FORT KENT, Me (WAGM) - The UMFK men's basketball team is coming off one of the best seasons program history. The Bengals won over 20 games and were the one seed in the USCAA tournament. They lost in the semifinal round in heartbreaking fashion and head coach Tom Bird is hoping a new group of players can take the team back to the tourney this season.
"Obviously we want to get back to the national tournament. This year we are in it to win it. We were last year, but maybe it just wasn't the right time. To have a lot of experience last year and build on that experience and hopefully take it a step further," said head coach Tom Bird.
"It was a great experience. Some teams doubted our team and didn't think we'd make it that far. I feel like we shocked a lot of people, which was a good thing last year and how far we went," added senior Bobby Syvanthong.
Many players on last years team are gone and it'll be almost an entirely new squad.
"Yeah, it'll be different than any other year besides my first one. We only have three guys coming back and ten new guys. Our biggest challenge trying to mesh a bunch of new guys together. The three guys we return, all three are starters. That was a big piece for us. We've got four JUCO transfers that should be able to step in right away and play some big minutes. Obviously we have the two Maine freshman and then Tom Enerva of Fort Kent," Bird said.
One of the Maine freshman is Andre Rossignol who grew up in Aroostook County, playing for Van Buren and Caribou during his high school career.
"Representing the County is great, but more specifically the St. John Valley. I grew up in Van Buren, not too far from here, so I definitely have some pride there," Rossignol said.
The three returning players are the captains on the team and they have been trying their best to get the new players up to speed.
"This year we have a lot of young players so they'll be looking up to me to lead them. So that'll be my job this season," Syvanthong explained.
UMFK will have six home games this year, and will look forward to playing their signature style in front of the home crowds.
"We're looking to run and gun again and play some high pressure defense and get up and down the floor," Bird said.