BIDDEFORD — The national women’s basketball poll with the University of New England on its list was posted Tuesday. Suddenly, Anthony Ewing was hearing questions from players who had never before been recognized nationally for their basketball success.
What’s this mean, Coach?
Very little, said Ewing. It means the nine coaches who vote in USA Today’s Division III Top 25 Coaches Poll noticed UNE’s 17-2 overall record when the week began. UNE got enough votes to be ranked 25th. “I told the players, if we lose again, we’re out. I told them it’s a little something extra for me to say when I’m out recruiting.”
Being nationally ranked sounds good. Winning the next game on the schedule is even better.
UNE plays Saturday afternoon in its Harold Alfond Forum against Salve Regina, which was the top team in the Commonwealth Coast Conference until UNE, currently 12-1 in league play, took that distinction last season. Salve Regina (8-5) lost to UNE 79-78 in overtime earlier in the season and is playing for fourth place and home court for the first round of the conference playoffs Feb. 25.
“Now we’re the team with the target on our backs,” said Meghan DeRaps, one of only two seniors and a co-captain. “Everybody wants to play their best game against us and we’re still a young team.
“Sometimes we don’t know how to put teams away. We give them false hope.”
Last year, senior center Beth Suggs wouldn’t permit her younger teammates to relax when a game seemed to be won. UNE was 25-5 overall and 18-0 in the conference. “We miss Beth’s sense of urgency,” said Ewing. “She let everyone know this was it for her. She wouldn’t let us lose and she pulled her teammates with her. She wore her heart on her sleeve.
“You can’t coach that leadership. It has to develop. I think it is.”
DeRaps (of Richmond) and junior Kelly Coleman (Portland, Conn.), the other co-captain and UNE’s leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, lead by their work ethic. “We’ve had games where we’ve had to grind it out to get the win,” said DeRaps. The Nor’easters do win. An eight-game winning streak was stopped by conference foe Roger Williams on Jan. 18. UNE is now on a six-game winning streak.
Sophomores Alanna Vose (Cushing/Medomak Valley) and Lauren Hayden (Chantilly, Va.) supplement Coleman’s scoring. Hayden leads Division III in steals with 93.
Ewing is in his seventh season at UNE. His goal was to raise the program’s profile, particularly in southern Maine where the University of Southern Maine, Bowdoin and St. Joseph’s have traditions of success and NCAA playoff appearances. USM and Bowdoin have been national finalists. UNE’s next goal is to win more than one game in the NCAA tournament.
The poll rankings will take care of themselves.
“We’ve shown by how we play at times we’re capable of beating any team in the country,” said Ewing, now in his seventh season at UNE. “But we could lose to anyone in our conference. I want to see more consistency.”
The men’s and women’s basketball teams remain ranked in the D3hoops.com polls. The men, led by junior center John Swords (Sudbury, Mass., 13.6 ppg) and junior forward Keegan Pieri (Camden, 12.0 ppg) are 18-2 and ranked 18th. The women, with sophomore forward Shannon Brady (Scituate, Mass., 14.0 ppg) and junior guard Sara Bickhorst (West Hartford, Conn., 12.8 ppg), are 18-3 and ranked 22nd. Both teams play at Middlebury on Sunday afternoon.
University of Southern Maine
The baseball coaching staff and team will hold its one-day clinic for the 24th year on Feb. 24th in the Costello Fieldhouse on the Gorham campus. The clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is open to players ages 8 to 18. The $50 fee helps fund the baseball team’s spring trip. For further information, contact Coach Ed Flaherty at 780-5474.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: