Head coach Amy Vachon (standing) and players and coaches on the University of Maine women's basketball team look on intently during the America East championship game against Hartford last March in Bangor. Credit: Pete Warner

The University of Maine women’s basketball team captured its first America East basketball tournament championship since 2004 last season, and the league’s coaches believe they will have a repeat this season.

The Black Bears, who were also the regular-season titlists, were a unanimous choice to finish atop the standings. UMaine returns four of its five starters off last year’s 23-10 team that beat Hartford 74-65 in the AE tourney championship game in front of 3,373 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

UMaine received eight first-place votes — coaches can’t vote for their own team — and 64 total points. Hartford received the other first-place vote and was tied for second with Stony Brook (53 points).

Albany, which had its six-year run of America East tournament championships snapped by the Black Bears, was fourth (39 points) followed by Binghamton (34), Vermont (28), New Hampshire (25), Maryland Baltimore County (19) and UMass Lowell (9).

UMaine senior guard Tanesha Sutton and junior guard Blanca Millan were chosen to the preseason All-America East team along with Stony Brook senior guard Shania Johnson, Vermont junior forward Hanns Crymble, Binghamton junior guard Kai Moon and Hartford senior guard Lindsey Abed.

“Polls don’t mean a lot. We were picked sixth last year,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon, whose team went 13-3 in AE regular-season play.

“Last year was great. But that’s over and done. It doesn’t mean anything now,” Vachon added.

Millan was a first team All-America East selection and was also selected to the All-Defensive team. She averaged 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3 steals and 1.6 assists, and shot 44.4 percent from the floor.

Sutton led UMaine in rebounds (6.9) and assists (2.9), and averaged 12.1 points and 1.9 steals.

The other returning starters are point guard and America East Rookie of the Year Dor Saar (5.6 ppg, 2.9 apg) and junior forward Fanny Wadling (6.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg). Van Buren fifth-year senior guard Parise Rossignol (5.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg) won the league’s Sixth Player Award last season.

Shooting guard Julie Brosseau, the team’s third-leading scorer (11.3 ppg), transferred to the University of Utah.

Vachon said it will be an interesting year in the league as there will be four new coaches ini Binghamton’s Bethann Shapiro, Vermont’s Alisa Kresge, Albany’s Colleen Mullen and UMass Lowell’s Tom Garrick.

“There is definitely going to be a new look,” Vachon said.

She noted that Hartford has several returning players and Stony Brook has almost everybody back.

“Albany has a new coach so they’ll have a different look, and I think New Hampshire is going to be good even though they lost a lot of kids,” Vachon said. “They had some kids who were sitting out last year that are very good.”

Vachon likes what she has seen during preseason so far.

UMaine opens with a Nov. 3 exhibition game against Division II Stonehill at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor before officially beginning the regular season Nov. 10 against Toledo in Bangor.

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