Alexa Coulombe said it didn’t take long for her to figure out that basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference was a whole new ballgame.
“As soon as I subbed into games it was obvious. These girls are so much different,” the 6-foot-2 Coulombe said Wednesday, a few days after the completion of her freshman season at Boston College. “They have better skill sets, they’re bigger. Some of the guards are as tall as I am and the post players usually outweigh me by 60, 70 pounds.”
The Falmouth resident had been the dominant player on the dominant team in Maine, leading Catherine McAuley to back-to-back Class A state titles.
First-year BC Coach Erik Johnson said Coulombe quickly realized she needed to improve her strength and immediately went to work.
“We lift two times a week during the season,” Johnson said. “She kept getting at least one, if not two, extra lifts a week. She wanted to get stronger so she could play more. … She had the maturity to say, ‘I want to get this done and I don’t want to wait until my junior year.’”
At McAuley, Coulombe averaged 11.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists as a senior. She was twice named the Western Class A tournament MVP.
In her first five collegiate games, Coulombe did not score from the floor.
“The whole speed of the game, it was just so much different than where I was coming from,” Coulombe said.
A non-conference game against Vermont, in which she scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, helped Coulombe gain confidence.
“That kind of proved to me that I was capable of playing at this level and with this group of girls,” she said. “Having that happen more toward the beginning of season kind of helped me build going forward.”
Against ACC teams, Coulombe developed into a consistent off-the-bench contributor, both as a backup center and as a power forward. Her minutes, shooting percentage (25 of 45, .555), and rebounding totals rose. In six conference games she played 20 or more minutes,
Overall, Coulombe played in all 31 games for the Eagles (12-19 overall, 5-13 ACC). She averaged 2.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and contributed a team-high 25 blocks.
“When Alexa came off the bench early in the season I was only using her to sub for (center) Katie Zenevitch,” Johnson said. “She was lacking some of the physical strength to catch and finish but as her game and confidence came along, I started playing her with Katie quite a bit.”
BC, with one senior on its roster, pulled an upset in the first round of the ACC tournament. Entering as the 11th seed, BC beat No. 6 Virginia, 66-57. Coulombe had four points and four boards in the first half.
BC’s season ended the next night with a quarterfinal loss to No. 15 North Carolina, 62-57. Coulombe called her freshman season “a great experience.”
“I learned a lot and I definitely realized I have a lot more to learn so I’m definitely excited,” she said.
At Vermont, sophomore forward Niki Taylor of York was second on the team in scoring (8.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 rpg). Taylor led the Catamounts (10-21) with 88 offensive rebounds and made 78.6 percent of her free throws. Kayla Burchill of Portland (Deering), also a sophomore forward, contributed 3.5 points and 1.7 rebounds, appearing in 25 games.
Boston College senior captain Matt Pare, formerly of Portland and Deering High School, is one of 48 catchers on the initial watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, given annually to the top Division I catcher. The list will be pared to semifinalists May 16, with three finalists announced June 4.
Pare made eight starts behind the plate for the Eagles (3-11) during their spring trip and is batting .179.
Three other SMAA products are on the BC roster. In eight games, freshman Joe Cronin of Scarborough has played both second and third base and is hitting .182. Cronin also pitched one inning of hitless relief.
Red-shirt freshman outfielder Nick Colucci of Portland (Deering) and freshman right-handed pitcher Luke Fernandes of Eliot (Marshwood) have not played.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
Bentley University freshman Nicola Mancini of Falmouth finished her stellar season by becoming an All-American on the one-meter board by finishing eighth at the NCAA Division II Championships in Birmingham, Ala. Mancini, the Northeast-10 champ in both diving events, finished 12th in the three-meter competition, missing the final by four places and 17.20 points. Mancini is Bentley’s first All-American in women’s diving.
INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Bates College senior James LePage earned All-America status in the 800 meters by finishing fourth in the NCAA Division III Championships in Naperville, Ill. LePage, from Cumberland (Greely), bettered his own school record with 1:51.08. The winning time was 1:50.30 as the top five runners all went under the previous facility record time.
Bates finished fifth in the team competition, won by Wisconsin-LaCrosse for the 16th time.
Thomas College senior Kelsey Crowe of Gorham figures to be a stalwart on the mound and at the plate for the Terriers. Crowe led the squad as a junior in doubles (6), walks (13) and RBI (19) while batting .298, and winning six games as a pitcher with a team-leading 94 strikeouts, 95 innings pitched and 4.42 ERA.
Kate Thibodeau of Woolwich (Morse) is a junior infielder/outfielder who played in 24 games as a sophomore.
• Husson University sophomore outfielder Kelsey Livermore of Kennebunk and senior infielder Aimee Mortensen of Biddeford each had a hit in a season-opening loss to Washington University last week.
Thomas College senior midfielder Ceara DiBiase of Westbrook has scored 14 goals with five assists as Thomas has gotten off to a 3-2 start in its non-conference schedule. As a junior, DiBiase was a second-team all-North Atlantic Conference performer with 29 goals and 11 assists. Senior forward Jasmine Ryan of Berwick (Noble) junior Jillian Lambert of Dayton (Thornton Academy) are also key returners. Ryan has five goals and six assists this season, with Lambert contributing four goals and two assists. First-year goalkeeper Brittany Fox of Lovell (Fryeburg Academy) has played every second this season.
• Husson first-year attack Anna Wolterbeek of Wells assisted on a late goal as the Eagles edged Norwich, 11-10.
• Saint Michael’s College sophomore Kate Boyer of Standish (Bonny Eagle), coming off a 17-goal freshman season, started the Purple Knights’ season-opening 14-4 loss to Queen’s College.
Senior attacker Sean Machin of Brunswick returns to Thomas College after scoring a team-leading 21 goals as a junior on a 4-11 (3-5 in the NAC) squad. Senior Isaac Brown of Kennebunk is a returning defenseman. Freshmen defensemen Zac Crimmin of Westbrook and Zachery Sargent of Denmark (Fryeburg) are among the 11 newcomers to the program.
Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at: