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SAINT PETER'S WOMEN
2009-10 RECORD: 7-11 in MAAC play, 11-19 overall.
PRESEASON PREDICTION: Peahens are picked to finish ninth by league coaches in their preseason poll.
KEY RETURNEES: 6-2 Junior forward Quiana Porter (4.1 points, 6.1 rebounds), 6-0 senior forward Charlene Riddick (9.1 points, 6.5 rebounds), 5-10 junior forward Jynae Judson (11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds).
KEY LOSSES: 5-8 guard Nathasha Morris (12.2 points, 3.5 rebounds), 5-7 guard Alena Ali (8.3 points, 2.3 rebounds).
NOTES: There haven't been many good times in recent years for the once-dominant program. Saint Peter's has only had one better-than-.500 season (19-12 in 2007-08) in the last eight. And, it wasn't real good last year as evidenced by double-digit losses in 8 of its 11 MAAC setbacks.
But, the program has potentially one of the stronger front courts, led by 6-2 junior Quiana Porter (6.7 points, 10.2 rebounds in her last nine games), 6-0 senior Charlene Riddick (9.1 points, 6.5 rebounds) and 5-10 junior forward Jynae Judson (11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds). And then, there were some decidedly negative statistcs from that trio: They conspired to shoot .361 percent from the floor. And, as the individuals who handled the ball the most, they had 346 turnovers against just 163 assists. Judson, the team's primary ball-handler last year had 160 TOs vs. 74 assists, an abysmal rate. Chalk much of that up to not having a legitimate point guard last season. A better point guard will get teammates the ball in better shooting positions and, theoretically, cut down on the turnovers that averaged a too-high 20 per game last season.
The team did have some success elsewhere. Its 5.1 per-game rebounding edge was the best by a conference team. But, its 54.2 point-per-game average was better than only one conference team.
HOW SAINT PETER'S WILL SUCCEED: This one is simple: Find a point guard. There appears to be a good one in place in 5-3 freshman Aziza May of Charles F. Brush High School in South Euclid, Ohio. May was a 4-year high school starter at the point, and averaged 10.2 points, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a senior. Reports indicate that she is quick and capable of going past defenders. Still ... she'll only be a freshman and first-year players rarely have the type impact the Peahens will need from the position to make a significant improvement.
But if May can help trim the turnovers to a more manageable total, and the front line takes a step forward, Saint Peter's could easily move up a couple of spots and, maybe, even approach a .500 record.
There's more help than May coming in. Aminah Davis, a 5-6 guard sat out last season after playing her freshman year at Monroe Community College where she averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. She should also be a valuable perimeter piece.
COACH'S COMMENT: "Jynae Judson has really expanded her game," said coach Stephanie DeWolfe. "Until this point she relied on her athleticism. We're hoping she can build on that this year. The biggest thing about this team is that we've got really good leadership. We've got four freshmen coming in and we have high expectations for the point guard (May), who can make our team go quick. She can really push the ball."
PREDICTION: It was a reasonable prediction by the coaches to pick the Peahens to finish ninth, but there really isn't much difference between teams that figure to finish third or fourth through ninth. If things come together, and the team gets better guard play and takes care of the ball a lot better than year ago, moving up several spots in the standings isn't out of the question.