UNITY — Unity College is about as far away as one can get from the bright lights of big time women’s college basketball.

Nestled in the woods some 20 miles northeast of Waterville, the school offers just 16 majors — all based in the environmental sciences — and has an enrollment around 600 students.

The women’s hoops team will never be a Division I powerhouse, but that is just fine by them and in a sense, that is what makes it special.

“We don’t get paid to play basketball. We’re doing it for the love of the game or just to be a part of a team,” Shelby Hall, a senior guard by way of Smyer, Texas, said. “If you decide to be a part of a team you go and put everything you can into it. Even if you know it’s not going to be the best outcome you just give it all you’ve got.”

Those who elect to play sports, in this instance women’s basketball, at Unity do not do so for glory or attention. You are far more likely to see a high school basketball game on television than one of the Rams’.

Recruiting is a challenge of course given the specialized nature and size of the school, but that also allows second-year coach Gary Pelton to work with players he knows are going to give him maximum effort.

“I’m looking for someone who first, wants to be here for one of the majors that is offered here and then someone who is willing to work hard in this culture,” Pelton, a former high school coach in Vermont, said. “I’ve always said determination is much more important than talent. I’ll take five players who want to play, and are willing to listen and learn and improve and do better than with five stars.”

Teaching moments come in plenty of different forms and the Rams certainly found one in their season opener, a 106-8 loss in Yankee Small College Conference play to last season’s United States Collegiate Athletic Association runner up Central Maine Community College.

“It was rough — as the score shows — but I think since we’re kind of a learning team I think it was about keeping positivity because we went into it knowing that we were going to lose,” Hall said. “When you have a learning team that’s just the way it is when you play against the No. 1 team (USCAA Division II) in the nation.”

How does a game like this happen in collegiate athletics though?

Well, the success of one team directly impacted another after the Unity women’s soccer team qualified for the USCAA national tournament in Charleston, WV.

“Seven of my basketball players are on the soccer team so they were in West Virginia,” Pelton said. “That left me with six players. Four had never played basketball before this year and one of them hadn’t played basketball before last year.”

“…I tried before to see if we could postpone and there was no real place to put it on our schedule.”

The phrase “running up the score” seems to appear any time a lopsided result like a 98-point game happens, but both sides agreed this was not a case of that.

“We didn’t do anything spectacular and we didn’t purposely run up the score,” Gabby Foy, a Mt. Blue graduate who plays for CMCC, said. “Obviously it’s a tough situation. We didn’t want to beat them by that much but I don’t know. We did all we could really.”

“They didn’t run the score up on us. They did an appropriate thing,” Pelton said. “They worked their press for a while, took a 22-2 lead and called it off.”

For their league, CMCC is one of the best teams in the country and routinely presses for all 40 minutes. After the first few of the Nov. 4 blowout the Mustangs fell back into half-court, man-to-man defense and later zone.

“No one wants to be a part of a game like that but I don’t know what else we could have done differently,” CMCC coach Andrew Morong said. “We don’t know how good their six players are so we started the game how we typically do and as soon as we figured out, ‘OK, this could get bad’ — which was in the first minute of the game — we sagged off, sagged off and then went into a zone, which we don’t usually play.”

Morong, a former coach at Poland High School, has seen lopsided games from both perspectives.

“When I was at Poland we lost to York, I don’t even remember, like 70-6 or something like that and we had zero points at halftime,” Morong said. “I know what it’s like to be on the other end of that and I was sick to my stomach all game long.

“What are you supposed to tell them? I mean, the ball is bouncing in front of you, don’t grab it? Don’t get the rebound? Should we tell them to let them score and our girls not to score and just take a shot clock violation? You can’t do those things.” To Unity’s credit, it has not let the lopsided score affect them.

Since the defeat the Rams have gone 1-3, scoring a 41-29 win over Hampshire College and playing far more competitive basketball along the way now that they have their full team.

Of course, wins on the court — while nice — are not why these women ended up at Unity.

“Our academics come first and that’s why we’re here. The sports aspect of it is just to play, just to be competitive, just to be involved with something (and) just to better ourselves,” Ashley Moeller, a senior from Hobart, N.Y. who scored a game-high 22 points in the win over Hampshire, said. “…Unity is probably the best choice I’ve made in my life so far,”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.