The University of New England women’s basketball team entered this season with experienced players and lofty expectations.

So far, very good.

The Nor’easters beefed up their schedule and still finished the regular season Saturday with a 21-4 record. They also earned the top seed and home-court advantage in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament.

Along the way, UNE has beaten USM, Rhode Island College, St. Joseph’s, Colby and Bates. Except for a couple of hiccups at Roger Williams and Salve Regina, the Nor’easters have stomped through the conference.

“We’re very pleased. We got over the hump in some nonconference games,” UNE Coach Anthony Ewing said. “The kids wanted to go undefeated in the conference, but Job 1 was getting the No. 1 seed. It’s a lot more difficult winning the conference championship on the road.”

UNE, which was the top seed in 2010 and won the tournament, lost in the final last year at Salve Regina by two points.

Because of quality nonconference wins, the Nor’easters should make the NCAA tournament without winning the league championship. But they are aiming for the title and a good seed in the NCAA’s, and maybe a chance to host some early-round NCAA games.

The Nor’easters play No. 8 Nichols at 7 tonight in Biddeford. UNE features a balanced group of players, led by 5-foot-10 senior Kelley Paradis of Newport. She’s scoring 13.2 points a game.

Beth Suggs, a 5-11 junior from Bath, is averaging 12.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. Then there is 5-10 senior Margo Russell of Madison (10.8-point average), 5-7 sophomore Lauren Rousseau of Biddeford (10.1) and 5-4 senior Kari Pelletier of South Paris (66 assists).

“We lean on those three seniors every game,” Ewing said. “Beth has really stepped up to play a bigger role, and Lauren is a starter or provides a spark off the bench.”

In the most recent NCAA regional rankings, UNE was second in the Northeast behind unbeaten Amherst. Southern Maine was fifth, Colby sixth, and Bowdoin eighth.

BOWDOIN AND USM are likely to reach the women’s NCAA tournament as well.

Bowdoin (19-6), seeded third in the NESCAC tournament, plays this weekend in the league’s final four in Amherst, Mass., along with No. 1 Amherst, No. 2 Tufts and No. 4 Colby.

USM (20-5), seeded second in Little East, will be playing in that conference final four this weekend in Rhode Island.

St. Joseph’s (18-7) is seeded second in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference women’s tournament this week. The Monks play No. 7 Albertus Magnus at 5:30 p.m. today in Standish.

IN MEN’S basketball, second-seeded St. Joseph’s (17-8) begins play in the GNAC tournament at 7:30 tonight at home against No. 7 Mount Ida.

Bowdoin (17-8) was seeded sixth in the NESCAC and lost in the quarterfinals last Saturday to third-seeded Wesleyan, 78-59.

USM (11-14) finished seventh in Little East with a 3-11 mark and did not make the playoffs. Likewise, UNE (6-19) did not qualify for the CCC tournament.

IN HOCKEY NEWS, the University of Maine men (18-10-3) split with Massachusetts and sit in fourth place in Hockey East with 28 points.

The Maine women (17-10-6) swept New Hampshire last weekend and are seeded fifth in the upcoming Hockey East tournament. The Black Bears play at No. 4 Providence at 2 p.m. Saturday.

In the NESCAC men’s tournament, Bowdoin (15-5-3) is seeded second and plays home at 4 p.m. Saturday in a quarterfinal game against No. 7 Trinity.

USM (9-10-6) and UNE (4-18-2) are seeded sixth and eighth in the ECAC East tournament, and both play away on Saturday.

In the NESCAC women’s tournament, third-seeded Bowdoin (11-9-4) plays home at 1 p.m. Saturday against Williams.

USM (7-14-4) is seeded sixth in the ECAC East women’s tournament, and is on the road Saturday.

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

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH

 


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