There wasn’t much University of Maine basketball guard Anne Simon didn’t accomplish last season.
She followed in the footsteps of former Black Bear star Blanca Millan in being named both the America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
The 5-foot-8 native of Sandweiler, Luxembourg, led the conference in scoring at 16 points per game and in steals at 2.8 and she also averaged 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
But she did not accomplish the one thing she wanted most: an America East tournament championship.
Simon is excited about the upcoming season, which began earlier this week as the Black Bears held their first official practice in preparation for their Nov. 7 opener at James Madison University. But this year she doesn’t care about winning individual awards.
“I just want to win the championship,” she said.
UMaine, the regular season titlists, were upset by third seed Albany 56-47 in the championship game at the Memorial Gym in Orono as the Black Bears shot just 34 percent from the floor and 23.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc.
“It wasn’t the ending that we wanted,” said Simon, who is now a senior. “Everyone can agree that we didn’t play the way we had in the previous 12 or 13 games. But we are ready to get revenge and finally get the job done this year.”
UMaine took a 14-game winning streak into the Albany game.
The loss to Albany cost UMaine an NCAA Tournament berth and the Black Bears wound up losing to Boston College in the first round of the WNIT, 69-44.
UMaine was also upset at The Pit in the championship game two years ago, losing 64-60 to Stony Brook.
Simon will take on a leadership role this season as she is one of just three seniors on the roster and has appeared in more games (83) than the other two seniors combined. Due to injuries, Abbe Laurence has played in only 40 games in three seasons and Anna Kahelin has appeared in just 39.
Knee problems limited Laurence to 12 games a year ago and Kahelin missed the entire campaign.
Simon, whose 1,166 career points in three seasons has her among the school’s top 15 all-time scorers, said she wants to be a leader on the court and help the team’s newcomers.
“She has been a great leader in preseason,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon. “She is a special player on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. And she’s a great teammate.”
Simon said the team needs to focus on the details.
“Last year, we struggled a little bit on the defensive end until we figured it out toward the end of the season and then we were pretty good,” Simon said.
“Again this year, we have a real tough non-conference schedule so I’m excited to see what we can do against those teams and learn from [those games],” she said.
Four of UMaine’s non-conference opponents — Kansas, Gonzaga, Princeton and the University of Massachusetts — reached the NCAA Tournament last season.
Simon has set goals for herself as she strives to improve.
“I want to create good shots, not turn the ball over as much and try to take control of the game,” said Simon, who also wants to become a better 3-point shooter and convert more layups.
Simon shot 30.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc last season and turned the ball over 67 times.
The team shot only 28.89 percent from long distance and that was 246th among 348 Division I teams.
“We all have to increase our 3-point shooting percentage and we worked on it this summer. We have good shooters on the team and if we can make our shots, we can be a dangerous team,” Simon said.
The team’s overall shooting percentage for twos and threes was 40.48 percent, which was 149th.
“A big emphasis for our team has been making open shots,” Vachon said.
The Black Bears, 20-12 overall and 15-3 in conference play last season, will have to replace two-time All-America East second team forward Maeve Carroll, a 1,000-point scorer in her career at UMaine and the school’s ninth-leading all-time rebounder with 783, and third team All-AE point guard Alba Orois, whose 5.8 assists per game were 14th best in the country.
“Those are huge losses,” Simon said. “So we’re going to need players to step up and get out of their comfort zones a little and play positions they didn’t play when we had both of them on the court.”
She is excited to see Kahelin and Laurence healthy and ready to contribute.
“I’m excited to see what they can do on the court. The work they put in to come back is amazing,” said Simon, who has also been impressed with the three freshmen, including Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher and Windham’s Sarah Talon, and the two transfers.
The UMaine women will play all of their games in The Pit (Memorial Gym) this season instead of at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
“Sometimes it’s tough to play in the Cross Center because we don’t practice there. We definitely have an advantage at The Pit, especially with the fans. More students can come to the game and we have the band. It will be packed. It’s a nice atmosphere,” Simon said.
“I can’t wait for the season to get started.”