UMaine’s Jaycie Christopher played in all 30 games as a freshman last season, averaging 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds.  Seth Poplaski photo/Courtesy of UMaine athletics

For Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher and Windham’s Sarah Talon, last season was about learning how to adjust to college basketball. Now sophomores, they are expected to play bigger roles for a University of Maine women’s basketball team that should contend for the America East Conference title.

“Both Jaycie and Sarah are very talented players. I think they learned a lot as freshmen,” said Maine Coach Amy Vachon, an Augusta native. “We have a lot of guards, and we have a really talented roster. It’s nice to see them compete (for playing time).”

The Black Bears open the 2023-24 season Monday at Quinnipiac. Maine went 16-14 last season, 11-5 in America East, and failed to reach the conference championship game for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Christopher and Talon are two of the three Mainers on the Black Bears’ roster. They’re joined by Veazie’s Emmie Streams, a freshman guard who graduated from Bangor High last spring. Lexi Mittelstadt of Farmington, who played with the Black Bears the last three seasons, is now a student assistant coach with the team.

The 5-foot-10 Christopher played in all 30 games as a freshman last season, starting three games. She averaged 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds, and her .425 3-point shooting percentage (34 for 80) was second-best on the team for players who attempted more than 10 3s. Talon, also 5-10, led the Black Bears in 3-point percentage at .444 (8 for 18), playing in 29 games and averaging 3.8 points and 1.3 rebounds.

Christopher and Talon had the ups and downs most players encounter in their first season of college basketball. Each enjoyed a 20-point game, with Christopher scoring 26 in an 88-60 win over Army on Dec. 11 in which she made 7 of 10 3s, and Talon scoring 21 points in a 74-62 win at Bryant, shooting 8 for 12 from the floor , playing a season-high 29 minutes.


Talon’s biggest takeaway from her freshman season was she had to get stronger. After spending May and June at home in Windham with her family, Talon arrived in Orono in July ready to work with sports performance coach Matt Peyton in the weight room and on a new focus on nutrition.

“Going into year two, it’s like, OK, I know what it takes,” Talon said.

“The first year of college is a big wakeup call when you realize all the girls are bigger and stronger than you. With more muscle, I know I can drive to the hoop and not get knocked down every time.”

Sarah Talon was a basketball and soccer star before graduating from Windham High in 2022. “The first year of college is a big wakeup call when you realize all the girls are bigger and stronger than you,” she says. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Talon said she hopes her new strength will help her battle for rebounds at both ends of the court, and to become a better defender. Last season, Talon’s length and speed allowed her to recover defensively when an opponent got a step past her. Now, Talon’s looking to keep opponents in front of her, Vachon said.

Christopher said the speed of the college game was her biggest challenge last season. A big portion of her offseason training was spent focusing on her explosiveness. To that end, Christopher played in a men’s rec league back home in Skowhegan before returning to campus in early August. With no true point guard on the roster, Vachon said a handful of players, including Christopher, will share the role. Christopher said she knows she’ll need to be more vocal.

“You need to be able to hear the point guard’s voice all the time. Communicating when I’m in that role is key, and that’s something I haven’t always done a great job with,” said Christopher, who was Miss Maine Basketball as a senior at Skowhegan High when she led the River Hawks to the 2022 Class A state championship. “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what my role is as long as we get wins.”


Maine has led the conference in 3-pointers attempted in each of the last six seasons, and Christopher and Talon figure to be asked to shoot more this season. The 3-pointer once again will be a huge piece of the Black Bears’ offense, and Vachon wants Christopher and Talon to be a part of that.

“I need to shoot the ball more,” Christopher said with a chuckle. “People definitely get after me for that. There are worse things.”

Talon practiced with the Maine Firecrackers AAU team this summer and shot a lot of 3-pointers. She and Vachon have talked about taking the right shot, not just forcing one. Talon said she needs to recognize in the flow of a game when that right shot comes to her.

“(Vachon) will get frustrated if you don’t shoot,” Talon said.

What Vachon wants to see most from both Talon and Christopher is confidence.

“For both of them, as freshmen, you don’t want to make mistakes,” Vachon said. “Now, I want to see them not worry about making mistakes, and just play.”

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