BANGOR, Maine — Kirsten Johnson, Tanesha Sutton and Fanny Wadling didn’t anticipate the University of Maine women’s basketball 2017-2018 roster would look the way it does.
They knew three-time All-America East first-team guard Sigi Koizar and forward Sheraton Jones were graduating. But they didn’t expect five players to transfer.
Four of them were freshmen and three played in all 34 games a year ago, Among them were All-AE Rookie Team choice and Sixth Player Award winner Laia Sole along with Anita Kelava and Naira Caceres. Tihana Stojsavljevic was the other freshman and she appeared in 19 games.
Seldom-used sophomore Isabel Hernandez Pepe also transferred.
But the UMaine women are taking things in stride as they prepare for Saturday’s 5 p.m. exhibition game against Division II Stonehill College at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
It will be the second game of a doubleheader with the UMaine men’s team playing Division III Husson University of Bangor in the 3 p.m. opener.
Sutton, a junior guard, said she said the mass defection was a surprise but added that the team has handled the adversity well.
“We have five great incoming players and they look good. We’re just moving forward as a team,” said Sutton, who led the team in rebounds (164) and assists (88). She averaged 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists and was the team’s fourth-leading scorer (7.4 points per game).
“It was definitely unexpected,” said senior forward Johnson. “However, our team has come together. Everything happens for a reason. We’re here and we’re ready. It is what it is.
“The people who decided to stay here want to be here. And we want that attitude,” said Johnson. “We’re excited for the freshmen as well. They’ve come in and we’ve had three great weeks of practice.”
Sophomore forward Fanny Wadling is confident.
“We’re really bonding with each other on and off the court. Everyone has taken the responsibility of getting to know the plays and how we run them. I feel good about it,” she said.
Sutton, Wadling and Johnson are eager to build on their own experiences from last year.
Philadelphia native Sutton began her career at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh three years ago but averaged just 4.8 minutes per game. She transferred to UMaine and sat out the 2015-2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules before playing last season.
“I just want to elaborate on what I did last year. I want to make myself better and make my teammates better,” said Sutton. “I can make everyone around me better when I’m at my best because I’m making great passes to everyone else.”
Wadling, who is from Nacka, Sweden, came into preseason a year ago off a knee injury.
“I didn’t know what was expected of me. This year, I feel more responsibility to the team and I have more confidence coming into the season,” said Wadling, who averaged five points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Johnson, who is from San Diego, averaged just five minutes a game but had some productive playing time late in the year.
“I’m definitely looking forward to this season,” said Johnson. “This is my last year and I’m going to give it my all and see where it can take us in March.”
All three are glad to be playing some outside competition on Saturday rather than playing against each other.
UMaine beat Stonehill 74-54 in an exhibition last year.
“Stonehill is a very good team,” said interim head coach Amy Vachon. “I was watching film on them the other day and they played us tough last year. We were only up by six and last year, we were only up by six with six minutes to go. They will definitely give us a good measuring stick of where we are and what we need to keep getting better at.”
UMaine finished 18-16 a year ago and reached the America East title game where it was beaten by Albany 66-50.
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