Maine Maritime Academy women’s basketball coach Craig Dagan spent last season retooling his team, implementing 10 freshmen into the mix.
This winter, the youth movement continues. The Mariners have only one upperclassman as they look to maintain their status as a North Atlantic Conference power.
MMA has reconfigured again after losing nine players, including four of their top five scorers, to injuries and other undisclosed reasons.
Gone are 2007-08 leading scorer Megan Franklin of Skowhegan, starting forward Amethyst Cousins of Tremont and backup guard Amanda Barker of Waterville, among other potential returnees.
Also, sophomore guard Brittany Hunt of Hickory, N.C., is out for the season with a torn knee ligament.
“We’ve gone through an awful lot and, in a lot of ways, we’re even younger than we were last year,” Dagan said. “We have a lot of kids that don’t have a lot of experience and we’re going to have to go through some growing pains, but the kids are working hard.”
The Mariners were 1-3 going into Friday night’s game against St. Lawrence in the first round of the Hockenbury tournament at Norwich (Vt.). The event is part of MMA’s demanding nonconference schedule.
“I made the schedule thinking we were going to have all hands on deck,” Dagan said. “Nine of our 11 nonleague opponents played in postseason tournaments last season. We may take some lumps, but it’s still going to prepare us for conference play.”
MMA features four freshmen and seven sophomores, along with one junior, defensive stalwart Kelsi Eiane of Harpswell.
Sophomore forward Tatum Welch of Newport has provided a strong presence up front. She leads MMA, averaging 11.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, after offseason foot surgery.
“Tatum has certainly picked up where she left off last year,” Dagan said. “She’s a talented basketball player.”
Freshman forward Samantha Goda of Eliot is averaging nearly a double-double with 12.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. She is shooting 57 percent from the floor.
“We needed that, because we had three or four significant losses in the post spot,” Dagan said. “She certainly has done a good job.”
Sophomore Katie Pushard of Winthrop has been the floor leader, contributing 9.0 points and 5.3 assists per contest.
“Katie has taken over at the point guard spot and has done a tremendous job,” Dagan said.
Sophomore forward Jessica Stahl of Bowdoin (5.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and sophomore guard Elizabeth Cote of Brewer (4.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) have both moved into starting roles, joining 5-7 guard Eiane (4.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
Other contributors include freshman swing player Maggie Smith of Bath (6.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg), sophomore guard Katie Hutchinson of Dixfield, freshman guard Jenna King of Old Town, sophomore forward Ashley Tilton of Lubec and freshman guard Kayley Rodriguez of Quincy, Ill.
MMA has had only modest offensive success, averaging 55.3 ppg on 35 percent shooting. The Mariners have struggled from 3-point range (18 percent).
Dagan said MMA is playing more of a deliberate pace and hopes to use a more physical style of play. The Mariners’ defense has been solid in the early going, but learning how to pull out close games is a key challenge for the team.
“We’ve got the talent to compete for a conference championship,” Dagan said. “It’s a matter of the kids believing that and working hard and performing out on the floor.”