(PRESQUE ISLE, ME) -- Never underestimate the power of some good ole fashion "home cookin'". When the University of Maine-Presque Isle women's basketball team left northern Maine to spend some time with friends and family over the holidays in December, the team was 0-8 on the young season.
However, the resiliant young squad came back after the break re-charged, refocused and started out 2013 winning 4 of their first 5 games. They would finish the last two months of the season going 8-9.
After the season, 2nd year Owls' coach reflected on the season and started looking ahead to the future of the program.
What are your thoughts/feelings on the season overall?
Marc Heidorf: At the end of the day, the biggest positive I pull from this year is that progress was made. We played some of our best basketball in January and early February. With the amount of new players we had coming in and even the three returners were getting acclimated to new roles, we struggled to find ourselves early. But this is a resilient group. They came back from the semester break refreshed and refocused and started playing as a unit. The result was winning 4 of their first 5 after the new year.
Were there any "signature wins"?
MH: The Thomas College game stands out. For one, it allowed us to go 2-0 in the first Star City Classic. For it to happen on the home court was great. But Thomas is an NCAA Division III opponent in a strong conference (NAC) that was bigger than us at every position. The win showed us what we are capable of when we are able to focus and work together for longer stretches. After that, the key became being able to replicate those traits in other games.
I always like to pit our performance against a team the 2nd time we play them vs. the 1st time we played them. To beat Eastern Maine CC and UMaine-Augusta after losing to them the first time we played is always a tangible sign of improvement. Even in a loss, the way we played against Fort Kent, a USCAA National Tournament qualifier, the 2nd time around (a 79-74 loss) was encouraging after they essentially ran us off the court in our first meeting.
What were the keys to your 2nd half improvement?
MH: With so many new players (8) the entire first half of the season became a "feeling out" process where the kids were just trying to get used to college, get used to athletics at this level, get to know their teammates. When we came back from break, there was familiarity, there was trust, and there was a basic level of understanding as to what was being asked of them by the coaches. This allowed the players' true games come out. Once we had that trust, the results began to follow.
What did your senior, Emily Pelletier, bring to this year's team and how do you start replacing that heading into next season?
MH: Being the only senior on a young team is not an easy challenge. Emily handled it with grace, she led with her actions and her words, and whatever success we had this season would not have been accomplished without her.
Replacing what she gave us is not something one person is going to be able to do right away. But if our underclassmen are able to continue to mature both physically and mentally heading into next year, we can replace the scoring, perimeter defense, and leadership she brought to the program.
What areas of the team showed the most improvement as the season progressed?
MH: We figured out how to play a TEAM offense. We started seeing how we could put our teammates in the best position to score. The first half of the season we had only 5 games in which we reached double figures in assists. And not one of those first 11 games did we finish with more assists than turnovers.
In the remaining 14 contests, we reached double figures in assists 10 times, including six straight to finish the season. Four of those games we had more assists than turnovers. Not coincidentally we were 3-1 in those games. Also as a result our points per game increased from 49 ppg (through first 11) to 60 (in final 14 games).
What are areas that you would like to show improvement in next season?
MH: If we are going to improve we need to rebound better. We left a handful of winnable games out there that would have had a much different outcome if we could have just broke even on rebounding.
Consistency will be a large focus for us in 2013-14 as well. In the 2nd half, we learned what we are capable of when we can keep our focus. If we can put in a consistently high effort game in and game out, we will continue to move this program in the right direction.