The University of Maine women’s basketball team is a unanimous choice to capture its third consecutive America East championship, according to a preseason coaches’ poll released Wednesday.
All eight opposing league coaches selected coach Amy Vachon’s Black Bears No. 1 in the America East poll with the maximum 64 points.
Stony Brook was second in the polling with 55 points, followed by UAlbany with 52 points and one first-place vote, as coaches cannot vote for their own teams.
Binghamton was fourth in the poll with 41 points, while 2018-19 America East runner-up Hartford placed fifth with 32 points. Vermont (29), New Hampshire (23), Maryland Baltimore County (16) and UMass Lowell (12) completed the nine-school field.
In addition, UMaine senior guard Blanca Millan has been named to the America East preseason all-conference team for the second straight season.
Millan last winter became the fourth player in America East history to earn both America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season.
The 6-foot-1 native of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, led America East in scoring (17.2 points per game) and steals per game (2.8). She also became the seventh fastest Black Bear to reach 1,000 career points and the third player to achieve that milestone in just her third season with the program.
Millan is joined on the America East preseason all-star team by senior guard Kai Moon of Binghamton, senior forward Hanna Crymble of Vermont, junior forward India Pagan of Stony Brook and junior guard Kyara Frames of Albany.
UMaine will seek to become the fifth team in league history to capture three consecutive America East tournament titles — the Black Bears previously won four straight during the mid- and late-1990s.
The Black Bears finished 25-8 overall, 15-1 in conference play last winter and advanced to the NCAA Division I Tournament where they lost a 63-51 decision at North Carolina State.
This year’s team returns three starters in Millan, senior center Fanny Wadling and junior point guard Dor Saar.
Wadling led America East with 9.0 rebounds per game last winter while also contributing 6.7 points and 3.0 assists per contest.
Saar, a third-team All-America East selection in 2018-19, started all 33 games for the Black Bears, and averaged 9.4 points and a team-best 4.9 assists per game. Saar ranked second in America East for both assists per game (4.09) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5).
UMaine begins its schedule with exhibition games against Stonehill College on Oct. 27 and McGill University on Nov. 3, both at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The Black Bears’ regular-season opener follows at Delaware on Nov. 8, with another road game at Brown on Nov. 11 before their home opener against Boston University on Nov. 17 at the Cross Center.