In this March 2020 file photo Maeve Carroll of the University of Maine (5) battles Vermont's Delaney Richardson (left) for a rebound during the an America East quarterfinal game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Carroll will return for a fifth season thanks to a COVID-19 waiver from the NCAA. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Senior forward Maeve Carroll said her decision to return to the University of Maine and play a fifth year of basketball was an easy one.

“I wanted to come back,” Carroll said. “I love this program. I love our basketball team. You won’t find a team that cares about each other like this team does.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA has given student-athletes a blanket waiver, meaning the 2020-2021 season doesn’t count against their eligibility. Athletes are allowed to complete four seasons over five academic years.

“Coach [Amy Vachon] brought the seniors into a circle and told us we would have another year. She didn’t pressure us [to return],” Carroll said.

The 5-foot-11 native of Oakton, Virginia, has dramatically transformed herself from a reserve rebounding specialist into one of the top forwards in America East.

After seeing limited action her first two seasons, Carroll burst into the limelight last season. She helped lead the injury-riddled Black Bears to the America East championship game, which was canceled due to the pandemic.

Carroll averaged 12.4 points, a team-high 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 30 games while also leading the team with 20 blocked shots. She led the league with 11 double-doubles and was an All-America East second-team selection.

She missed the first five games this season with an injury but has averaged 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3 assists since her return for the league-leading Black Bears, who are 15-2 overall and 12-2 in America East.

Carroll intends to work toward her master’s degree in business.

“We are thrilled that Maeve has chosen to pursue her master’s degree in business and return to our program for a fifth year,” Vachon said. “Maeve has developed into one of the best players in the conference and we are excited that she will be back to help lead a young team next year.”

There are eight freshmen and sophomores on the squad this season in addition to the five seniors.

“It will be a different team next year but we will keep a lot of the same group of people and it will be very exciting to see the young kids,” Carroll said.

The other seniors who could return include Blanca Millan, Fanny Wadling, Dor Saar and Kelly Fogarty. Millan and Wadling were medical redshirts last winter, so they are already in their fifth season at UMaine.

UMaine is scheduled to play New Hampshire at 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Gym in Orono.