Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Steve Craig firstname.lastname@example.org
BIDDEFORD — Seldom has Meghan Gribbin found a basketball stage too big for her game.
Meghan Gribbin started every game last year for UNE and averaged 7.2 points per game. Coach Anthony Ewing, however, wants her to shoot more this year.
Steve Craig/Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND
COACH: Anthony Ewing (seventh year, 127-45)
LAST SEASON: 25-5, 18-0 in CCC, NCAA second round
STRENGTHS: The return of four starters led by sophomore guard Meghan Gribbin (7.2 ppg, 4.0 apg) of Windham and 5-11 junior Kelly Coleman (12.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg) plus three valuable reserves. Nor’easters have become a regional powerhouse and now expect to win.
QUESTION: Can Coleman continue to improve without graduated Beth Suggs (14.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg)?
OUTLOOK: After earning school-record 25 wins and losing Suggs a slight dip is probable. As Ewing noted, UNE can’t improve on its CCC record. A third straight NCAA bid is very realistic.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE
COACH: Gary Fifield (25th year, 628-115)
LAST SEASON: 27-2, 17-1 in Little East, NCAA first round
STRENGTHS: Junior forward Rebecca Knight and sophomore transfer Megan Pelletier (16.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg at Thomas College) should give a one-two inside punch. Senior G Erin McNamara is a three-year starter and joins Knight as a returning starter.
QUESTION: Can veterans Maria Callender (Portland), Stephanie Gallagher (York) and Taylor Flood and/or transfer Gretchen Anderson (Kittery Point/Alleghany) be effective in bigger roles?
OUTLOOK: The graduation of three first-team LEC players, including 3-year captain Nicole Garland, and a tough first-semester schedule will add losses to the ledger but Fifield likes his team’s preseason growth.
COACH: Mike McDevitt, 21st season (392-157)
LAST SEASON: 16-11, 9-3 in GNAC
STRENGTHS: Very good inside game with sophomore Morgan Cahill of Yarmouth (13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg), the GNAC Rookie of the Year in 2012-13, GNAC Defensive POY senior Lindsay Moore (10.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and improved senior Abby Young (7.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.2 blocks), a 6-footer from North Yarmouth (Greely). Co-captains Mackenzie Dufour (Cony) and active junior Sarah Assante (Bonny Eagle) bring experience to point.
QUESTION: Who will provide needed 3-point shooting to make defenses pay for collapsing around Cahill?
OUTLOOK: Inside game and overall experience make Monks again a top-three team in the GNAC.
COACH: Adrienne Shibles, sixth year (105-37)
LAST SEASON: 14-11, 4-6 in NESCAC
STRENGTHS: Four returning starters, led by 6-foot forwards junior Megan Phelps (8.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and sophomore Shannon Brady (7.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg), and loads of experience in reserve make offense very balanced. Shibles believes all five first-year players will make immediate impact, including “dynamic point guard,” Marle Curle, forward Emily Campbell (York) and guard Sydney Hancock (Lake Region).
QUESTION: Can balanced approach make up for graduation loss of first-team all-NESCAC Kaitlin Donahoe (15.4 ppg), especially with captain Allie Piscina shelved with a torn ACL for second straight season?
OUTLOOK: NESCAC has three teams ranked in preseason top 10 (No. 3 Amherst, No. 7 Tufts, No. 9 Williams) but Shibles says she has “highest expectations this year,” to win the conference championship.
SOUTHERN MAINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
COACH: Julia Howe, first season
LAST SEASON: 17-9, 10-4 in YSCC
STRENGTHS: All-around games of senior South Portland guards Esther Palmieri and Danielle McCusker, quality depth (every player is averaging at least nine minutes in a 3-1 start), and aggressive play on the boards led by Maria Veino (Sanford) and Nyalieb Deng (Portland). High-paced offense. The addition of McCusker, who played last season at Central Maine CC.
QUESTION: Are Seawolves improved enough to get past CMCC, which ended their 2012-13 season with YSCC semifinal whipping?
OUTLOOK: Team has started 3-1 and is scoring 82 points a night. Seawolves should again make the YSCC postseason tournament.
– Steve Craig, Staff Writer
When she needed 21 points to reach 1,000 in her high school career, she gave an adoring Windham High crowd a 36-point effort.
One year later, the 2012 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year was on the NCAA stage as the freshman point guard for the University of New England women’s basketball team. Gribbin was a picture of calm, knocking down all eight of her free throws en route to an 11-point, nine-assist effort in a 67-58 win.
This year the pass-first 5-foot-5 point guard with an easy smile and quick hands is a sophomore.
The stage isn’t getting any bigger. The difference is this year she’s being asked to command it more.
“Coach (Anthony Ewing) has from day one told me he wants me to be the floor general and I don’t really have a choice being the point guard,” said Gribbin before Wednesday night’s practice. “Not just the talking but he wants me to step up more with the scoring. Even though I love passing he wants me to shoot more.”
The Nor’easters went 25-5 last season with Gribbin starting every game at the point, averaging 7.2 points and 4.0 assists.
“She had the best assist-to-turnover ratio of any freshman I’ve ever had,” Ewing said, pointing to her 2-to-1 margin.
But the 2012-13 team was unquestionably Beth Suggs’ team. The three-year starter from Morse High was the leading scorer, leading rebounder, best post defender and loudest voice on a team that routinely started three freshmen and a sophomore around her.
“She was basically everything,” Gribbin said of Suggs.
No one, however, is expecting Suggs’ departure to signal a drop-off in team performance.
“The goals are to do better than last year,” Ewing said. “They want to go back to the NCAA tournament and to go further. It’s their identity and their culture now.”
Gribbin, 19, said in high school she always felt a little uncomfortable trying to tell teammates what to do and a bit self-conscious when she was scoring 20.4 points per game as a senior.
“I never wanted to hurt people’s feelings but Coach (Ewing) is like, ‘that’s what they want you to do. They want you to tell them where to go. They want you to be the leader and set people up.’ It’s coming more natural than it did in high school, I feel,” Gribbin said.
“I used to be so shy on the court and I didn’t like taking over but ever since last year, I know I have to now.”
UNE sophomore Lauren Hayden, a forward who loves to drive to the basket, said a more forceful Gribbin will help the team.
“Hopefully she will look at the basket a little more. Once her shots start falling it will open up her passing,” Hayden said. “Then she can go back to what she likes to do, which is pass.”
Now it’s up to young players like Gribbin, Hayden, and leading returning scorer and junior forward Kelly Coleman.
“They just have a good culture of winning here. You have to win. You have to be successful and everybody buys into it here,” Gribbin said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: