GORHAM – University of Southern Maine women’s basketball coach Gary Fifield did not receive congratulations after last season, but what he heard was an indirect compliment nonetheless.

“I got asked what happened?” Fifield said.

The Huskies finished 18-11 and followers wanted to know what the problem was. That is how well established the USM program has been.

“Ninety percent of the teams out there would love to have 18 wins,” Fifield said.

But it was the Huskies’ first season with fewer than 20 wins since 1979-80, in Dick Costello’s third season. Fifield took over in 1987.

“Certainly it was a disappointment,” Fifield said, “but it was bound to happen sometime.”

Now Fifield is getting ready for Saturday when Division III basketball teams can begin practice for the 2011-12 season.

The Huskies lost a few key players, including two seniors from last season, guard Kaylie DeMillo and forward Becky Dixon, and guard Lauren Rousseau of Biddeford who transferred to the University of New England.

Among those returning are 6-foot-1 senior Courtney Cochran of Waite, a first-team all-Little East Conference selection after averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds a game; senior guard Renee Nicholas of Sebago (8.7 points a game); and sophomore point guard Erin McNamara, the Maine Women Basketball Coaches Association rookie of the year.

Junior Haley Jordan of Falmouth and senior Nicole Garland of Portland are also back.

Among the newcomers are freshman guard Stephanie Gallagher of York and a transfer from Division II Franklin Pierce University, forward Jordan Grant.

The Division III season begins Oct. 15. USM will play at UNE, and St. Joseph’s will visit the University of Maine at Farmington. Bowdoin will host a tipoff tournament Oct. 18-19.

IN FIELD HOCKEY, Bowdoin (8-0) and UNE (13-0) remain undefeated.

The Polar Bears are ranked No. 3 in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll. The Nor’easters moved up to No. 19.

Bowdoin (6-0 in the NESCAC) plays host to Amherst (5-0) at noon Sunday.

St. Joseph is 8-2 overall and 6-0 in the North Atlantic Conference.

The Monks are led by sophomore T.J. Cowin (12 goals) of Newry, who transferred from Simmons College. Senior goalkeeper Meaghan Johnson (Cheverus High) has allowed only nine goals in 10 games.

IN CROSS COUNTRY, USM junior Molly Carl of York finished 31st out of 269 runners in the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association championships in Boston. Carl, the seventh Division III runner to finish, completed the 5,017-meter course in 18 minutes, 37 seconds.

Freshman Hannah Wiley of Arundel was the next USM finisher in 20:26.

St. Joseph’s freshman Amber Dostie picked up her second victory this season, on her home course, finishing the Runnin’ Monks Invitational 5K in 20:10.

IN WOMEN’S SOCCER, the University of New England continues a strong season with a 9-2-2 record after a 3-2 loss against Bowdoin Tuesday night.

The Nor’easters, 5-0 in The Commonwealth Coast Conference, face 5-0 Salve Regina Saturday in Rhode Island.

BOWDOIN VOLLEYBALL is nationally ranked for the first time, cracking the American Volleyball Coaches poll at No. 25.

The Polar Bears, on a 14-match winning streak, are 15-1 overall, 6-0 in the NESCAC.

Last week, Bowdoin rallied to beat Williams 23-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-8 after losing its last 28 matches against the Ephs.

IN MEN’S GOLF, the University of Southern finished second in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference tournament at Gorham Country Club.

Individually, A.J. Simokaitis of Falmouth finished second (75-72–147) and Josh Hogan of Falmouth was third (76-73–149).

BOWDOIN FOOTBALL picked up its first win of the season, beating Tufts 27-6 last week on the road. The Polar Bears (1-2) play host to 2-1 Hamilton at noon Saturday.

BOWDOIN WAS ranked No. 8 in the first Division III men’s hockey national poll, released by U.S. College Hockey Online.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]

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