The day began with the University of Maine’s announcement that Amy Vachon had signed a four-year contract to coach the women’s basketball team.
On Friday night, there was more good news involving the Black Bears.
UMaine picked up three of the top America East postseason awards and placed two other players on all-conference teams during the league’s annual banquet held in Portland on the evening of the start of the America East Women’s Basketball Championship at the Cross Insurance Center.
Sophomore Blanca Millan earned a spot on the All-America East first team and was a member of the All-Defensive Team and junior Tanesha Sutton claimed second-team recognition. Dor Saar was named the Rookie of the Year, Parise Rossignol was honored as the Sixth Player of the Year and Vachon was chosen the Coach of the Year.
Binghamton University took home the other two major individual awards as senior guard Imani Watkins was honored as the Player of the Year and senior forward Alyssa James earned the Defensive Player of the Year award.
The all-conference first team is made up of Millan, Watkins, Jessica Fequiere of Albany, Carli Pogue of New Hampshire and Shania Johnson of Stony Brook.
Sutton was a member of the All-AE second team along with James, Lindsey Abed of Hartford, Olivia Healy of New Hampshire and Hanna Crymble of Vermont.
The third-team choices were Albany senior Tiana-Jo Carter out of Lake Region High School in Naples, teammate Mackenzie Trpcic, Binghamton’s Kai Moon, Darby Lee of Hartford and Stony Brook’s Jerell Matthews.
The All-Defensive team is made up of James, Millan, Carter, Watkins and Janelle Harrison of Hartford. Joining Saar on the All-Rookie team are Jade Young of Hartford, Janee’a Summers of Maryland Baltimore County, Paula Lopez of UMass Lowell and McKenzie Bushee of Stony Brook.
All-Academic accolades were accorded to UMaine’s Fanny Wadling, Kayla Gibbs of UMass Lowell, Trpcic, Abed and Crymble.
Millan had a breakout year after making the All-Rookie team last season. The 6-foot-1 guard from Spain led UMaine and ranked third in the conference averaging 17.1 points per game.
Millan who averaged 5.2 rebounds 1.6 assists and 3.1 steals overall, was second only to Watkins (20.0 ppg) with her 18.3 points per contest in conference games. She was a defensive stalwart because of her ability to step into passing lanes for a league-best 90 steals, 20 more than the closest challenger.
She also ranked third in 3-point percentage (.358), tied for fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.1), tied for fifth in blocked shots per game (0.7) and eighth in field-goal percentage (.458).
“She has been awesome,” said Vachon recently. “To do what she has done as a sophomore is something you don’t see. She has done it at both ends of the floor for us. She has improved so much.”
Sutton, a 5-10 guard from Philadelphia, provided a strong presence in her best collegiate season. She averaged 12.0 points and led the Black Bears in rebounding (7.2) and assists (3.0) while shooting 50 percent from the field, tops among team regulars.
Her rebound average and field-goal percentage both were fourth best in America East and she ranked fourth in offensive rebounds (3.1 per game), sixth in steals (2.0), sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) and eighth in assists.
In conference play, she posted a .538 field-goal percentage (2nd), 13.2 points (9th), 6.9 rebounds (6th), a 1.5 turnover ratio (tie 6th) and 2.7 offensive rebounds (5th).
“She has been our rock. She has had a tremendous year,” said Vachon.
Rossignol has made an impactful return to the program after having stepped away from the team last season. The 5-8 junior guard from Van Buren earned the Sixth Player Award after appearing in all 29 regular-season contests, playing 21.3 minutes per game.
Rossignol, who averaged 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds overall, boosted those numbers to 4.7 ppg and 3.0 rpg in league games, where she featured a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. She also shot 41 percent from the field, including 38 percent from the 3-point arc, in America East play.
“She has been playing with a lot of confidence lately. We have been on her to rebound and she has taken that to heart,” said Vachon.
Rossignol has also developed into a tenacious defender.
Saar excelled during her first collegiate season despite coming in having to fill the shoes of star point guard Sigi Koizar. She is UMaine’s first Rookie of the Year winner since Liz Wood shared the honor in 2013.
The 5-6 sparkplug point guard from Israel logged 27.5 minutes per game and contributed 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists (9th in AE) and almost one steal. Saar was a 37 percent shooter from 3-point range and converted 79 percent of her free throws, which was the best for UMaine.
The crafty Saar elevated her production on America East games, posting 7.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists (7th) while logging 30.7 minutes per contest. Her 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked eighth.
“To be a point guard (as a freshman) is extremely hard and she has excelled at it all year long,” said Vachon.
Wadling, a sophomore forward from Nacka, Sweden, posted a 3.86 grade point average in exercise science to gain All-Academic recognition.
Vachon, who guided UMaine through much of the 2016-2017 season after head coach Richard Barron was forced to take an extended medical leave, helped mold the Black Bears back into a regular-season champion.
After being appointed as the interim head coach last April, Vachon was tasked with some rebuilding as UMaine lost seniors Koizar and Sheraton Jones, but also had five players, including Sixth Player of the Year and All-Rookie choice Laia Sole, transfer out.
Vachon fashioned a nucleus that included one junior, three sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup into a 20-win team (20-9) that claimed its first outright league regular-season crown since 2004-2005 with a 13-3 league record.
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.