Without injured seniors Fanny Wadling and Maeve Carroll, the University of Maine women’s basketball team opened the season without an established inside presence.
Wadling, the America East rebounding leader during 2018-2019, missed all of last season after suffering a concussion in a Nov. 3, 2019, exhibition victory over McGill University.
She and Carroll, an All-America East second-team selection last season, have been sidelined by undisclosed injuries early this season.
Wadling is slated to return for Sunday’s game at Northeastern, her first regular season game in 21 months, while Carroll is expected back in the near future.
Abbe Laurence, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who missed the last 21 games last winter with a knee injury, helped fill that void in the paint in the Black Bears’ season opening road wins over Providence (62-48) and Rhode Island (61-47).
The Portsmouth, New Hampshire, player scored 10 points in each game and grabbed nine rebounds against Providence. She combined for three assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
Laurence averaged just 6.4 minutes per game in games last season.
“She did a lot of good things last weekend and I’m excited to see what’s in front of her,” Vachon said. “She didn’t start playing basketball until a few years ago. So her ceiling is very, very high. She works really hard and [assistant coach] Tom Biskup has done a great job with her. She is getting better every single day.”
Vachon said Laurence is strong and may be the fastest female athlete on campus.
“Her desire to get better is incredible,” said fifth-year senior guard Blanca Millan, who worked out and played basketball with Laurence over the summer.
UMaine is slowly regaining the services of the injured players, including sophomore guard Anna Kahelin, a strong defender whose season ended with a knee injury in the final playoff game.
“We should have our full roster available by the middle to end of January,” Vachon said.
Millan, the 2019 America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, returned after having knee surgery last fall. She combined for 32 points, 21 rebounds, five assists and four steals to earn her ninth career America East Player of the Week award.
“At times I didn’t feel like I had been out as long as I have been,” Millan said of adjusting to game action.
Vachon isn’t surprised Millan played as well as she did and pointed out that she did a lot of little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. URI focused defensively on Millan and held her to 12 points.
“I don’t care about scoring as long as we win,” Millan said.
UMaine is preparing for a busy stretch of three games in four days. The Bears play Sunday at Northeastern, then their first America East contests Tuesday and Wednesday at Harford.
Millan said playing games in four days isn’t a big deal.
“We work pretty hard. We do a lot of conditioning,” Millan said.