Coming back strong

If there was a bright spot to be found in the disappointing 2006-07 season for the St. John’s women’s basketball team, it was the rise of Tiina Sten and Monique McLean, who took their increased roles on the team in stride.

Sten, now in her senior year, set career highs in five different areas of her game last season, including points per game, where the forward was third on the team with an average of 12.5.

McLean, now a junior, also took advantage of her increased playing time and the guard led the team in scoring with a 15.7 per game average while adding 6.3 rebounds a game. More importantly, they have been able to adjust to the leadership roles that come with that newfound success.

“Tiina has really worked her way up and she’s become a leader on this team,” said head coach Kim Barnes-Arico. “Everyone on this team looks up to Monique for leadership because the things she does are the things on a basketball court that others can’t.”

Alone these two athletes would form quite the impressive duo, but add perennial All-Big East guard Kia Wright and the Red Storm have a trio of stars that have the potential to lead their team back to the highs of the 2005-06 season and back to the NCAA Tournament.

However, the players know that individual accolades are hollow without the type of winning that went on during that season.

“Even though I was scoring and playing more last year, I wasn’t enjoying it because we weren’t winning,” Sten said. “Who cares about that if we aren’t winning?”

McLean echoed her teammate’s feelings on the subject.

“Individual accomplishments don’t matter because last season wasn’t a success,” McLean said. “I would definitely trade in the individual successes for winning.”

Coming off a season where she was continually dealing with nagging injuries, Wright again finds herself watching from the sidelines due to injury.

But through observing the team from the outside, she can see the talent that is present on the roster and knows the team will be more than a three player act.

“Everyone can contribute, Kelly [McManmon] is a shooter and she’s going to get me some assists behind the arc that I can’t wait for,” Wright said. “Sky [Lindsay], our local star, she’s going to have a good debut season for us too.”

That kind of depth may be the most important key for the team outside of Wright’s health. Last season the team found itself dressing six or seven players on many occasions.

“We got tired during games, but we’re much deeper now,” Sten said. “We don’t have to worry about saving ourselves on defense so that we have energy to play offense, because we know we’ll get a chance to rest.”

Armed with a full squad, Barnes-Arico is working her team hard on the defensive end of the court.

“Everyday we do something that involves rebounding and defense,” McLean said. “Coach was a little more lenient last year with all the injuries, but this year she’s back on us and it’s going to be good for the team.”

The loss of Angela Clark to personal reasons and the graduation of key players Danielle Chambers, Greeba Barlow and Tara Walker to graduation before last season began did not help matters either.

“We have to work hard to make up for the numbers and defense that we’ve lost from past players,” Wright said. “But we can do it.”

As the 2007-08 St. John’s women’s basketball team gets ready to take the court, Wright knows they have all the pieces they need to put together another run to the NCAA Tournament.

“We have experience and we have the depth, and everyone helps each other,” Wright said. “I think we’re going to be a very successful team this year.”