PRESQUE ISLE, Me. (WAGM) - The UMPI Owls made the playoffs last year, but lost in the quarterfinals to SUNY Canton. They return a large contingent of last year's team and they're hoping their experience will push the Owls to new heights.
"We were a little inexperienced and lost a lot of close games," Head Coach Dan Kane said. "We're hoping to build off that, host a playoff game and go from there."
They lost 6 games by 10 points or less. They finished at 11-15, even if they win half of those close games, they're back at 500. A big difference for Kane is the maturation of junior point guard Shyquinn Dix.
"He's one of our captains and just leading our team, trying to push the tempo and really digging down on defense," Kane said. "Shy has done a great job transitioning from last year and he's really setting the tone."
And for Dix, it's about keeping things steady in the ole noggin.
"last year we had a lot of breakdowns at the end of games," Dix said. "I can see it already, even though it's early, we're just a lot more prepared and ready for situations like that."
Another key cog in the Owls machine, is sophomore guard and Presque Isle native Griffin Guerrette. The former Wildcat won NAC rookie of the year last season.
"Griffin is great, he works hard, he's very coachable, he had a great offseason," Kane said. "We're expecting great things from him offensively, but people don't understand what a great passer he is, and he really grew as the season went on defensively, we're expecting him to spend a lot of time on the other team's best shooters."
And it definitely was an adjustment for Guerrette.
"People are a lot bigger, there's a lot bigger players," Guerrette said. "I also learned that the other teams are working just as hard as you and that basically it's all mental, you gotta be smarter than the other team."
It's the Owls second year in the NAC. The adjustment period is over. They've got their eyes set on a championship.
"Obviously we want to win a championship, it's never been done at UMPI before, it's our second year in the Nac, so that's the ultimate goal," Guerrette said.
Coach Kane though, he's taking it one NAC foe at a time.
"First conference game is UMF, they're the reigning number one seed," Kane said. "It would be great to take them down at their place on our first conference game."
That game isn't until Friday December 13th. Next up, the Owls try to get back to 500 on Monday in their home opener against the Machias Clippers.