Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.
Up now ...,
SAINT PETER'S WOMEN
2011-12 RESULTS: 4-14 in MAAC play, 5-26 overall. Won a play-in round game of the MAAC tournament, 62-57, over Canisius before losing in the quarterfinal round to Marist, 74-49.
KEY LOSSES: Forward Jynae Judson (13.4 points, 5.6 rebounds per game), center Quiana Porter (7.5, 6.5).
KEY RETURNEES: 5-11 senior forward Kristal Edwards (6.5, 4.5), 5-3 junior guard Aziza May (5.2, 3.0 assists), 6-1 senior forward Bent (4.8, 3.4), 5-2 junior guard Khadijah Young (4.7).
KEY ADDITIONS: 5-7 freshman guard Bridget Whitfield, 6-1 freshman forward Hala Mostafa El Shaarawy.
NOTES: Saint Peter's was once one of the conference's premier programs, but that seems like ancient history right now and the program is coming off one of the worst three-year stretches (22-70) in its history ... Optimism? Despite an 0-15 start last year, the Peahens never threw in the proverbial towel. It won its next two after that 0-fer start and, then finished strong, too, with a 3-4 record in its final seven games, including a MAAC tournament play-in round upset over Canisius ... But, the team's top two scorers and rebounders (Judson and Porter) both graduated and not a single returnee averaged more than 6.5 points per game a year ago ... The leading returning scorer, though, is Kristal Edwards (6.5, 4.5), who battled through some minor injury situations a year ago. She is off to a blazing start, averaging 17.6 points and 5.0 rebounds through two games ... The team is off to another slow start (0-2), but the second of those two losses, to Lehigh, was by just two points ... This year's team is currently playing without expected starting point guard Aziza May (5.2 points, 3.0 assists). There is no item on the team's website about her absence, and head coach Stephanie DeWolfe did not return calls for preseason information ... In May's absence thus far, 5-2 junior Khadijah Young has stepped in and has played well (10.0 ppg.) thus far .. The team has some upperclass experience with Edwards, 6-1 senior forward Kaydine Bent (8.5, 6.5 through two games) and 6-0 reserve Jesika Holmes. Plus, there appear to be some solid freshmen capable of contributing, including ridget Whitfield, a 5-7 guard (2.0, 2.0), who has started both games, and 6-1 center Hala Mostafa El Shaarawy, who figutes to be in the playing group.
SAINT PETER'S STRENGTHS: If she can stay healthy, Edwards is capable of being one of the MAAC's better players. And, considering that there don't appear to be many other true scorers, she could wind up with exceptional numbers. May, if she returns soon, will be a factor, and Young is also more than capable at the point. Both are juniors, so the trials and tribulations of using young point guards, which the Peahens did the past two seasons, should be over. Bent is a solid inside player. And, Antonia Smith (5.5, 2.5 so far), a 5-5 sophomore guard, looks ready to contribute. The Peahens have a well-earned reputation for hard play, particularly on the defensive end. And, last year's late season success despite the 0-15 start is indicative that DeWolfe has a knack for ensuring her players continue to play hard through adversity.
SAINT PETER'S WEAKNESSES: Other than Edwards, there probably isn't a player on the team who will average double figures. And, the youngsters will get considerable playing time since there isn't an overabundance of returning depth. As has been the case in recent years, the team is likely to need to work harder than most teams to score points.
REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Despite its recent woes, the Peahens have avoided the cellar in the MAAC, finishing ninth last season and eighth in each of the two years before that. If Edwards can be the big-time contributor she looks to be early, and some of the solid returnees continue to make progress ... it's more than possible the team can avoid last place, but it probably won't finish higher than seventh.