BIDDEFORD — Liz LeBlanc is the kind of basketball player that talks softly and carries a big shot.
As a standout at Jay High School, where she led the Tigers to a state championship, LeBlanc was always a hard-working player that could drill the outside jumper if you gave her a smidgen of space.
She’s been reliable that way at the University of New England as well, but LeBlanc is stepping into a larger role this season.
LeBlanc and fellow senior Beth Suggs were elected captains on an extremely young team.
“We have eight freshmen,” UNE coach Anthony Ewing said. “So half of our team are first-year kids. So their ability to lead off the court and on the court is going to be huge for us. They’ll be able to settle things down when they need to be settled down and give them a pep talk when they need a little pep talk.”
For LeBlanc, being a leader on her team is nothing new. She’s the type of player that earns respect for her effort and dedication to the game. As a captain though, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone a little.
“We’ll look for her to be much more vocal,” Ewing said. “Liz is one of those kids that has always led by example. She works hard. She’s more the type that if she has something to say to you, she waits to get you on the side or talk to you after practice. We want her to be more vocal in the moment than she has in the past.”
LeBlanc knows that will be a bit of a challenge but it is a task that she takes seriously.
“I think I need to be more confident and dependable, especially for the younger players,” LeBlanc said. “I think I can be someone to look up to because we have such a young group this year.”
LeBlanc has made steady progress each year in her game at the college level. After being a four-year regular at Jay, it took some adjusting to the college game.
“College basketball makes you have to be a faster player and make smarter decisions when you take care of the basketball,” LeBlanc said. “I think I’ve become more confident in handling the basketball and making smarter decisions. I’ve progress over the four years.”
LeBlanc started in 16 of 25 games last year as a junior. She averaged 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds.
As a freshman, she played in 24 of 29 games and came off the bench to contribute as a sophomore in 30 of UNE's 31 games.
“Liz has always been an extremely hard-working player from day one,” Ewing said. “That has never wavered. Her progression over the four years is that she’s become such a more confident player on both ends of the court. She’s much more confident with the ball. Her passing has improved. Her shot has always been one of the main things she does for us because she stretches the defense.”
That experience has helped make her a reliable presence on the court. That’s something the team will need this year with such a large group of newcomers.
“Every year I’ve gained more confidence and more experience on the court,” LeBlanc said. “It has made me more confident in game situations.”
LeBlanc says her goal this year is to just be a dependable and solid performer. UNE will not only need her leadership but also her contributions on a regular basis.
“We know what she brings basketball-wise,” said Ewing. “So this year we’re going to count on her to be a real consistent force out there. We really need her to be consistency and bring that same level of leadership and high level of player every single game.”
UNE went 22-6 last year and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. Despite having a young squad, UNE still returns four of its top six scorers from last year including Suggs (12.4 points per game), Lauren Rousseau (9.2 ppg), Kelly Coleman (6.6 ppg) and LeBlanc. UNE was picked second in the preseason poll for the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
"We're young but we're capable of being really good," said LeBlanc. "we'll have to see."