Maine’s Anne Simon, center, battles for a loose ball with Albany’s Ellen Hahne in the 2022 America East championship game in Orono. Simon, the conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season, missed 16 of Maine’s 28 regular-season games this winter with a sprained right ankle. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

ORONO — With the America East women’s basketball playoffs getting underway on Wednesday, the University of Maine will receive a boost with the return of senior guard Anne Simon.

The 2022 conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Simon missed 16 of Maine’s 28 regular-season games with a sprained right ankle, injured in a Nov. 19 game against Yale and reinjured on Jan. 21 at Binghamton.

She came back last week for the final two games of the regular season, wins over New Hampshire and Binghamton. Now, with the No. 3 Black Bears (15-13, 11-5 in conference) hosting No. 6 Binghamton (13-16, 6-10) Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Memorial Gym, Simon is eager to make up for the time she missed. After injuring the ankle a second time, Simon vowed to not come back until she felt 100%.

“I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to finish the season, but luckily my rehab went well. I’m really grateful I get the opportunity to play,” she said after Monday’s practice. “I think that really helped me, trusting my body.”

A win Wednesday means Maine is likely go on the road for Sunday’s semifinal game. The Black Bears need either top-seeded Vermont to lose to No. 8 Bryant or No. 2 Albany to fall to No. 7 UMass-Lowell, in order to host a semifinal game. Maine has qualified for the last seven America East championship games, winning the conference title and its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in 2018 and 2019.

Maine beat the Bearcats twice in close regular-season games, 50-46 at Binghamton on Jan. 21, the day Simon reinjured her ankle, and again 69-65 in Orono on Saturday.


Simon’s has been a spark for the Black Bears at both ends of the court since her return, scoring 19 points with five steals in 30 minutes off the bench in the 80-67 win over UNH last Wednesday. She was in the starting lineup on Saturday, scoring 18 points and providing five assists in 34 minutes against Binghamton.

While injured, Simon was on the bench wearing a walking boot and able to offer advice to her teammates.

“You see your teammates out there and you can help them. The know what they need to do on the court. You can see things that maybe they don’t see,” she said.

Sophomore forward Adrianna Smith stepped up and filled the offensive void in Simon’s absence. Smith scored 31 points and grabbed 19 rebounds Saturday against the Bearcats, earning her fourth America East Player of the Week honor on Monday. Smith averages 18 points and 9.5 boards per game, has 15 double-doubles, and knows Simon’s return makes the Black Bears even harder to defend.

“We have so many shooters on our team, you can’t just double (me) in the paint and not expect our players to not knock down shots. So we’re taking advantage of that,” Smith said.

Maine Coach Amy Vachon said Simon’s return is even more apparent on the defensive end.

“Prior to (Simon) coming back, I can’t remember a time we got a steal for a layup. It’s just things like that you forget she can do. She’s just so strong and quick and she can create a lot of issues for the opponent on that (defensive) end,” Vachon said.

Vachon pointed to guards Sera Hodgson and Paula Gallego as players who have stepped up defensively in the absence of Simon and Anna Kahelin, who was lost to a knee injury in the opening minutes of the first game of the season at James Madison. Having younger players step up in the wake of injuries is nothing new for the Black Bears. They went through a similar experience in the 2019-20 season, when stars Blanca Millán and Fanny Wadling missed significant time with injuries. That season, one of the young players who benefited from increased playing time was Simon, then a freshman.

“I think as a team, we all grew a lot when Fanny and Blanca got hurt, and I think the same happened this year. Me and Anna were out, and I think everyone individually stepped up,” Simon said.

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