Although the Long Island University women’s basketball team hasn’t yet reached .500, there is still reason for optimism. After several rough seasons, the Brooklyn Blackbirds (5-9) are playing tough, hard-nosed basketball and competing in each and every game.

“We have great team chemistry this year—that is definitely aiding in our team success,” said Stephanie Del Preore, who is in her third year as head coach. “We’ve competed in all of our wins and in all of our losses, which is something that we really haven’t done a ton of in the past as far as constantly competing regardless of the score.”

She added, “Our upper classmen are really stepping up, and it’s great to see them doing that on the court.” A two-point win over St. Francis College Brooklyn came down to the determination of the team’s seniors in the final seconds.

Del Preore calls Brooklyn “our campus,” which helps in recruiting, and the players are buying into her vision of rebuilding the program. She credits her staff and current players for being “amazing.”

“Every year, we’re getting better and better players and it’s showing now and that’s what is going to continue,” she said. “I love the players we have now and I like the energy they bring. That means good things to come.”

The university is on winter break, but the team is playing a full schedule. The time away from classes has given the players a chance to practice, play and bond as a group. The top two offensive presences thus far have been freshman Jeydah Johnson and graduate student Denisha Petty-Evans.

Del Preore described Johnson as being versatile, strong and competitive offensively and defensively and having no fear. A solid shooter, Johnson has range in her three-pointer with a quick release. In her final year of eligibility, Petty-Evans comes to LIU having played at Siena College and George Mason University. A New Jersey native, Petty-Evans brings calming leadership and basketball smarts.

“She said she wanted to win and show off all her skills,” Del Preore said of Petty-Evans. “She does so well in our offense.

Del Preore continued, “We want to create an identity. We want to be relentless and never back down. I think we’re getting there.”

LIU has two upcoming home games—taking on Wagner Saturday and Mount St. Mary’s Monday.