BANGOR – The Husson College women’s basketball team has entered a Brave new world.
Prior to the 2002-03 season, the program endured the defections of several veteran players. Even so, a youthful Husson team overcame the turmoil to post a 10-17 record and earn a spot in the Sunrise Conference semifinals.
This season, there is a renewed sense of optimism around Newman Gym. Veteran coach Kissy Walker is back after a two-year hiatus and will direct a Husson squad laden with underclassmen but excited about making a new start in the North Atlantic Conference.
Husson opens its season with tonight’s 7 o’clock nonleague game against Newbury College at the Colby College Tipoff Tournament in Waterville.
“With coach [Walker] being back, I think it’s kind of like a new beginning; start from scratch and start building from here,” said senior Jen Comeau of Lincoln.
Comeau and classmate Megan Hughes of Dexter are Husson’s only upperclassmen. There are four sophomores and six freshmen on the active roster, which means the Braves can expect some growing pains.
“We’re looking forward to a new season, new players, new coaching staff,” Hughes said. “We’re pretty talented, even though we’re young.”
Walker is quite comfortable back in the coaching mode. Part of the challenge has been getting to know the players, most of whom she did not recruit, while trying to get a handle on their basketball skills.
Walker also has been forced to take a deep breath occasionally, though she hasn’t lowered her expectations.
“I forgot how patient I have to be,” Walker said. “It is a young group.”
The Braves, picked to finish fourth in the NAC preseason poll, spent the early part of preseason working on fundamentals, which allowed Walker to see where the players were in their development.
Husson’s experience is centered around Hughes, a 5-foot-11 forward, and guard Comeau. Sophomore Holly Gracie of Frankfort is coming of a freshman campaign during which she was named the Sunrise Conference Rookie of the Year, averaging 14.5 points and 3.7 steals.
Sophomore guard Sarah Davis of Skowhegan was among the league’s top 3-point shooters last season at .372.
Freshman Crystal Martin of Calais will bolster the guard corps, joining Davis and Gracie.
“It’s kind of a change because I was playing a lot of post last year,” Martin said. “I have to do more passing. I can’t shoot as much,” she joked.
Soph swing player Shauna Mullenix and frosh guard Gillian Snow of Newport provide depth.
Hughes tops the list of frontcourt players at small forward. In the post, 6-1 freshman Annie McIntosh of New Gloucester and Stephanie Noyes of Albion will contribute along with sophomore Jodie Merchant of Hancock, 6-1 freshman Steph McIntyre of Hope and frosh Carmen Ballard of Skowhegan.
“I think they all can play and contribute,” Walker said. “It’s just going to take time to figure out the rotation.”
Senior leadership will be important as Husson tries to re-establish itself.
“I look forward to it as a personal challenge, Megan and I both,” Comeau said. “We’re up for any challenge that anybody gives us.”