TEANECK, NJ - On the seventh game, they entered the win column. Biblical reference to Genesis aside., anyone following the St. Peter's women would realize the improvement being made.
They are far better than the group that opened the season a month ago with a lopsided loss at Howard. While the daily improvement was noticeable, the wins were not coming. There were a few close contests including an overtime heart breaker against Sacred Heart. ‘Close' was not satisfying. Finally, they earned a W, defeating Farleigh Dickinson University 62-56 at Rothman Center on Wednesday.
"It feels like we got the monkey off our back," St. Peter's coach Pat Coyle said.
In her first year at the MAAC school, Coyle realized the task was challenging. Getting into the win column before conference play began in earnest, was a necessary goal. Getting that first win proved elusive, though satisfying when it arrived.
Aziza May (20 points) and Antonia Smith (13 points) were the offensive keys for St. Peter's - the pair are back court running mates. The impressive part of their offensive output was that the points came not just on jump shots but penetrations to the basket as well.
A close affair with evenly matched teams, this was a game with no major runs. Lead changes but virtually a one-possession meeting for most of the duration.
Ahead seven with seven minutes left, St. Peter's was in a situation that has been unfamiliar lately: protecting a late lead.
"I just told the kids," Coyle said after the game. "Don't think of yourselves, just keep executing."
While protecting the lead in the waning minutes, Hala Mustafa came up big with two keys blocks in the final sixty seconds. She finished with eight for the game while adding 6 rebounds and 5 points.
"She just does so many good things for us," Coyle said of the 6-1 sophomore. St. Peter's closed it out on the foul line. FDU, lost their best player (Brianna Thomas 3 points in 9 minutes) to a first half injury. The Knights are now 1-7 as is St. Peter's.
In victory, Coyle pointed out the things needing improvement.
"Offensive rebounding," she said. "They (FDU) beat us on the offensive glass and that was something we discussed preparing for this game."
In other words, the victory was satisfying but there is a lot of work to be done.
Post game, the St. Peter's players exited their locker room to head into the chilly evening with more of a look of satisfaction rather than the relief of surviving a close contest. Deep down they realize they worked for this and were rewarded. The first victory for the St. Peter's women since back on February 7th, ten months ago.
"The only people who know how far this team has come are the ones in the gym everyday," Coyle said. "The won-lost record just does not do them justice."