The University of Vermont women’s basketball team was 7-23 this past season with Kayla Burchill of Portland (Deering High) and Niki Taylor of York the team’s two leading scorers.
They know the record looks bleak. They also contend it was a year of growth that has them already excited for their senior seasons.
“I know our wins don’t show it but this season we got so much better from day one to the end,” Burchill said.
“We had a lot of injuries, a lot of setbacks, at the beginning of the year,” Taylor said. “It’s sad to see the season over and sad to see our seniors leave, but I’m excited to get to next year.”
Burchill was one of the Catamounts who struggled with injuries, a recurring theme for the 6-foot-1 forward and 3-point shooter who helped lead Deering to two Class A titles.
Burchill missed eight games this season, starting the year with a shoulder injury and then suffering a concussion that cost her six more games. In 22 games (14 starts) she averaged a team-high 12.1 points while making 40 percent of her 3-point attempts and adding 3.8 rebounds.
Taylor averaged 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds while starting 23 games.
Both players were at their best down the stretch, averaging 14 points over the final four games and scoring 18 apiece in an 85-79 America East quarterfinal loss to New Hampshire last Friday in Albany, N.Y.
Taylor and Burchill have played together for many years, both coming to Vermont after playing AAU basketball with the New England Crusaders, a team based in Nashua, N.H.
“Kayla is a great player mentally and physically,” Taylor said. “During the end of games we look for her to score on the outside and more on the inside this year. Coming back from injury and persevering, it’s a great obstacle she’s had to go through that’s only made her better.”
Burchill may be a bit taller than the 6-foot Taylor but it’s Taylor who works inside.
“She’s so strong and playing against her every day in practice, she makes me better every day,” Burchill said. “I know if I can cover Niki, I can cover anyone.”
Vermont will return more than 90 percent of its scoring next season and Taylor said she’s excited about the incoming freshmen.
Vermont has a history of success with six conference titles and NCAA appearances since 1991-92, including back-to-back tourney trips in 2009 and 2010.
But Burchill and Taylor have experienced three straight losing seasons and a combined 27-64 record in their three years – a far cry from the success both experienced in high school. Taylor played in two Class B title games with York, winning in 2010.
“Everyone’s goal is to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Taylor said. “I think it’s going to be hard but obviously that’s the overall goal.”
“I’ve always had belief in this team,” Burchill said. “I just see us always figure it out too late in the season.”
In the past there was always a next year. Not anymore.
Burchill said her forced inactivity due to her concussion gave her a greater sense of urgency once she was cleared to play.
“I know my time is coming to an end,” she said. “I just need to not regret anything and play hard, and try to make myself the best I can be the next year.”
Boston College 6-foot-2 forward Alexa Coulombe of Falmouth (McAuley) finished her sophomore season recently for the Eagles (12-19). Coulombe appeared in all 31 games, making three starts. The former Miss Maine Basketball averaged 1.6 points and 2.3 rebounds playing just over 14 minutes per game. BC was 3-13 in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference, losing 12 of its final 13 games.
Clark University senior Megan Grondin of Cumberland (Greely) became the school’s 20th career 1,000-point scorer late in the season. Grondin averaged 7.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in her senior season, and finished with 1,036 points and ranked fourth on Clark’s all-time free-throw percentage list (.775).
Kaitlyn Mathieu of Waterboro (Worcester Academy) is wrapping up her career at William & Mary this week in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament at Upper Marlboro, Md. The 6-foot-2 senior is the team’s No. 2 scorer at 11.1 points per game, and leads the Tribe (8-20) in rebounding (6.7) and blocks (0.9). William & Mary, the No. 8 seed, plays North Carolina-Wilmington in a first-round game Thursday.
St. Anselm senior 6-foot-7 forward Dominic Borelli of Westbrook has helped guide the Hawks to the NCAA Division II tournament. St. Anselm (20-7) earned an at-large bid after winning the Northeast-10 regular-season title and advancing to its conference semifinal. The Hawks are the third seed in the East Region. St. Anselm will play No. 6 Le Moyne at Southern Connecticut State on Saturday.
After starting every game as a junior, Borelli was a top reserve this season, averaging 5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds while making 70.1 percent of his field-goal attempts.
The former Maine Sunday Telegram All-State pick has never missed a game in his four-year college career.
TRACK AND FIELD
Dartmouth junior Will Geoghegan will be running the mile at the NCAA Division I championships this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M. Geoghegan’s top time, a school-record 3 minutes, 58.04 seconds, ranks seventh in the nation.
The mile semifinals are Friday. The top four finishers in each of two heats plus the next two fastest times advance to Saturday’s final.
Geoghegan is not expected to double at the NCAAs, though he does have the ninth-fastest 3,000-meter time (7:51.57).
• Many highly ranked Division III athletes from southern Maine were featured in Wednesday’s Press Herald. One athlete not mentioned was Keene State senior Ryan Widzgowski of Camden (Camden Hills). Widzgowski, a two-time All-American, is seeded fourth in the 800 (1:50.81) and third in the mile (4:06.41).
Brandeis senior Amelia Lundkvist of South Portland (Cheverus) is seeded ninth in the women’s mile, and sophomore Emily Tolman of Scarborough is part of Colby’s 10th-seeded 1,600 relay team.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: