The University of Maine women’s basketball team bus rolled into Orono at 4:30 a.m. Monday, ending a 74-hour odyssey to Baltimore.
While it was a calm weekend, weather-wise, in Maine, a winter storm buried the mid-Atlantic region with more than two feet of snow.
The weather put the UMaine women’s team to the test.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s squad planned to depart Orono on Friday morning and play a Saturday afternoon America East game at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Instead, the Bears encountered the storm, which resulted in moving the game to Sunday and revamping their travel arrangements, both going and coming back.
First, the threat of the storm created havoc for flights in and out of Baltimore/Washington International Marshall Airport. To make sure it got to Baltimore, UMaine changed its itinerary and left Orono at 2:30 a.m. Friday.
The Bears bused to Portland, took a 6:15 a.m. flight to Baltimore and arrived safely at 8, prior to the onset of the snow, which started around noon, according to UMaine athletic media relations assistant manager Barrett Gilham.
With the forecast expected to wipe out Saturday’s game, UMaine was asked to play Friday but declined.
The contest was moved to Sunday at 11 a.m. to help facilitate the Bears’ scheduled 4 p.m. flight out, but BWI was completely shut down.
On Saturday, the Bears had to get a shuttle from a nearby hotel to take them to lunch.
“We were pretty much stranded at the hotel because our bus was blocking the entrance [while stuck in the snow],” Blodgett said. “It’s very comical now to look at it, but not so much right at that moment.”
The driver eventually got the bus out to take UMaine to Sunday’s game. Gilham said the ride to RAC Arena was interesting, to say the least.
“Even the Interstate only had one lane open and it was barely open,” said the Alabama native. “To get to the game, the exit we were supposed to take wasn’t plowed yet. We had to go down the Interstate, get off, then get back on and go back the other way and that exit was open.”
Blodgett said the players were able to get some extra rest Saturday, but it didn’t translate to victory Sunday as UMBC won 57-45.
“They scored 57 points. It was a solid defensive effort,” Blodgett said. “We couldn’t score. We shot a terrible percentage.”
With the airport closed and the Bears facing a Tuesday home game against Hartford, they couldn’t afford to wait and hope they could get a Monday flight. Instead, they opted to bus all the way back to Orono after Sunday’s game.
Blodgett praised first-year assistant coach Caren Fiorillo, who handles team travel, for her efforts in negotiating the Bears’ constantly changing plans for the trip.
UMaine did not practice Monday.
Blodgett said the 2010 UMBC trip was a unique experience.
“It’s not an ideal situation, but we got even more time together as a team,” she said. “When you think about your college experience and you look back on it, all of our coaches, players and support staff are going to remember. We got a ton of pictures.”
Things worked out better for the UMaine men’s squad, which played Monday night at UMBC.
Coach Ted Woodward’s team left Orono as scheduled Sunday and bused to Portland, where it took a plane to New York. The Bears had planned to make a connecting flight to Baltimore, but instead hopped on a bus for the final four-hour leg.
UMaine athletic media relations assistant manager Drew Mahoney said the team arrived in Baltimore earlier than originally scheduled and was able to get in its shootaround practice.
The men will fly back to New York for a Wednesday night game at Stony Brook before flying into Portland and busing home on Thursday.