After a brief early summer vacation break, it's time to resume the series looking at conference programs. We've got four more women's teams to feature.
Up now ...
SAINT PETER'S WOMEN
2010-11 RECORD: 5-13 in MAAC play, 6-25 overall.
2010-11 RECAP: An 0-11 beginning didn't exactly create optimism, particularly since the team's top inside player, Charlene Riddick, suffered a season-ending injury in the Peahens' eighth game. To that point, she averaged 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. Afterwards, Saint Peter's really had no inside presence. But, things did get slightl better. The team went 6-14 after the difficult beginning, and ended strong by winning its three straight late-season games, two at the end of the regular-season (including an impressive 60-57 victory over second-place Loyola) followed by a play-in round victory over Rider in the conference tournament. Overall, senior-to-be forward Jynae Judson picked up much of Riddick's slack, leading the team in scoring and rebounding. And, a group of young players, led by guards Teresa Manigrasso and Aziza May, noticeably improved as the year went on, surely creating some future optimism.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The team's resiliency. An 0-11 start could easily have discouraged this group, but it didn't. Judson, a 5-10 forward, had a borderline first-team all-star season (she was picked as a second-team all-league selection, averaging 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. Two freshmen, off-guard Teresa Manigrasso (7.5, 2.6) and point guard Aziza May (5.2, 3.0, 3.1 assists) had nice rookie years. Both were inconsistent, but when they were at their best it was easy to see that the Peahens' backcourt is set for the next three seasons. Another senior-to-be, 5-9 forward lauren Morris also had a solid year (7.4, 2.6), as did 6-2 Quiana Porter (3.9, 4.6), who showed some signs that she might be the answer to finding an inside player for the coming season. Graduating senior Jessica Coles, a slender 6-footer, had one career game ... a 25-point, 9-rebound effort against Iona in late January, but there weren't enough of those type individual efforts overall this past season. Still, the late-season run should create some optimism for a program that has struggled in recent years.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The early season loss of Riddick was an immediate set-back, and the 0-11 start wasn't exactly encouraging. There wasn't a lot of inside help. Coles, built like a small foward, was the team's biggest starter. Scoring was extremely difficult to come by, although that was a trend throughout the league for women's teams this past season. Judson's 13.2 point per game average was the only one close to double figures. Next best was Manigrasso's 7.5 ppg. mark. Manigrasso and May, while both obviously talented young players, were both freshmen and played like first-year players too often. May, who looks like she could become one of the conference's better point guard, had 115 turnovers against just 97 assists. Judson, who justifiably had the ball in her hands almost every trip down court, had 122 turnovers. As a team the Peahens had just 280 assists against 574 turnovers.
WHAT'S AHEAD: The Peahens are one of several MAAC teams that appear to have a bright future based on having solid young talent. How quickly that talent develops will determine how quickly the Peahens return to at least a competitive level. But, this team clearly has a chance. Judson, with any improvement, will be one of the conference's better players. And, Morris will help out along the front line. But, neither of those seniors is taller than 5-10. The Peahens need height. Porter, at 6-2, could provide that, but she'll have to be better than she was this past season. Manigrasso and May look like they'll eventually be one of the best backcourts in the MAAC, along with another young guard, 5-2 sophomore-t0-be Khadija Young, who played well off the bench this past season. But that perimeter threesome will all just be sophomores this season.
PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: There's enough talent here to ensure the Peahens won't be a bottom-dweller, and will definitely show improvement this coming season. The question, though, remains, how much they can improve. There doesn't appear to be enough talent in place to challenge for the top few spots. Somewhere between fourth and eighth seems to be the best guess, depending on how quickly an inside presence develops and how big an improvement the young perimeter players can make as sophomores.