Heading into Wednesday's game against UMBC, Stony Brook's women's basketball team owns an 11-7 record. That's one win shy of tripling their entire win total from the 2011-2012 season, which they finished at 4-26, and so it was safe to say a rebuilding year or two was on the horizon.
Now, the Seawolves are winning games and seriously competing within the America East conference so far.
"Going through a season where you win four games, that’s tough on anyone. ... The turnaround that everyone keeps talking about, it’s fun," head coach Beth O'Boyle said.
But the sign of that turnaround – being able to compete in every game, if not earning a win – is only part of the rebuilding process, which is far from over.
"The first thing was we wanted to establish the culture and work on building with the players that we have here," O'Boyle said. "How hard we’ll be working. Winning or losing, we’re going to practice hard."
Much of that surge can be credited to the players themselves, whom O'Boyle said have bought into the new defensive-focused system. It was challenging to get the combination of new players and veterans to gel, she said, but it's happening.
The team is ranked No. 8 in Newsday's Jan. 23 Metro poll, which covers a field of 23 teams from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The Seawolves are scoring an average of 55.1 points per game while holding opponents to an average of 53.6 points per game. They are out-playing their opponents in rebounds too, averaging 38.1 to their opponents' 32.2 rebounds per game.
"We push them. Our practices are hard," O'Boyle said. "The expectations are high. ... They really work at it."
Jessica Previlon, a 5-11 senior forward from Brooklyn who is averaging 9.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, said the team is playing a faster-paced game this year.
"This year we made a huge change – a lot more intensity, more competition," Previlon said. "I feel like this year, every game is a battle. Last year we were OK, we would be up by a couple points in the first half. It was that we didn’t know how to finish the game and I felt like this year we've improved."
O'Boyle said recruiting is another piece of the rebuilding process.
"SBU is a great location for recruiting," O'Boyle said. "There’s good basketball players in New York, in Philly, in Maryland."
O'Boyle, now in her second season with the team, called her head coaching position at Stony Brook "a dream come true."
"That was the job I wanted," she said. "I like being at research universities and high academics, I think that helps in recruiting. I knew it was going to be a rebuilding project. I met the administration and saw how supportive they are of women’s basketball."
Prior to O'Boyle's arrival, the team went 7-23 in the 2010-2011 season and 6-23 during the 2009-2010 season.
Between freshmen and transfers eight new athletes are playing this year, including Sabre Proctor, a 6-0 sophomore forward from Harrisburg, Pa. who is averaging a team-best 10.7 points per game. She transferred to Stony Brook last year and is suiting up this season for the first time.
"I feel like we have a lot of potential and we’re still progressing," Proctor said. "We just want to keep working hard, improve every day in practice. That’s where it starts. Keep improving to eventually win a championship."