AUBURN — Among the nice accommodations, festivities and sight-seeing, there will be basketball.
Despite all the comforts and pleasures of a mini-vacation, the Central Maine Community College women's basketball team is, indeed, working this week. They've got a No. 1 ranking to defend and a mission to accomplish.
"We worked hard during the season," sophomore forward Maggie Sabine said. "Five months is a long time to spend with each other. We just want to be ready and mentally prepared."
The Mustangs (22-4) play their first game of the USCAA National Championships in Uniontown, Penn., on Thursday at 6 p.m. against the No. 8 seed, the hometown team from Penn State-Fayette.
"I'm really excited and really happy to be here," said Sabine, who along with fellow sophomore Susie French was named a USCAA Division II First Team All-American.
It is the first time in nearly a decade that a player from the CMCC women's program has earned such an honor.
"Last year, it was a great experience for the team. This year, we have a good head on our shoulders and we're prepared, and we're all the best of friends," Sabine said.
Last year, the Mustangs reached the national championship tourney as the eighth seed. They lost both games.
Five players return from that squad, including Sabine, Danielle McCusker, Ariel McConkey, Rebecca Tucci and Jaime Swart.
"Last year, I think we were just happy to go," CMCC coach Andrew Morong said. "No one had ever experienced that before. This year, we have five girls that were here last year. They know what to expect. They know what it takes to compete at the national level. They can kind of bring the younger players along and help them know what to expect on and off the the court."
With last year's experience making them a little more seasoned, the Mustangs enter this week's tourney very focused on the task at hand.
"We've changed expectations," Morong said. "We're ranked No. 1 in the tournament. We've been ranked No. 1 all season long. There's a reason for that. So we're reminding the girls of that. Our game play, our style, CM basketball has been good enough this whole time. We have to believe in it and don't have to change anything now."
Sabine said the team has more depth and support off the bench compared to last year and they're better mentally prepared. They understand how this week needs to be approached and they've been not only anxious for it but ready.
"I'm taking it a lot more seriously," Sabine said. "Last year I didn't really know what to expect. This year, I know we have to come in with our heads together and be ready to play."
It adds a little pressure to the week, but the players don't see it that way.
"I don't think we're taking it as more pressure," Sabine said. "We see it as a good opportunity to come out and show what we are and play our game."
The Mustangs haven't looked too far ahead in the tournament, either. Morong said he hasn't scouted any of the other teams. Their attention is solely on Thursday's game at the moment.
Penn State-Fayette is a guard-oriented team that likes to pressure and can shoot the 3 with regularity.
"Any time you play a school on their home floor, it's not going to be easy," Morong said. "They're extremely talented. They were the Penn State University Athletic Conference champions last year and have most of their players back. They're going to be very competitive."
What Morong has stressed to his team is that they can't worry about what the opposition does at this point. It is going to come down to doing what the Mustangs do best and seeing whether that's good enough.
"If someone is going to beat us, they're going to have to take us out of our game and do something special," Morong said. "The girls take a lot of pride in the No. 1 ranking. They know how hard they've worked over the last five months. They know they deserve that ranking and it's time to back it up on the national stage."