UMaine Coach Amy Vachon, left, high-fives Adrianna Smith toward the end of the America East women’s basketball championship game Friday in Orono. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

The University of Maine women’s basketball team will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to face Ohio State of the Big Ten in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at noon.

This is Maine’s 10th trip to the NCAA Tournament, and its first since 2019. The Black Bears (24-9) earned their spot with a 64-48 win over Vermont in the America East championship game on Friday.

Maine is a 15th seed in the 68-team women’s field. First-round NCAA women’s games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Ohio State (25-5) is a No. 2 seed in the Portland Regional in Oregon. The Buckeyes are an at-large team after being eliminated by Maryland in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament. Ohio State was the Big Ten’s regular-season champion and was ranked as high as No. 2 this season.

“They’re really good. They play fast. They like to press,” Maine Coach Amy Vachon said.

Maine guard Anne Simon, the America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, said Ohio State was a team the Black Bears thought they might get as a first-round matchup. The team watched the selection show, which aired on ESPN, at their home court, the Pit, with a small group of fans and university staff on Sunday night.


“We looked at the rankings before (the selection show), and expected Ohio State,” Simon said. “I’m kind of happy we’re playing them. I love to watch Ohio State play. They play great defense, so that’s something we need to be ready for.”

Vachon said she expected the Black Bears to earn a No. 15 seed, and she’s not surprised by the matchup.

“I thought there was a chance we might bump up to a 14, but there weren’t any upsets in conference tournaments with lower teams,” Vachon said.

Maine has one NCAA Tournament win, a 60-58 upset of Stanford in 1999. Vachon was the starting point guard for the Black Bears in that game. Maine is 0-2 against Ohio State, and most recently played the Buckeyes in 2017.

This is Maine’s second game against a Big Ten opponent this season. The Black Bears hosted Indiana and Gorham native Mackenzie Holmes at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Nov. 30. The Hoosiers won, 67-59.

While a player at Maine, Vachon went to four consecutive NCAA tournaments. None of the players on Maine’s roster were on the team in 2019, the last time the Black Bears reached the tournament. Vachon’s message to her team as it enters uncharted waters is simple: They played a tough nonconference schedule to prepare for this opportunity.

“You want to really enjoy it. Enjoy it, and prepare like heck,” Vachon said.

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