November 11, 2005
The University of Maine at Fort Kent Bengal men's and women's basketball teams both have many new faces in addition to some solid experienced players for the upcoming 2005-2006 hoop season.
The 2005-2006 men's season is one of new beginnings for the Bengals. The basketball program graduated four seniors from last season's team shooting guards Shawn Caron and Kerron Simpson, point guard Derrick Cooper, and three-time All- Conference center Bartas Samaitis.
Returning to the Bengal's lineup this winter, for third-year UMFK head coach Eric Werntgen, are guards Rytis Kriunas (Vilnius, Lithuania) and Darius Parker (Wytipitlock) as well as forward Billy Russo (Wilton). Russo led all of NAIA Division II last season in rebounding.
With half of last year's team players graduated, the Bengals have reloaded with young talent. New to the team this year are guard-forward Edmundas Akstinas (Lithuania) and guards Jordan Allen (Milo), Tom Bard (Fort Kent), Hamill Bassue (St. Kitts), and Jay Myers (Houlton). Forward David Russo (Wilton) joins the action this year after red-shirting due to injury last season. With this many new faces in the lineup, the Bengals will use a tough non-conference schedule to mold into a cohesive unit for Sunrise Conference play in January 2006.
The schedule will be a challenge for the Bengals again this season. UMFK will play 16 of their 27 games within the state of Maine. The team will travel to University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Husson College, Kings College (Halifax, Nova Scotia), and Green Mountain for tournaments in non-conference play, as well as a tough match-up this month with NCAA Division I University of Maine at Orono. Within the county, rival University of Maine at Presque Isle returns to the schedule this season for a home and away series after a year's absence.
The Sunrise Conference play begins in the second semester. Fisher College is the defending conference champion, and returns several players including last year's conference Player of the Year, Mike Newcombe. Lyndon State also returns several athletes and will be tough to beat. University of Maine at Machias, who went 10-0 during conference play during the regular season last year, returns a few key players, and College of St. Joseph will look to be much improved with the addition of former UMFK men's coach Jim Graffam. "The conference is up for grabs, and this winter should be a lot of fun," said coach Werntgen.
The 2005- 2006 women's season at UMFK this season will feature many new faces for the Lady Bengals, after graduating five seniors (guards Melissa Hare, Sara Quint, Jessica Gagnon, and forwards Allison Lutz and the college's all-time leading scorer Heidi Fisher) from last season's team. UMFK will look to reload rather than rebuild.
Returning from last year's team is guard Dana Lemon (Richmond, Virginia). She is a great leader and will help bridge the program from the success of the past few seasons to the success of the next few years. Also returning to the Lady Bengals will be guard-forward April Allen (Milo) who took last year off to focus on a demanding year in the nursing program at UMFK. Allen helped the Lady Bengals capture the 2002-2003 Sunrise Conference Championship and the team is happy to have her skills and leadership back.
Among the new faces for this winter are forwards Amanda Davis (Wiscasset), Genice Bassue (St. Kitts), Arcilla Jeffers (St. Kitts), and Tracie Weatherhead (Limestone) as well as guard-forward Nicole Jandreau (Fort Kent). The Lady Bengals have also added the services of senior, Nicole Corbin who was a 1,000 point scorer and All-Maine Player at Van Buren High School. The players should provide a strong supporting cast for third-year coach Lucas Levesque.
The Lady Bengals will again play a challenging schedule this season. Non-conference games include tournaments at Thomas College, Lyndon State, Husson College, Green Mountain College, and Mount St. Vincent (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Other non-conference games include match-ups with UMPI and Saint Joseph's College of Standish.
Sunrise Conference play begins in January 2006 for UMFK. Lyndon State is the defending conference champion, and is looking to repeat. UMM has a new coach and will look to rebuild after the graduation of All-Conference guard Sara Ricker. Fisher College is looking to continue their improvement from last winter, and College of St. Joseph will once again be very tough. "This winter will provide entertaining basketball," commented coach Levesque.
To follow both the Men's and Women's Basketball teams all season long, the public is encouraged to come out to the UMFK SportCenter for games or watch live web-casts on the internet at www.umfk/maine.edu/vstream.