Amherst, Massachusetts, is 192 miles farther away from Bangor than Brunswick.
But Husson University women’s basketball coach Kissy Walker said she is glad the Eagles are going to Amherst College for their NCAA Division III basketball tournament regional rather than to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, where they went last year.
“I just didn’t want to go to Bowdoin. I wanted a different experience for the kids,” said Walker, whose Eagles were dispatched by the Polar Bears 94-32.
NESCAC rivals Amherst and Bowdoin met in last year’s NCAA Division III championship game in Rochester, Minnesota, and Amherst prevailed 65-45.
The Husson men also will head to western Massachusetts for their four-team NCAA Division III regional. The Eagles take on host Williams College in Williamstown.
Both first-round games are Friday with the times yet to be determined.
The Husson women are 19-8 and became the first women’s basketball team in North Atlantic Conference history to win four consecutive tournament championships by virtue of Saturday’s 58-51 triumph over Maine Maritime Academy of Castine.
Washburn senior guard Kenzie Worcester earned her fourth consecutive tournament Most Valuable Player award.
Amherst is 23-3. The other matchup in the regional involves New York institutions Vassar (21-6) and SUNY Geneseo (23-4).
The Husson men are 17-10 and take on a Williams College team that is 20-6. The other first-round matchup in the regional pits Plattsburgh State (20-5) from New York against Gwynedd Mercy (19-8) of Pennsylvania.
Husson is the only men’s team from Maine that qualified for the 64-team tournament. Husson secured the bid with an 82-67 win over Thomas College of Waterville in the NAC title game on Saturday in Farmington.
Husson senior forward Justin Martin of Winslow was the tourney MVP.
On the women’s side, Bowdoin (26-1) and Saint Joseph’s College of Standish (27-1) also punched their tickets to the tourney as at-large teams after each lost for the first time in their league tournament finals this past weekend.
Saint Joseph’s lost 65-64 to Emmanuel in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference final on Saturday, and Bowdoin dropped a 75-69 decision to Tufts in the New England Small College Athletic Conference final on Sunday.
Coach Adrienne Shibles’ Bowdoin Polar Bears will host a regional and take on Hunter College (18-9) on Friday. The other game features Smith College (21-6) against the 22-3 U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Coach Mike McDevitt’s St. Joseph’s Monks head to Ithaca College to face the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (21-7) in the first round. Ithaca (22-5) meets SUNY Polytechnic Institute (23-5) in the other matchup.
Walker said this year’s conference title is especially sweet because the team lost three players to season-ending knee injuries: Junior center Sami Ireland of Howland, junior forward Barrett Campbell of Saco and freshman guard Emily Wheaton of Presque Isle.
Ireland was averaging 11.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game when she was hurt in a 64-59 victory over No. 8 Chicago on Dec. 30.
“When Sami went down, it took the wind out of you a little bit,” Walker said. “But I talked to the coaching staff and we decided we needed to work very hard to bring each and every one of the girls along. That’s the only option we had. And you’ve got to give the kids credit, they found ways to win. Different kids stepped up.”
Becoming the first NAC women’s team to win four basketball titles in a row is a point of pride for the program,” Walker said.
She pointed out that Amherst will be the fourth top-12 team they’ve played this year along with Bowdoin, which was No. 1 at the time, No. 8 Chicago and No. 12 Saint Joseph’s.
“How many teams can say they’ve played the Nos. 1, 4, 8 and 12 teams in the country? That’s pretty good,” she said.