O'Boyle turning things around for Stony Brook women's basketball

Head Coach Beth O'Boyle
 
Head Coach Beth O'Boyle
 
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March 6, 2014

By Beth Ann Clyde, Assistant Director of Athletic Communications

Stony Brook, N.Y. - Fresh off arguably the biggest victory in Division I program history, a 66-56 upset over an Albany team that had won 38 straight conference games, Stony Brook women’s basketball heads into the America East Championship riding a seven-game winning streak.

The Seawolves finished second in the America East regular-season standings, matching their highest finish in program history (2005-06 and 2006-07). Stony Brook’s 22 wins are a Division I record, a far cry from the squad’s 4-26 mark in Head Coach Beth O’Boyle’s inaugural campaign two seasons ago. O’Boyle had arrived at Stony Brook in 2011 after serving as the associate head coach at Canisius from 2007-11 and head coach at Division III Montclair State in New Jersey from 2004-07.

“I knew that Stony Brook was a special place and that building a program the right way would be a process but definitely achievable,” O’Boyle said. “My first season, we focused on changing the culture and our recruiting efforts. Last year, our players learned how to play hard and win games.”

Learn how to win they did. Picked to finish ninth in the preseason coaches poll during the 2012-13 season, the Seawolves posted the seventh-best turnaround in the country with a 10-win improvement from the previous year and were a four-seed in the America East Championship.

The bar was set, and expectations were higher heading into the 2013-14 season. Stony Brook was chosen third in the preseason poll, and junior forward Sabre Proctor was named Preseason All-America East. However, the Seawolves knew from the year before that preseason picks were just that—preseason. There was much work to be done.

“Our goal has always been to compete for an America East Championship,” O’Boyle said. “It’s always great to receive preseason recognition, but we just wanted to take it one game at a time.”

The squad got off to a hot start, winning a school-record nine games and posting a .692 winning percentage through its non-conference slate. 

Then came conference play, and the Seawolves faced a tall task right off the bat: Beat a Hartford team they hadn’t beaten in 17 tries since 2006. Trailing 43-31 at halftime, a stingy Stony Brook defense that has become a hallmark of O’Boyle’s teams held Hartford to just 14 second-half points and came all the way back for a 61-57 win.

Buying in has been a huge part of Stony Brook’s resurgence. Buying into a defensive system that has ranked in the top 50 nationally in scoring defense in each of O’Boyle’s first three seasons, currently sitting at 43rd (59.7 points per game). Buying into a strength and conditioning program that has helped Stony Brook become one of the most athletic teams in the America East, able to hang with—and beat—a perennial title contender in Albany.

“That’s what makes our success this season so great,” O’Boyle said. “Our staff has done an excellent job of preparing and developing our players.  Our team has bought into the system, and I’m proud to watch their hard work pay off.”

Stony Brook lost to the Great Danes in the first meeting at Pritchard, a defeat that had snapped a six-game winning streak. However, the focused bunch led nearly the entire way March 1, spoiling its SUNY rival’s quest for a second consecutive perfect regular-season record. While the win may have been a statement, O’Boyle and the Seawolves have bigger plans.

“We don’t want that to be our best win of the year,” she said.

O’Boyle has Stony Brook three wins shy of topping its all-time single-season record of 24 wins set in 1986-87 at the Division III level. If they secure that record this weekend, it would mean more history for the program on the rise: Its first America East title and first Div. I NCAA Tournament bid.

No. 2 Stony Brook begins America East play in a quarterfinal game against No. 7 UMBC at noon on ESPN3.