For the first time in two years, University of Maine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon has a completely healthy team.
Sophomore guard Anna Kahelin’s return to the lineup after knee surgery in last weekend’s America East sweep at Binghamton gave the Black Bears a full complement of players.
Kahelin played a total of 19 minutes against the Bearcats.
“She has worked really hard to get back. We have some depth now which is something we haven’t had,” Vachon said.
The Black Bears, who have won seven straight, were decimated by injuries last season and had only eight available players going into the league title contest that was canceled because of COVID-19.
Kahelin suffered her season-ending knee injury in the quarterfinal win over Vermont.
UMaine started this season without its two inside players, seniors Fanny Wadling and Maeve Carroll, an All-America East second-team pick last season. They were sidelined by lower body injuries but have since returned.
Wadling, who missed all of last season with a concussion, is trying to establish a different role as more of a high-post player, since Carroll is a more polished low-post threat.
“[Wadling] can play up by the elbow or down low,” Vachon said. “Fanny is more versatile defensively than Maeve.”
Vachon said it is beneficial to have the option of utilizing the two taller players and their complementary talents on the court at the same time, especially against teams that try to establish a height advantage.
The ability to rotate Carroll and Wadling also helps balance out their minutes and enables them to go harder longer.
Having everyone available will benefit the first-place Black Bears, who control their own destiny in preparation for the America East tournament, which has a new format this season as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The top two seeds will receive quarterfinal byes and advance to the semifinals, which will be held at a site within a three-hour drive of Piscataway, New Jersey, the site of the league’s COVID-19 testing partner.
The other teams will go to pods hosted by the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds.
The Black Bears (12-1) are 9-1 in conference play. Their next series is Feb. 6-7 when they host UMass Lowell, one of the other top-two contenders. UMaine is off this weekend due to a COVID-19 pause at UMaine.
UMass Lowell (7-3 AE) hosts Albany (3-3) for two games this weekend.
Stony Brook, the league regular-season champion last winter, is 6-2 and plays two at Hartford (3-7).
Vermont was 4-2 and in the hunt but the Catamount players decided to opt out of the season due to the pandemic.
UMaine had its series with Vermont postponed, which leaves the Black Bears the two UMass Lowell games, two home games against Maryland Baltimore County and two at Stony Brook.
America East recently abandoned its composite schedule because of COVID-19 and will reconfigure matchups every two weeks, so upcoming games have not been determined.