With reigning America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Anne Simon sidelined indefinitely with a recurring ankle injury, two of the players who will be asked to help fill the void will be juniors Caroline Bornemann and Olivia Rockwood.
They are the two most experienced Black Bears on the roster.
When UMaine entertains league leader Albany in a rematch of last year’s America East championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Memorial Gym in Orono, Rockwood will be playing in her 65th career game and Bornemann will be appearing in her 62nd.
UMaine head coach Amy Vachon has been seeking consistency from her youthful Black Bears all season and Rockwood and Bornemann fall into the inconsistent category along with the rest of the team, with the exception of standout sophomore forward Adi Smith.
UMaine is 10-9 overall and 6-1 in the conference while defending champ Albany is 14-8 and 8-0.
Albany, a 56-47 winner over UMaine in the title game in Orono, has won eight in a row while UMaine has won six of its last seven.
Smith is averaging 15.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game and has posted 11 double-doubles.
Bornemann, a 5-10 forward, is UMaine’s third-leading scorer as she is averaging 9.8 points per game. She is second in rebounds with 6.3 per game.
She scored in double figures in four of her first six games but has done so just four times over the past 13 contests. She had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the 61-50 win at UMass Lowell on Wednesday.
Rockwood is the team’s fourth-leading scorer with 6.6 points per game but had scored only six points in the previous five games until pumping in 14 against UMass Lowell, including a 4-for-6 shooting performance beyond the 3-point arc.
She had shot 2-for-17 from long distance in the six previous games.
Rockwood and Bornemann know they need to be more consistent if the Black Bears are going to challenge the veteran Great Danes for the league title.
“It is always important to be consistent,” Rockwood said. “We have to play our best and play with confidence. Your shots don’t always fall but we can’t get down on ourselves.”
“You have to have confidence when you shoot and have fun in what you’re doing,” added Bornemann, who was selected to the America East All-Tournament team a year ago.
One area where the Black Bears are developing some consistency is on the defensive side of the ball, where they have allowed just 52.75 points per game over their last four contests.
“That is definitely one of our strong suits,” said Rockwood, who is playing 27.6 minutes per contest.
Vachon said consistency for the whole team is really important.
“Remember, Caroline and [Rockwood] hardly played at all their freshmen year and it was a COVID year,” Vachon said.
“I just want them to do what they do well,” the coach added.
Smith said consistency is hard to obtain when you have so many changes throughout the season.
“But we’re doing a good job improving every game and if someone isn’t having a good game, someone else picks them up,” Smith said. “It’s not all on one person and that’s important for us.”
Albany, picked to win the conference in the preseason coaches poll with UMaine second, is led by Helene Haegerstrand (15.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Kayla Cooper (13.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Ellen Hahne (12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.6 assists per game).