The Husson University women’s basketball team from Bangor will face a familiar opponent in the first round of the NCAA Division Tournament and will have to travel just 109 miles to do so.
The 19-9 Eagles will take on 24-2 Bowdoin College in their four-team regional at their Morrell Gymnasium in Brunswick on Friday at 7 p.m. Bowdoin was ranked third in the country in last week’s NCAA Division III rankings in D3hoops.com.
Skidmore College from New York (18-9) and Fairleigh-Dickinson University College at Florham (New Jersey), 21-6, will meet in the other semifinal. The winners will meet on Saturday.
Husson and Bowdoin met on Jan. 16 in Brunswick and the Polar Bears jumped out to a 21-8 lead after the first quarter and went on to post an 88-58 victory.
They have never met in the postseason.
Bowdon and Husson are two of four Maine teams in the tourney with 27-1 St. Joseph’s College of Standish, winner of 26 in a row, and the University of New England of Biddeford Pool, 23-5, being the others.
St. Joseph’s will face UMass-Boston, 25-3, in the regional semifinal at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass. Amherst, 27-0 and the No. 1 team in the country, will take on Becker College from Massachusetts (18-10) in the other semifinal.
The University of New England will travel to the College of New Jersey where it will take on Rochester Institute of Technology (21-6) on Friday night. TCNJ (21-6) will play Hilbert College of New York (21-6) in the other semi.
Coach Kissy Walker’s Husson Eagles picked up their first ever NCAA tourney win a year ago, 74-72 over DeSales University of Pennsylvania, before losing to home-standing Tufts University (Mass.) 64-44 in the next game.
Walker and her players are looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said junior guard and leading scored Kenzie Worcester. “We’ve already played there once this year. It’s a comfortable environment. Hopefully, we’ll get some fans down there.”
“Obviously, it’s a tough matchup,” said Walker. “Since it isn’t far away, we should have a lot of Husson fans there. There should be a great tournament atmosphere.”
“We know what they’re like and how they play,” said sophomore center Sami Ireland. “They’re very strong. And they’re deep. They don’t have just one go-to player.”
Worcester said Bowdoin has good balance.
“Just about everyone on their team is averaging eight to 12 points. We’re going to have to play good team defense and play well on offense, too,” she said. “We’ve got to run our sets. If we do, we’ll be okay.”
Walker said she likes scheduling Bowdoin during the regular season.
“It’s a good challenge and it helps you become a better team,” she said.
Worcester, averaging 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists, has led the Eagles along with Ireland (10.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
Bowdoin has six players averaging at least six points per game including Presque Isle’s Hannah Graham (6.5) and Bangor’s Cordelia Stewart (6). Abby Kelly (12.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.1 apg) and Kate Kerrigan (10.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.1 apg) have paced the Polar Bears.
St. Joseph’s has four players averaging in double figures in Kelsi McNamara (18.7 ppg), Brunswick’s Julia Champagne (12.9 ppg), Emily Benway (12.4 ppg) and Waldoboro’s Hannah Marks (10.8 ppg). UNE have been led by Saco’s Olivia Shaw (14.1 ppg) along with Sam MacDonald (13.1 ppg) and Ashley Coneys (10.5 ppg).
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