The last four months have been a whirlwind for Amy Vachon.
The University of Maine interim women’s head basketball coach has had to restock her roster after five players transferred and two, three-time America East first-team guard Sigi Koizar and power forward Sheraton Jones, graduated.
Vachon also is rebuilding her coaching staff after two-year assistant Edniesha Curry left to pursue a business opportunity and one-year assistant and former Black Bear Samantha Baranowski departed to play basketball in France.
UMaine announced Friday the new assistants are former UMaine player and Greene native Courtney Anderson and Garett Sherman. They join Jhasmin Player, who returned last summer as the director of basketball operations before being elevated to assistant coach in April.
“Whirlwind would be a good way to describe it,” said Vachon. “It has been a little crazy. But it comes with the territory.”
When freshman forwards Laia Sole, Anita Kelava and Tihana Stojsavljevic and guard Naira Caceres decided to seek greener pastures along with seldom-used sophomore guard Isabel Hernandez Pepe, Vachon found herself in a difficult predicament trying to identify capable replacements.
But Vachon, a former UMaine point guard, isn’t the type of person to feel sorry for herself.
The five-player exodus may have touched a nerve, but she refuses to dwell on it.
“I’ve moved on from it. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s in the past. It is what it is,” said Vachon, who in January was appointed to replace head coach Richard Barron when he announced he was going to take a medical leave because of a debilitating illness. He will remain on medical leave through the 2017-2018 season but he is improving.
The mass defections dealt Vachon a daunting challenge and she embraced it.
She maintained from Day 1 that she wasn’t going to bring in players simply to be uniform-fillers.
“You never stop recruiting. You’re always talking to coaches and kids. It’s not abnormal to sign kids late. We’re excited about our kids,” said Augusta native Vachon.
UMaine brought in 6-foot-5 center Kat Williams of Coral Springs, Florida, 6-3 forwards Ashlyn McDonald from Tennessee, a junior college transfer, German Kira Barra and 5-10 forward Maeve Carroll of Washington, D.C. along with Israeli point guard Dor Saar.
They join 5-9 shooting guard Kelly Fogarty of Walpole, Massachusetts, who had signed a National Letter of Intent in 2016.
And Van Buren guard Parise Rossignol rejoined the program after seeing limited service for two years and leaving the team a year ago.
Vachon also stresses that she has three starters back in junior guard Tanesha Sutton, sophomore All-America East Rookie Team selection Blanca Millan and sophomore forward Fanny Wadling. Sophomore Julie Broussard started four games but averaged 19.6 minutes per game.
Sutton and Millan started all 34 games and Wadling started 26.
“The kids we have coming back are really committed to being here. They’re in it with both feet. They’re ready to go. It’s really nice. And the new kids are eager,” said Vachon, who has been inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
Four of the Black Bears should profit from playing internationally this summer.
Millan is attending a training camp to try to make the roster for Spain’s Under-19 team in the FIBA World Cup in Italy, Wadling will play for Sweden’s Under-20 team in the European championships, Saar is competing for Israel’s Under-18 team in a tournament in Ireland and Brosseau just returned from a trip to Argentina where she played for her Quebec team.
“The girls are getting a lot of great experience in international basketball. They’re playing against real good competition,” said Vachon.
She admits that when it comes to the new players, she is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
“Whenever a freshman comes into a program, there’s a lot of unknowns there,” said Vachon. “It’s a change from high school to college. Some kids adapt real quickly but it’s long process for others. Some may play right away, some may not. We’ve got a good core group coming back.”
Vachon, who holds the America East single-season (234) and career assists (759) records, said UMaine has, “a really hard non-conference schedule” as it did a year ago and it will “challenge us mentally and physically. The goal is to be ready for the conference schedule.
“I’m really excited. The kids we have coming back are really committed to being here. They’re in it with both feet. They’re ready to go. It’s really nice. And the new kids are eager,” she said.
The Black Bears went 18-16 last season and lost to Albany in the AE championship game for the second straight season.
“That’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Vachon. “I know the kids are all working hard. We know what we have to get better at. If we want to take that next step, we have to work every day… coaches and players.”