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UMPI Owl women to begin play in new conference

CARIBOU, Maine — The University of Maine at Presque Isle women’s basketball team enters its first season in the North Atlantic Conference with optimism about making significant improvements from a year ago.

Gavin Kane is starting his second year at the helm of the women’s program and will have his first recruiting class onboard this season. Matt Clark is Kane’s assistant coach once again.

Two freshmen are looking to make an immediate impact for the Owls. Sara Musselman, a 5-foot, 7-inch guard from Turlock, California, will be counted on to step in right away and direct the team from the point guard position. Musselman had an outstanding high school career and Kane is excited to have the smooth lefty guard on the East Coast.

Hunter Mercier, a 5-foot, 7-inch shooting guard from Lawrence High School in Fairfield, is the other freshman and is looking to bounce back from a knee injury and provide UMPI with a major perimeter scoring threat.

Key returners for UMPI include junior guard Emmy Churchill from Washburn, who Kane describes as “a leader by example who has a tremendous work ethic.” Churchill played 30.7 minutes a game for the Owls, averaging 6.9 points, four rebounds and two steals per game while consistently defending one of the opponent’s best scorers.

Junior Rhylee Wright, a 6-foot, 1-inch center from Frenchville, led the Owls in scoring during the 2017-18 campaign at 13.8 ppg and in rebounding at 8.9 per game. Wright also shot 70 percent from the foul line.

Junior guard/forward Laura Aroz from Tucson, Arizona, is working her way back from a knee injury that sidelined her the second half of last season. Aroz is just coming off an outstanding volleyball season but Kane said she is still experiencing some knee issues.

Junior Ines Ngoga of Rwanda, a 5-foot, 10-inch forward, saw limited time but Kane said she will be relied upon to have a much larger role this winter for the Owls.

Sophomore guard Marissa Valdivia-Reagle of Seattle, Washington, started 20 of 22 games last season playing both guard positions. “Marissa is a tough player who isn’t afraid to mix it up,” Kane said. “She gives us a physical and more aggressive player on the perimeter.” Reagle scored 4.2 points per game, led the team in steals at 2.3 and averaged 5 rebounds per game a year ago.

Kendra Silvers, a 5-foot, 11-inch sophomore forward from North Berwick, saw a lot of action last season, playing in all 22 games while starting in eight of them. Silvers averaged 5.4 points per game along with 4 rebounds.

The Owls kicked off their season with three games in as many days, playing Rivier University in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Saturday, Nov. 10; Fisher College in Boston Sunday, Nov. 11; and Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Monday, Nov. 12.

UMPI’s first home games will be Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 when they host UM-Farmington in its conference openers.

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