Tanesha Sutton was a force under the boards for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
With her graduation, the Black Bears must try to replace the statistical production (14.2 points, 6.9 rebounds per game) and the tenacity the All-America East first-team player provided.
Two of the players who will be called upon to help fill that void in the paint are juniors Maeve Carroll and Kira Barra.
The 5-11 Carroll contributed 2.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season, averaging 18.7 minutes per game. Barra, who stands 6-3, played only 7.4 minutes per contest (1.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg).
During Sunday’s 78-56 exhibition victory over Division II Stonehill College, the duo accounted for 12 of the Black Bears’ 36 rebounds. Barra grabbed seven of those.
Barra also provided two assists, a blocked shot and a basket and Carroll added an assist.
“Both of them bring different strengths,” UMaine head coach Amy Vachon said. “Kira is a great shooter and does a lot of really good things offensively. Maeve crashes the offensive boards really well and can defend [in the paint] despite being undersized.”
Vachon said that with considerable experience under their belts, Carroll and Barra must now develop consistency and confidence to expand their roles.
“I’m ready to do whatever is asked of me,” said Barra, who is from Dillingen, Germany.
“I’m not expecting anything but I’m ready for anything.”
Barra had knee surgery this summer that has set her back a little, but she has continued to work on her shooting and positioning. She said her outside shooting is her strength.
“Boxing out has been a big issue for me,” Barra said. “So I worked under the basket a lot this summer.”
Carroll, who was a key backup post player last season, said she is ready to take on a more prominent role.
“We don’t have any other choice, we have to step up,” said Carroll, of Oakton, Virginia. “We need to box out, which I have struggled with the past two years on the defensive end. And we have to go get offensive rebounds and help [top rebounder] Fanny [Wadling] out.”
Over the summer, Carroll said she worked on her strength by lifting heavier weights.
“I’m already undersized so I don’t want to get thrown around inside,” Carroll said.
Carroll has been a reluctant shooter, taking only 102 shots in 60 games, but she has made a healthy 48 percent of them.
“This year, I need to look [to shoot]. I want to do it for the team,” Carroll said.
Junior point guard Dor Saar said Carroll and Barra are really good players.
“And they’re going to show more of their skills this year. They’re ready to go and they’re going to be very important,” Saar said.
Senior guard Blanca Millan said the junior forwards have been working hard.
“They have been doing a great job in practice and they showed it in the game,” Millan said. “There’s a lot of playing time open and I know they’re going to keep getting better.”