisher.
Guerrette believes it is a sign of better things to come.
“The goal was, once we got into conference play, we’d be better prepared,” she explained. “I think definitely getting those two wins, and on the road, gave us some confidence and gave individual players some confidence about what they can do.”
UMPI had a big test Wednesday night with a key Sunrise Conference game against Aroostook County rival UMaine-Fort Kent.
This UMPI team is a work in progress. The Owls lost eight players off last year’s squad, including go-to scorer and leading rebounder Erica Davis.
This winter, UMPI is building around a small veteran nucleus of four players. The group is led by junior guard Megan Korhonen of Littleton, who is averaging a team-high 10.3 points to go with 4.6 rebounds.
“She’s very versatile,” Guerrette said. “I can throw her in at the point, but she can play the four. She knows the game. She’s a captain.”
Freshman guard Emily Pelletier of Fort Kent has fit in nicely, providing 9.1 ppg while shooting 35 percent on 3-pointers.
“She’s a hardworking kid, loves the game,” Guerrette said.
The Owls have plenty of balance after that with returning starters in sophomore guard Emily Moore of Lisbon (6.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.9 apg) and senior center and co-captain Kathy Kilfoil of Johnville, New Brunswick (6.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .909 free-throw percentage).
Guerrette called the lefthanded Kilfoil the emotional leader of the team and said Moore is the Owls’ top defender.
Forward Julie Peers of Caswell (6.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, .500 field-goal percentage) came out for the team as a junior and has been solid inside, while senior center Mindy Sullivan of Lisbon, who played 19 games a year ago, is averaging 3.3 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Logahn Walker of Strong (8.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg) is a junior point guard who transferred from the University of Maine and joined the Owls earlier this month.
UMPI’s bench catalysts include freshman Taylor Ussery of Montclair, Calif., freshman guard Kallie Pelletier of Madawaska and junior guard Kayla Fleming of Costa Mesa, Calif.
Guerrette likes the chemistry of this particular group, which has been dealing with some injuries.
“They’re a blessing to me and I really enjoy them,” she said. “They get along very well and that will carry us a long way.”
While UMFK and SUNY Canton are again expected to be the leaders in the conference, Guerrette believes UMPI can be a factor in the title chase by the time the Sunrise Conference tournament rolls around.
“We haven’t come close to peaking as a team yet,” she said. “When our team gets healthy and they start gelling more, I think they’ll start doing well in conference.”