University of Maine women's basketball coach Amy Vachon yells instructions to her team during a March 2019 game. Credit: Pete Warner / BDN

Following suit with Hockey East, the America East Conference ditched its composite schedule to better handle COVID-19 complications.

America East plans to announce its revised schedule every two weeks. Hockey East recently revealed that it would arrange games on a week-to-week basis and reveal them on Tuesdays.

The decision by America East administrators came in the wake of last week’s announcement that the University of Vermont’s women’s basketball team has elected not to continue. It was the Catamounts players who opted out of the remainder of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.

The revamped schedule would have left the UMaine men’s and women’s basketball teams idle this weekend, but the athletics department on Monday evening announced that all games involving Black Bear basketball and hockey teams have been halted through at least Feb. 4.

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The UMaine men are next scheduled to play Feb. 6-7 at UMass Lowell and the women are expected to play host to UMass Lowell on the same dates.

The men’s team (2-7 overall, 2-6 AE) had its two-game home set with Binghamton last weekend postponed because the Black Bears had two presumptive COVID-19 tests among its Tier-1 personnel, resulting in a pause for team activities.

The women (12-1, 9-1 AE) went to Binghamton and swept the Bearcats to extend their winning streak to seven games.

Each team has played only two home games this season.

The men last played Jan. 16-17 at Vermont, thus will not have a game for three weeks before going to University of Maryland-Baltimore County, if UMaine OKs a return to competition by then.

The UMaine women have played two-game series each of the last four weekends, including a set at Albany which replaced a series against Vermont that had been postponed.

UMaine’s last three road trips, all via bus, have covered 2,300 miles. It is 548 miles one way from Orono to Binghamton, New York, 404 to Albany, New York, and 198 to Durham, New Hampshire.

“I’m pretty sure we’re the team that has been on the road the most in the country,” UMaine coach Amy Vachon said. “Stanford might have us, but no one else has played as many games on the road, and for us to come out and compete and win and take runs from other teams is really impressive.”

UMaine has played 11 of its 13 games at other teams’ facilities while Stanford has played one home game and has used a facility 42 miles away in Santa Cruz to play three other “home” games among its 14 contests.

Vachon said the postponements won’t alter the Black Bears’ plans as they chase another America East title.

“We will continue to roll with whatever comes our way. We will use this time to work on ourselves and to get better every day,” she said.

She wasn’t surprised that Vermont opted out.

“They aren’t the first and they won’t be the last. They hadn’t played in three weeks,” Vachon said.

However, she acknowledged that the challenges faced by her team and others during the pandemic have been considerable.

“Knock on wood, we’ve been able to stay away from COVID. We’ve been winning. We don’t have drama on our team,” Vachon said.

The experience and leadership on the squad have helped them handle the ups and downs of the season.

“You get tested every day. It’s really, really hard,” Vachon said.

She declined to speculate about whether Vermont’s departure from league play might open the door for other departures.

“I’ve learned not to worry about things I can’t control. Every team has to make a decision that is best for them,” Vachon said.

With Vermont out of the picture, first-place UMaine has three teams left to play, including its two closet pursuers.

UMass Lowell (6-2 AE) is second and defending regular-season champ Stony Brook is 7-3.

UMBC is the only other team the UMaine women haven’t played.