Mississippi State guard Victoria Vivians (35) reaches back to keep Maine forward Fanny Wadling (51) from taking a shot in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Mississippi on Dec. 17, 2017. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis

ORONO — The departure of three players who stood 6-foot-2 or 6-3 meant the University of Maine’s women’s basketball team was going to need 6-1 sophomore forward Fanny Wadling to take on a more prominent role this season.

Going into Saturday’s noon America East quarterfinal in Portland against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the 6-1 Wadling is the Black Bears’ second-leading rebounder (5.5 per game) and their No. 4 scorer (6.7 points per game)

UMaine (20-9, 13-3 AE) is the top seed while UMBC (5-25, 3-13) is the No. 8 seed.

Wadling also averages 1.8 assists in 25.7 minutes per game.

“The offense we run really suits her. She’s a face-up kind of forward,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon, who said Wadling has a high basketball IQ.

“She has become more comfortable with our style and with the people she’s playing with. She knows what her strengths are and she plays to them,” added Vachon.

Last season was challenging for Wadling, who showed promise while averaging 5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 19.6 minutes. A knee injury had sidelined the Nacka, Sweden, native the previous year.

Her game involved jumpers from around the paint and drives to the basket.

“I wasn’t playing European-style basketball any more. College basketball is different. It took a while to adjust,” explained Wadling.

There is a lot more contact in the collegiate game, especially in the lane.

“Every time I play, I feel more and more comfortable,” said Wadling. “I wasn’t really an inside player at home.”

She said she spent a lot of time last summer increasing her shooting range to go with her short-range jumpers and drives.

“I wanted to be more of a threat outside as well as my drives. I feel more comfortable all over the floor now,” said Wadling.

By being able to hit longer-range shots, it draws the opposing forwards and centers out and helps open up the paint. It also gives her a chance to use her quickness to drive to the hoop.

“Fanny is like a four (power forward) and she has a perimeter game which puts a lot of pressure on the five (center) guarding her. You’ve got to guard her shooting and you’ve got to guard her driving,” said UMaine junior guard Tanesha Sutton.

Basketball is not one of the more popular sports for women in Sweden but it didn’t take long for Wadling to embrace it.

“I fell in love with it. I couldn’t stop playing,” said Wadling, who was 11 at the time and continued to play both soccer and basketball until she turned 15.

Wadling said she has focused on the “small stuff. Finding my role and doing what the team needs me to do.”

“She has been a very important player for us,” said sophomore guard Blanca Millan.

“She has played real good defense against some of the best forwards in our conference and she’s getting better every day. You can see a huge difference in her game this year.”

Wadling said she has experienced a lot of ups and downs with her play this season.

“But I am so happy for everyone on our team,” Wadling said.

Wadling said she is looking forward to the tournament.

“It all comes down to one game (single-elimination). That’s why it’s so exciting,” said Wadling.

The Black Bears won’t take any opponent lightly.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said junior guard Parise Rossignol. “The conference has shown all year that anyone can beat anyone else. You can’t take any game for granted. All we’re thinking about right now is UMBC.”

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