UNIVERSIY OF MAINE women’s basketball coach Richard Barron talks to his players during an exhibition game against New Brunswick on Oct. 29 in Orono. Barron’s team is off to a 1-5 start and he is upset with its performance in a Sunday loss to Virginia Commonwealth

UNIVERSIY OF MAINE women’s basketball coach Richard Barron talks to his players during an exhibition game against New Brunswick on Oct. 29 in Orono. Barron’s team is off to a 1-5 start and he is upset with its performance in a Sunday loss to Virginia Commonwealth

ORONO

Ten plays. The way coach Richard Barron figures it, if his team had made five fewer turnovers that led to points and hit five more shots in Saturday’s game against Virginia Commonwealth, it could have been a victory for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

Instead, the Black Bears suffered a 74-58 setback and slipped to 1-5.

“I thought it was maybe our poorest effort of the season,” Barron said after the game.

“It’s extremely disappointing, considering we were playing at home and (had) a chance to really get some momentum here to build off what was a positive weekend (at the Minnesota tournament).”

Barron explained the Black Bears weren’t executing well at either end of the court.

They committed 23 turnovers operating against VCU’s 2-3 zone. The defense often struggled to stop dribble penetration and didn’t deny talented forward Robyn Parks from getting the ball.

But 10 plays could have changed the outcome.

“They have to realize how important those 10 plays are and how critical it is to get it right,” Barron said. “Those are 10 plays that we can easily correct.”

While physical execution was an issue, Barron wants his players to exhibit more confidence and swagger in how they play.

“The cumulative effect was that we didn’t play with enough aggression,” he said. “It’s a mentality. We were far too reactive in this game.”

While there appears to be considerable talent on this year’s ballclub, UMaine is dealing with tremendous inexperience. There are nine first-year players and two sophomores among the 13 women suiting up.

Barron and his staff have been forced to do a lot of teaching of fundamentals and concepts of the offenses and defenses the Black Bears are running, but they also are trying to instill the kind of mental approach needed to succeed at the Division I level.

“It’s not so much quantifiable physical effort, it’s competitiveness,” Barron said. “You have to want to win every possession. You have to want to win every drill.”

Winning mentality

The newness of attending college, adjusting to a higher level of play and trying to develop a winning mentality is not easy on a team that has only one senior and one junior on the floor.

The staf f ’ s emphasis has been on teaching concepts effectively, pointing out mistakes with film review and trying to implement changes in the next practice or game. The coaches are maintaining high standards.

“It’s a tightrope,” Barron said. “I think if you don’t expect a lot you’re cheating them. If you expect too much, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

Sophomore forward Danielle Walczak knows what the expectations are after playing for Barron last season. She conceded it can be a challenge not to become discouraged.

“If you looked at us from Day 1 to now, we’re definitely [moving] in an upward direction, but there’s definitely some major things that we need to work on,” Walczak said. “I think one of the biggest things is just keeping our morale up with such a young team.”

The freshmen, including six from Europe and the Middle East, must deal with being thousands of miles from home in addition to establishing their roles on the team.

Walczak and Barron both pointed to the importance of learning how to stay motivated.

“It’s a lot about energy and mental focus,” Walczak said. “I think the freshmen are doing a good job adjusting and we’re trying to keep them up there (emotionally).”

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