UMaine women have grown since 2015 semifinal loss

IMG_0134VESTAL, New York — When Liz Wood walked out of the Events Center last March, it was one of her lowest moments as a student-athlete.

The University of Maine’s star forward was scoreless after shooting 0-for-10 from the field in a 65-54 loss to Hartford in the America East semifinals.

On Saturday, the Black Bears return to the venue for the America East tournament with a renewed sense of purpose.

“That loss really hurt, not only being the end of our America East run but I think we know that we’re capable of so much more,” said Wood, UMaine’s senior captain. “We just let the pressure get to us and we put a lot of that pressure on ourselves when, at the end of the day, it’s just another game.”

Wood said the game was a painful lesson, but one that inspired the Black Bears to continue their quest for improvement, both individually and collectively.

“I think that helped drive us in the offseason just to get better,” Wood said. “Now that it’s here, I think we need to just relax and let our instincts take over and just play.”

UMaine (24-7) puts a seasoned lineup on the floor, one that includes four seniors and junior standout Sigi Koizar, along with bench contributions from three other seniors.

Wood said the group’s collective experience, including playing two full seasons battling Albany for the regular-season title, have helped the Black Bears mature.

“I think we have tournament experience and have played in the big games and recently we’ve won the big games,” Wood said of a ballclub that is 29-3 in league play over the last two seasons.

“We are more able to get our mindset right for the big moments and just be able to do what we need to do execution-wise,” she added.

Coach Richard Barron said UMaine’s consistently strong defense and its offensive potency make the Black Bears dangerous in the postseason.

“Our defense should keep us in every game,” he said of a unit that has given up only 49.9 points per game, which ranks fourth in Division I.

“Sometimes they get tight, the games do, but that means our defense and our rebounding can help us win games even if we’re not hitting shots,” Barron added.

In Saturday’s quarterfinal against New Hampshire, UMaine likely will rely on a combination of its 1-2-2 matchup zone and its player-to-player defenses.

If the Black Bears can hold the Wildcats in check, that opens the door for them to put together two or three game-changing runs.

“I think this is a team that’s capable of big offensive explosions. When we get into a rhythm and are moving the ball, we can get on really big runs,” Barron said.

“We’re not giving up a 15-0 run but we’re capable of going on one,” he added.

BEAR TRACKS: UMaine senior guard Chantel Charles is expected to be available on Saturday after turning her left ankle during last Saturday’s home win over Binghamton. The Black Bears are otherwise healthy.

Pete Warner

About Pete Warner

Pete is a Bangor native who graduated from Bangor High School, Class of 1980. He earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He has been a full-time member of the Bangor Daily News Sports staff since 1984. Pete lives in Bangor with his wife of 32 years, Annia. They have two adult sons, Will and Paul. Pete is fluent in Spanish and enjoys visiting his in-laws and friends in Costa Rica. His hobbies including hunting, fishing and listening to jazz.