University of Maine freshman shooting guard Lexi Mittelstadt takes a shot during a recent practice. University of Maine photo

It didn’t take long for University of Maine freshman Lexi Mittelstadt to realize she was in the company of talented basketball players.

The 2020 Mt. Blue graduate, who is majoring in business administration and will be minoring in political science, is one of the team’s newbies and has the privilege of shooting hoop in Memorial Gymnasium — fondly known as “The Pit” by Black Bear fans.

“You are playing with girls who are as dedicated as you and who are focused and talented,” Mittelstadt, a shooting guard, said. “Playing along with some amazing players is a lot of fun, but you also have to have the correct mindset to be able to keep up and to be able to follow all that is going on.”

Maine women’s assistant basketball coach Parise Rossignol pointed out that it is a plus that Mittelstadt is a born-and-bred Mainer.

“Something that makes Lexi special is her love for her home state and for our university,” Rossignol, a Van Buren native who finished her UMaine playing career in 2019, said.  “There’s something special about being a Mainer on this team and she brings a great level of energy and enthusiasm every day. She is also a great teammate and is willing to do whatever it takes to make our team better.

“Lexi works really hard on the court and is someone who has shown she has the ability to knock down shots in live action. I’m excited to see her continue to grow as she gains more experience playing against high-level players.”

Fellow Maine assistant basketball coach Courtney England, who was a standout at Leavitt Area High School before playing for the Black Bears, echoed Rossignol’s comments.

“The jump from high school to college is not an easy task. She’s working to learn the system, the defensive schemes and adjusting to the overall speed and strength differences,” England said. “Lexi brings great energy and is always positive, which every team needs.

“Lexi is a great ambassador for what the state of Maine is, a hard worker, who is willing to do whatever is asked of her.”

The biggest challenge for Mittelstadt is keeping up and learning from athletes who have become acclimated to an atmosphere of intense competition.

“I am not used to playing with these same athletic players,” Mittelstadt, who joined the Black Bears as a preferred walk-on, said. “I am not used to playing against these athletic players, but I would say that is the biggest change overall for me.

“Defensively, every offensive player is so quick and so fast and you have to stay focused the whole time. You can’t lose focus.”

While Mittelstadt has been impressed with her teammates’ athleticism, she remains undaunted and welcomes the challenges that come with playing basketball at the college level.

“I love all of it,” she said. “It is hard to pick one thing. It is great to play with girls from different backgrounds. We have people coming in from different countries. It is just amazing with the family atmosphere we have. We all understand each other really well and this is really awesome to be a part of.” 

Mittelstadt expeditiously learned how to balance her studies and play for the University of Maine’s women’s basketball team despite the nagging threat of COVID-19.

“(The season) is going well,” she said. “There has been a lot of adversity dealing with everything that is going on, obviously. But we are staying pretty positive and it helps to have really positive coaches, so we are hanging in there.

“We take pride in wearing our masks every day and making sure we are following the protocols.”

The Black Bears’ women’s basketball team, along with the schools men’s basketball and hockey teams, have yet to play a game this season. Those squads were gearing up for their season openers last last month before the University of Maine paused winter sports for two weeks (through Dec. 8) due to positive COVID-19 tests.

“Obviously things look pretty different this year because of COVID, but despite all the challenges that accompany that, Lexi is doing a great job,” Rossignol added. “There have been a lot of unknowns this season, but despite all that’s going on, she is someone who comes to practice every day with great energy and is one of our most vocal freshmen, which is great to see.”

Mittelstadt said changes in scheduling due to COVID-19 hasn’t been as disruptive as she thought it might be.

“It helps to have a set schedule everyday. Every day pretty much looks the same,” she said. “I am very grateful to have this opportunity. That is for sure.”


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