Nearly half of her roster is freshmen. There are two sophomores that entered the season with just seven games under their belts due to the COVID-19-shortened campaign a year ago.
So Husson University women’s basketball coach Kissy Walker said there is a “lot of teaching and a lot of learning going on.”
But Walker, who is in her 31st season as the head coach at Husson, has been encouraged by what she has seen in the early going as her Eagles seek a sixth consecutive North Atlantic Conference title.
“We have defended well,” Walker said. “That has been our focus.”
Through its first five games, Husson shot just 34.3 percent from the floor and only 20 percent beyond the 3-point arc. But things turned around in two games against the University of Maine at Presque Isle in which the 4-3 Eagles shot 51.7 percent from the floor and 53.8 percent from 3-point distance.
The Eagles beat UMPI 88-54 and 66-45 for their 15th and 16th straight conference wins dating back to the 2019-20 season. A 58-48 loss to rival Maine Maritime Academy on Feb. 12, 2020, was their last conference defeat.
They have won 31 of their last 32 conference regular season games and their last 10 NAC tourney games.
Walker will be relying on a number of freshmen and sophomore guards to fill the void left by senior guard Sydney Allen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first half of a 98-92 triple overtime loss to St. Joseph’s of Standish on Nov. 20. The former All-NAC first-teamer and 2019-20 Tournament Most Valuable Player was the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 10.4 points per game. She was also averaging 3.6 rebounds.
The catalyst for the Eagles is 6-foot-3 junior center Bailey Donovan, who is currently leading the country among 423 Division III schools in shooting percentage at 71 percent. Her 14.4 rebounds per game are fourth-best.
The former Hampden Academy star and NAC and New England Women’s Basketball Association Rookie of the Year is averaging 19.7 ppg, plus 1.7 blocked shots. Her scoring average is tied for 28th best in the nation. She had 30 rebounds and 20 rebounds in the loss to St. Joseph’s.
“She has really gotten better,” Walker said. “Her footwork is better than it was last year. She never takes a bad shot and she is great at kicking the ball out to a teammate when she is double or triple-teamed.”
Garland senior and former Dexter High star Megan Peach, a 6-foot forward-center, is averaging 6.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists, giving the Eagles another dominant inside presence. She had 17 points, 20 rebounds and six assists against St. Joseph’s. Peach missed the two UMPI games due to illness and is expected back soon.
Walker has also been impressed with her backcourt, including senior point guard Vanessa Duarte, who is averaging a team-high 4.3 assists, sophomore guard/forward Makaelyn Porter of Smyrna Mills at 7.1 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds so far and Cassie Urso, a junior guard who has hit 46.9 percent of her field goal attempts and 50 percent of her 3-pointers.
That group is rounded out by Trinity Montigny (3.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg) from Ellsworth, 5-foot-6 Sophie McVicar of Calais (4.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.4 steals), 5-foot-5 Maci Beals from Bridgewater and (2.6 ppg), 5-foot-8 freshman Roxanne Sasse (1.5 ppg) and 5-foot-6 Lacey Scanlon (1.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg). Montigny is a sophomore and the others are freshmen. Six-foot freshman Jodyn Lengle (1.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg) has promise as a post player.
“It’s a great group. They’re very coachable and they’re going to get better and better,” Walker said. “We’re just going to have to become more consistent shooting the ball.”
Husson will host Bates College on Monday at 8 p.m.