November 20, 2012

She's hoping for super season

USM's Nicole Garland is back as a fifth-year senior, and she has lofty goals for the Huskies.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Nicole Garland laughs a bit before she says it, letting you know she's not taking herself too seriously.

click image to enlarge

Nicole Garland is a leader for the Huskies, and a master at 3-point shooting. She has 136 for her career and has a shot at the school record of 207.

Courtesy University of Southern Maine

"I like to call myself a super senior," said the University of Southern Maine sharpshooter.

Garland's moniker has more to do with her academic standing. Having already completed her degree in business administration, she's taking classes to finish off a double major in marketing.

But "super" -- as in superior -- applies.

A fifth-year senior, Garland has seen just about every situation. As a three-year captain she's gained the respect of her teammates and the coaching staff. She has also shown superior commitment to the program, first when foot surgery cost her the 2009-10 season and then again this summer when she chose to come back for another season.

"I wasn't ready to take that leap into the real world and I knew I could be a huge asset to my team if I did play," Garland said. "I came into USM saying I wanted to be a four-year college athlete. I felt I really hadn't accomplished what I wanted to in my life."

Superior is also a good description of Garland's 3-point shooting.

"I guess you could say that's my specialty," Garland said.

Last season she made 44.8 percent of her 3-pointers, setting a USM single-season record with 78 while scoring 12.9 points a game as the Huskies went 21-7 and advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament for the 24th time in 26 seasons.

"We pretty much set the same goals year after year that's why we maintain the tradition and program that we have," Garland said. "We always strive to do well in conference. Some of our goals are just to host the Little East Conference tournament and try to get the NCAA bid."

What has changed for Garland is that her marksmanship makes her a marked woman on the court.

"Yep, definitely. We started seeing it in the second half of last year, people keying more and more on her," USM Coach Gary Fifield said.

With 136 career 3-pointers, Garland has a crack at Kaylie DeMillo's school career record of 207.

"I know I'm going to have to work a lot harder to get open," Garland said. "I'll have to see the floor a lot differently and create my own shots instead of just expecting them to be there."

Garland came to USM after scoring 12.2 points a game as a senior captain on Deering High's 2008 state championship team. As a freshman she played quite a bit with a bone in her heel that never felt quite right.

Eventually she had surgery to remove the cantankerous bone, "about the size of a pea." The surgery was successful but she was out for an entire season.

"Having to go through that, I appreciated the game and my coach and teammates even more," Garland said. "It was hard because I never got injured in high school. It was a big reality check for me."

It was during the season of inactivity that her leadership skills blossomed. Garland came to each practice, every game, and stayed committed to the team. The next year she was named a co-captain and is just the second three-year captain in Fifield's 25-year tenure.

Garland's senior season got off to a super start last Friday when she scored a game-high 18 points and made 5-of-7 3-pointers in a 73-45 rout of UMaine-Farmington. She added 12 points with a pair of 3s the next night in a 74-49 win against Rivier.

It will also be part of Garland's job to blend the old and new talent. USM returns key players like Haley Jordan of Falmouth, expects bigger contributions from sophomores Stephanie Gallagher (York) and Taylor Flood (Sanford), and needs post production from transfers Becca Knight of Alfred (UMaine) and Nash Biliew of Portland (UMass-Lowell).

"The role of a captain is important," Garland said. "Not only to keep everybody in line but to try to give the message that we are a team and we do need to stick together and in order to compete we have high standards."

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com

 

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