Anne Simon (3) of the University of Maine drives past Stony Brook's Nairimar Vargas-Reyes during Friday's America East women's basketball championship game at Memorial Gym in Orono. Credit: Monty Rand

The outlook for the University of Maine women’s basketball team’s for the 2023-24 season got a lot rosier on Tuesday.

Senior guard Anne Simon has decided to return for a fifth year. Simon was America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year two seasons ago and she landed on the all-conference second team this past season despite missing 16 games with a high ankle sprain.

“It was an easy decision,” said the 5-foot-8 Simon, a Luxembourg native. “Being here the past four years has been really amazing. I am so grateful for my teammates, the coaching staff and the fans.”

Simon said she had intended to play a fifth year of college basketball and she took two weeks after the season to “really reflect on my four years here and what my next step was going to be.” She could have chosen to enter the NCAA Division I women’s basketball transfer portal, but Simon said “there was nothing negative about Maine to push me away from here.”

“I’m excited,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon. “Anne is a special player at both ends of the floor. She is a great teammate and a great leader.”

The former America East Rookie of the Year sustained her high ankle sprain in a 55-46 loss to Yale and missed eight games. She returned and played seven games before reinjuring the ankle in a 50-46 win over Binghamton and sitting out eight more games.

Simon came back for the last two regular season games and the two America East playoff games and averaged 21 points, 5 rebounds, nearly 3 assists and more than 2 steals per game. She shot 47.5 percent from the floor, 34.6 percent beyond the 3-point arc and 94.4 percent from the free throw line.

Overall, she averaged 13.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in her 14 games. She was the team’s second-leading scorer behind sophomore forward and America East Player of the Year Adi Smith’s 17.9 ppg.

She will enter next season as the school’s 11th all-time leading scorer with 1,357 points. Simon is eighth in career points per game with 14 and in total steals with 196.

Simon, who can play for a fifth year because the COVID-19 season didn’t cost players a year of eligibility, said she has some unfinished business which is to lead the team to the America East Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Black Bears didn’t get a chance to play Stony Brook in the championship game her freshman year in the 2019-20 season because the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the game and the rest of the season. They lost at home to Stony Brook and Albany in the next two title games and were ousted in the semifinals by Albany on March 5.

“I still don’t have what I want. I’m 0-for-4,” said Simon referring to a conference tournament championship and automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. “But I know we can have a great season next year. We have almost everyone coming back.”

The top eight players in terms of points per game and playing time will all return. Simon said it is going to be “exciting” to have another year playing with Smith.

“It will be important for us during the postseason (workouts) to get to know each other even better and play better with each other,” Simon said.

UMaine finished at 16-14 overall, 11-5 in the conference and was the third seed. The Black Bears will look to improve defensively and become more efficient on the offensive end, Vachon said, adding that much of the offense will run through Simon.

“Anne will have the ball in her hands a lot and she is a great decision-maker,” the coach said.