Two overachieving University of Maine teams defied the odds and were in position to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. Both were denied that opportunity by the coronavirus, which ended their seasons prematurely.
Friday’s America East women’s basketball championship game between two-time defending champ UMaine and Stony Brook on Long Island and the Hockey East home quarterfinal series between the Black Bears and the University of Connecticut both were canceled.
But representatives of those programs are taking the development in stride.
“I’m disappointed but there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Public safety comes first,” said Maddy McVicar, a fifth-year senior on the women’s basketball team.
UMaine men’s hockey head coach Red Gendron agreed.
“It’s a health crisis we’re in the middle of,” said Gendron.
“I’m disappointed for our players but, obviously, we have bigger things going on: The health of everybody in our community and in our country,” Gendron said.
McVicar admitted the UMaine players all thought they were going to play Friday’s title game. It was first decided by America East that it was going to be played without spectators and then the league decided to cancel it after reviewing the proliferation of the coronavirus.
“It’s always exciting to play in a championship game,” McVicar said.
Gendron said he feels bad for his six seniors, whose season was abruptly cut short.
“They were devastated last (Thursday) night,” Gendron said of meeting with the team.
“Everybody else in the country is in the same boat. Our team suffered like everybody else. Our seniors won’t get another kick at this can. They did an amazing job. I feel bad for them and for all the people involved [in our program]. Everyone put in a lot of work,” he said.
Gendron said it is of the utmost importance to get a handle on the coronavirus and minimize its impact.
The women’s basketball team will be remembered for overcoming a rash of injuries, including five season-ending knee injuries.
UMaine finished second in America East at 18-14 and ended the season with a 10-game winning streak.
“Like coach [Amy Vachon] said, we were resilient all year long. I couldn’t have played with a better group of girls. We kept fighting,” McVicar said.
She will also always remember the enthusiastic fan support, saying “Maine fans are something you don’t find many places.”
The hockey team, picked to finish eighth in the Hockey East coaches’ preseason poll, went 18-11-5 overall and was 10-3-2 over its final 15 games. UMaine finished fourth to earn its first Hockey East home quarterfinal series berth since 2012.
UMaine wound up 15th in the Pairwise Rankings that mimic the NCAA Tournament selection process and was on track to earn an NCAA tourney spot.