BANGOR, Maine — Building on a historic season is challenging for any college sports team, if for no other reason than roster changes are inevitable.
That’s the situation facing the Husson University women’s basketball program in adjusting to life without some key components from the 2016-2017 squad that scored the program’s first NCAA Division III tournament victory.
In North Atlantic Conference player of the year Chandler Guerrette, Denae Johnson and Darla Morales, coach Kissy Walker’s club graduated three guards who combined last winter to score 44 percent of the team’s 74.5 points per game while leading Husson to a 23-5 record.
The adjustment period is ongoing as the Eagles took an 0-2 record into Tuesday’s NAC opener against Thomas College of Waterville at Newman Gymnasium.
“We have the pieces, but we’re trying to get the kids to step up and fill the gaps where we lost a lot of scoring (32.9 points per game) from Chandler and Darla and Denae,” said Walker, who is now in her 28th season at Husson. “The offense we’re running, we’re actually further along than we were last year in terms of putting in layers of it, and we’ve played well in spurts but we had some bad spurts that were pretty damaging.”
Husson averaged just 48 points per game on 31.5 percent shooting from the field in losses to St. Lawrence and Williams Nov. 18-19 during a season-opening tournament at Williamstown, Massachusetts.
“We opened up against two pretty good teams in physical games that were back-to-back that early in the season and the consistency just wasn’t there for the amount of time we needed,” said Walker.
The pieces Walker and her staff have to mold into a more consistent unit in the team’s quest for a return to the NCAAs are young, with eight sophomores and three first-year students on the 14-player roster.
The returning corps begins with 5-foot-4 junior Kenzie Worcester of Washburn, the reigning NAC first-team all-star and conference tournament MVP. Worcester averaged 15.4 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting from the field while grabbing 4.7 rebounds per contest last winter. She now is being asked to take on a greater leadership role.
“Kenzie’s outstanding, but it’s been an adjustment just having different people around her because for two years she’s played with those same players who are very similar to her,” Walker said.
Others who should be part of the Eagles’ backcourt rotation include 5-7 sophomore Sarah Bragg of Glenburn, 5-8 sophomore Joan Overman of Washburn, 5-4 freshman Emma Alley of Millinocket, sophomore twins Barrett Campbell and Hayden Campbell of Saco, and 5-8 senior Jordan Butler of Hampden, a transfer from Saint Joseph’s College of Standish.
Anna MacKenzie, a 5-11 senior from Plymouth, is the team’s most experienced frontcourt player, but 6-0 sophomore Sami Ireland of Howland and 6-0 freshman Megan Peach of Garland also offer plenty of potential in the post.
“Because of the losses we have and the youth we have I’m envisioning the goal of every day wanting to improve 1 percent so that come playoff time we’re a much better team than we are now,” said Walker.