AUGUSTA — Another year, another national tournament appearance for the University of Maine at Augusta women’s basketball team.

For the second consecutive year — a first in program history — the Moose (21-7) are off to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Division II Women’s Small College Basketball National Championship. No. 7 UMA’s quest for a national title begins Monday when it takes on No. 10 Central Penn (16-9) in a first round game at noon at Richard Bland College in Petersburg, Virginia.

“We’re super excited,” said UMA senior forward Kaeti Butterfield, a Monmouth Academy graduate. “No team in UMA history has ever gone two years in a row and we were the first team, a year ago, to ever win a game at nationals, so that was pretty cool. Now we have an opportunity to go down there and win again, and even if we don’t, it’s just a really great experience for all the newer players who’ve never been. It’s just a really good environment to play in.”

“I think the kids are starting to learn halfway through (the season) that we’re not just coming to play rec ball anymore,” UMA head coach Heath Cowan said. “It’s kind of serious. We want to get to nationals, we want to compete at nationals. I think we’ve got a good group, we’ve got a good matchup in the first round. We think it’s going to be a good game. But when you get down there, you have to play well. It doesn’t matter who you play down there, if you have a clunker, it’s not going to end well. We’ve competed every day we’ve been on the court. Every game we’ve been in, we’ve been in every single game. If we go down there and do what we’ve been doing — nothing more, nothing less — I think we’ll be OK.”

The winner of that game moves on to play No. 2 University of Cincinnati Clermont in the second round on Tuesday. In fact, for the Moose to become national champions, they will have to win four games in four days. The national title game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Thursday at Virginia State University in Petersburg.

“Our first game, we have a week to get ready for,” said UMA guard/forward Sydney Farrar, a Maine Central Institute alum. “But if we keep going, we have one night to get ready (for the next opponent) and no practice time. It is a lot of focus on us just doing what we do best.”


UMA has been on a roll this season, already putting together a better record than last year’s 19-9 campaign. The Moose won 13 straight games from Nov. 29 to Jan. 29.

A possible opponent in the USCAA tourney for UMA is bitter rival Central Maine Community College of Auburn. The Mustangs (26-2) — the Yankee Small College Conference champions — enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed. UMA lost both its games during the regular season against CMCC, a 66-53 final on Nov. 9 in Augusta, then a 57-54 decision on Feb. 1 in Auburn.

University of Maine at Augusta women’s basketball head coach Heath Cowan talks to players during practice Thursday at the Augusta Armory. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We’re working together (well), we’ve all just become so close,” said UMA senior forward Mariah Dunbar, a Skowhegan graduate. “Communication throughout all of our games (has been good). Even in practice, we’ve been working on communicating even better. But I think how close we are as a team is what helps us be so successful.”

Five players are averaging 10 or more points per game for the Moose. Freshman guard Alisyn Alley (13.3 ppg) leads the group, and is also averaging 6.7 assists per game. She’s followed by junior guard Desirae Dumais (12.7), Butterfield (11.4), Dunbar (11.2) and Farrar (11). Butterfield is UMA’s top rebounder, averaging 7.7 rebounds per game.

“We want to go down, we want to make a run and we don’t just get a t-shirt and come back,” Cowan said. “We want to go down and participate a little bit. But you can’t get the second (game) until you (win) the first one, so hopefully that’ll happen.”

Central Penn is led by senior point guard Tahniyaah Jackson, who is averaging 13.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

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