Saturday, August 24, 2013

Women's Report: Coyle Begins Rebuilding Peacocks

Here's another in the series looking back, and ahead, at conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 2-16 in MAAC play (10th place), 2-28 overall. Lost to Canisius, 79-55 in play-in round of the MAAC's post-season tournament.

2012-13 RECAP: The Peacocks started the non-portion of the season with 11 consecutive losses, six of those by 22 points or more and three by 34 or more. Things didn't get much better after that as seven straight conference losses extended the team's record to 0-18 by late January. But, Saint Peter's players continued to play hard, breaking through for wins at Manhattan and at Canisius in their next four games before losing their final eight. And, then, after the season ended the program made a coaching change as Pat Coyle replaced Stephanie De Wolfe.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Somehow, through some difficult times (the current seniors on the team have seen the program put up a combined 13-79 record over the past three seasons), there was a never-give-up attitude by players. It was enough to keep the Peacocks close for portions of just about every game, but not enough to keep it up for a full 40 minutes. Still, there were some highlights. After 18 straight losses came a 2-2 stretch with both wins coming on the road. Senior Krystal Edwards put up 22 points in a win at Manhattan on Jan. 27. Then, 11 days later, current senior Aziza May poured in a career-high 29 points as the Peacocks won at Canisius. There was nearly one more win, a late-season one at Siena when freshman guard Bridget Whitfield went a perfect 8-for-8 from three points range in what became a 70-67 loss at Siena. Whitfield's performance was just the sixth time in NCAA women's history that a player has made as many three-pointers in a game without a miss. Overall, Edwards had a nice season (13.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and a league-best 3.0 steals per game), Jessika Holmes was also among the steal leaders in the conference (2.7 per contest), and May (11.6 points, 3.8 assists) bounced back for a nice junior season after dropping off some as a soph.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Much did, as the 2-28 record can attest. But, many of the woes were predicated not on desire, but physical limitations. The team lacked both overall height and physical strength, and opponents usually took advantage of Saint Peter's interior defense. The Peacocks allowed 69 points per game, the worst in the league by nearly a six-point average. The Peacocks also struggled handling the ball and their assist-to-turnover ratio (0.49) was the 17th worst nationally. It probably also didn't help that De Wolfe was on pregnancy leave for a good portion of the season. De Wolfe, a former standout player at Saint Peter's, had been the team's coach for the past nine years. She was able to instill her hard-nosed style of play into the program, but couldn't seem to attract the type of talent that was around during her own playing days. There was a coaching change after the season, with veteran Pat Coyle taking over in early June.

WHAT'S AHEAD: There has to be better days on the horizon, but Coyle's late hiring (nearly three months after this past season ended) left her considerably behind in terms of recruiting for the coming season. Still, she was able to bring in a good guard (Marcia Senatus of Trenton (N.J.) Catholic H.S., and two post players that Coyle believes will help.. If nothing else, the program is in good hands, to say the least. Coyle not only has had success within the league (she took Loyola to two NCAA tournaments in the 1990's), but had also coached in the WNBA, including five seasons as head coach with the New York Liberty. She had been an assistant at Pittsburgh for the past three years. And, she was also able to bring in Phyllis Mangina, who had been the head coach at Seton Hall for 25 years before she left that program after the 2009-10 season. The Coyle-Mangina coaching tandem brings instant credibility. There is also a good nucleus of returning players, led by May, Whitfield and fifth-year senior Kaydine Bent, a strong post player who averaged a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game last season. It's probably enough to make the team more competitive this coming season. And, it's hard not to envision the program getting better quickly with Coyle in charge.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: Certainly more competitive than this past season, but the team did lose its best player (Edwards) and another starter (Holmes). There will probably be a few more wins than a year ago, but there's likely to be another battle to avoid the bottom couple of spots in the standings in the upcoming season before things turn around.

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