“I think we were excited about last year. I think it was a nice step in the right direction, but obviously we want to continue to do better in the America East, and really be able to compete for a championship,” Women’s Basketball coach Beth O’Boyle said.
O’Boyle, third year coach of the Seawolves and engineer of the seventh best turnaround in the country last season, has reason to have championship aspirations for the first time during her tenure at Stony Brook. Going from pre-season cellar dweller predictions, to obtaining the fourth seed for the America East Conference Championships, the 10-win improvement marked a shift in the right direction for O’Boyle’s squad.
With a 14-16 season in the rearview mirror, Stony Brook looks to improve upon their best record since the 2006-2007 season. After dropping a tough battle against the fifth seeded University of New Hampshire 49-46 in the first round of the America East Championships, there is plenty left to achieve.
Coaches from all the teams in the America East Conference voted Stony Brook to finish third this season, giving the young team confidence before opening up Nov. 8 at home in Pritchard Gymanisum against NJIT. Is this the season for the Seawolves to roar into the NCAA tournament?
Leading the Seawolves’ attack in the 2013-2014 season will be junior Sabre Proctor, a second year Seawolf who transferred from North Carolina A&T and took control of the offensive attack last season. Proctor looks to continue where she ended last season, with a strong double-double to help keep the game against New Hampshire close. O’Boyle has high expectations for one of her leaders saying, “Sabre is just an offensive juggernaut. She can score in so many different ways and it forces our players to really learn how to defend her and learn how to battle with her.” Having somebody that can dominate the floor and control the attention of the other team will help the rest of her teammates find open space to create scoring opportunities, especially in the big moments.
With a lot of pressure on her shoulders coming from her pre-season selection to the All-America East team, Proctor said. “I think that it is an honor to be able to accomplish that without even starting the season so I’m just really excited to start the season.”
“It’s just one game at a time basically. I think we have a great team and we’re just going to take it one game at a time and try to improve..from what our season was last year,” Proctor continued.
Averaging an enormous 10.9 points per game, Proctor did more than just put the ball in the basket. Grabbing over 100 boards over the course of the season along with snatching 24 steals, Proctor was a valuable asset all over the court. She made it a point that the team cannot get ahead of themselves before the season even starts, repeating her point that they must take things “one game at a time, just win the first game and then win the second game and then win the third game and then hopefully we’ll be able to compete in the playoffs.”
Brittany Snow, a member of the America East all-rookie team from last season, joins Proctor for a dangerous dual threat in the upcoming season. This pairing emerged in the conference tournament, with the duo accounting for about 60 percent of the team’s offensive production in the quarterfinal matchup. Snow led the charge, adding more to the already high potential that Seawolves fans, coaches and conference foes alike have noticed. With 15 points, Snow forced New Hampshire to hit a buzzer beater to win.
Coach O’Boyle complimented the sophomore’s work ethic among many reasons supporting the belief that Snow will emerge as a leader of this team. “Brittany, she’s a workhorse, she has such a great energy level and really helps dictate the pace of play in practice so her leadership comes through from the way that she practices and the way that she plays,” said O’Boyle. With seven new players on the team this season, including two transfers, it will be important for even the younger players with experience to lead by example.
In regards to her own evolution as only a second year player, Snow mentioned that, “I just want to keep building off of things that the coaches tell me about, we have good coaches here. Coach [Mitmesser] works with the post and he just he helps us by recognizing what we did last year but then teaching us new moves and teaching me new moves to make me better this year.” Knowing that improvement is something that does not happen over night, Snow said, “I would always love to improve, I would always like to grow as a team, so I just have to do better than I did last year and keep that mentality going.”
If Stony Brook is going to thrive throughout the season, they need to capitalize on their biggest strength, their defense. Most would think that if a team is strong in one aspect of any game, that they would work to hide or better their weakness. In the mind of Stony Brook, why not make their best better? Snow emphasized the importance of working on defense when she said, “our defense is one of our things that we will always try to improve on, and defensively we’re just basically teaching the new players exactly what we want.” This also shows the importance of bringing the new crop of recruits into the mix, as the next Proctor and Snow may need to rise to stardom at any moment in case the injuries that plague every team arise.
Keys for Stony Brook fans to look out for this season include taking care of the basketball, continuing to keep opposing offenses under control and making free throws from the “charity stripe.” Last year, Stony Brook played five games in which they lost by less than 10 points. With a 61 percent free throw percentage compared to their opponents shooting 69 percent from the line, the game lies there. Although it may not seem like it when the ball bounces off the rim, every shot from the free throw line counts, and it comes back to haunt teams when the final score is so close. Adding to this, it will be important to keep the turnover ratio down this season, as last year, the Seawolves turned the ball over almost twice for every time a player dished the ball out for an assist. Keeping the ball away from opponents will help to prevent fast break points and control time of possession. Blocking shots could also be improved, with an average of 1.1 a game equal to that of some individual players in the country. Blocks can be equated to momentum builders, which can also get the Stony Brook crowd going or the opposing crowd silenced.
With the first game of the season coming up rapidly, NJIT should be a good game to set the tone for the season. Coming off of a 25-point beat down of the Highlanders in the early part of last season, this should serve the Seawolves well, with a chance to work out any new schemes and the remaining plays with the new players in order to set up the rest of the season.
Although the out-of-conference schedule for coach O’Boyle’s team may not sport the star power of an Indiana game like the men’s team has, big conference foes like Iowa of the Big Ten should prove to be benchmark matchups for the Seawolves. Look out for the beginning of the conference schedule starting in 2014, with the Seawolves facing Hartford on Jan. 8 here at Stony Brook. Arguably the biggest matchup of the year will be the last one of the regular season against conference foe and powerhouse, Albany.
The easiest way Stony Brook will make the NCAA Tournament is by winning the conference tournament, where they will need to get through Albany, making this good preparation for the biggest moments of the season. As the team motto goes, the team will take it “one game at a time” in an attempt to get to their goal, and America East title.