With the graduation of two-time All-America East honoree Sabre Proctor last spring, the Stony Brook Women’s Basketball team is turning over a new leaf heading into the 2015-16 season.
The Seawolves went 17-14 in head coach Caroline McCombs’ inaugural season en route to a first-round exit in the conference tournament. After winning a program-record 24 games two seasons ago, the team had a tumultuous 2014-15 campaign.
Stony Brook had some big wins last season, including a thrilling Dec. 19 win against Lafayette and a Feb. 22 upset against four-time defending conference champion Albany—but the season was ultimately marred by the disappointing way it ended. Stony Brook lost in the America East tournament 49–47 to a UMBC team the Seawolves had blown out in both regular season meetings.
This season, Stony Brook is ranked fourth of nine teams in the preseason poll, as voted on by head coaches in the America East. Seniors Brittany Snow, Miranda Jenkins, Alyssa Coiro and Kim Hanlon will play their final seasons as they look to help the team rebound and challenge in the conference.
One player who will not be back is Proctor, who finished her career with the 11th-most points in school history despite playing only three years for the Seawolves. McCombs noted that her presence will be difficult to replace.
“When you graduate a 1,000-point scorer, an all-conference player, that’s a tough void to fill,” McCombs said. “We’ve asked a lot of players to work on their game in the off-season to improve and we’ve recruited some newcomers.”
With Stony Brook void of a bona fide star on the court this season, the team will look for a collaborative offensive effort.
McCombs acknowledged that it is unlikely that any of her players will match the statistical output of Proctor, but she expects the hole to be filled by several players making modest improvements.
The team effort the coach is looking for is best epitomized by junior point guard Kori Bayne-Walker, the orchestrator of the Seawolves’ offense and the conference’s leader in assists last season with 163. A second-team all-conference selection, Bayne-Walker was the second-leading scorer, trailing only Proctor.
The Rochester-native has contributed in all aspects of the game for Stony Brook. In a non-conference game against Lafayette last December, Bayne-Walker finished the game just one rebound shy of a triple-double. Bayne-Walker has emerged as one of the best playmakers in the conference and her coach commended her intellectual offensive style.
“Kori’s been a sponge in the off-season, just studying the game. She absolutely loves basketball,” McCombs said. “The sky’s the limit for Kori. She’s very smart. She brings vocal leadership that we need from a point guard—she knows what we want to do and she has a high standard from what she expects from herself.”
While Bayne-Walker has emerged as a leader in the backcourt, Snow has emerged as a chief in the frontcourt for the Seawolves. The senior forward has seen a significant jump in her efficiency, as her field goal percentage climbed from 40.2 percent in her sophomore season to a team-best 51.3 percent in her junior season.
“Brittany’s just a staple,” McCombs said. “As a coach, you don’t realize the impact that players like that have on things until they’re gone. She never steps between the lines not giving everything she has. She’s focused, she’s self-motivated, she cares.”
Stony Brook is going to look to several players to make larger contributions to help fill the absence of Proctor and Jessica Ogunnorin, who was the team’s leading rebounder last season. She transferred to play out her redshirt senior season at her graduate school, Virginia Commonwealth.
McCombs is expecting a by-committee approach to the low-post game this season. Senior forward Alyssa Coiro is expected to start, with junior Anamaria Skaro, redshirt sophomore Elizabeth Manner and freshman Ogechi Anyagaligbo figuring to contribute down low as well.
Jenkins and junior guard Christa Scognamiglio will play important roles as wing players. Jenkins, one of four seniors on the team, figures to be improved this season, one more year recovered from a patella injury suffered as a redshirt sophomore. Scognamiglio was the Seawolves’ leading three-point threat a season ago, knocking down 54 shots from behind the arc. The team’s schedule will not be easy, as Stony Brook’s nonconference tab features games against Syracuse and Ole Miss, a pair of power-conference schools.
A home win against perennial conference-favorite Albany last season demonstrated the kind of potential this team has and McCombs has high expectations for her team in the upcoming season.
“We want to win every game,” McCombs said. “That’s our expectation. We’ll compete and try to get better every single day.”
The head coach noted the importance of team chemistry, a main theme for the Seawolves this season, as they look to overcome tough departures and try to attain favorable outcomes moving forward.
“I think that we do that first in the locker room and being good teammates with one another,” McCombs added. “If we build that sort of culture within, I think it will translate to on-the-court success.”