Still in First, Eagles Look To Get Back On Track In Montana

After dropping their last two Big Sky games, the Eagles will look to rebound on the road at Montana State on Thursday and at Montana on Saturday

Upcoming Schedule

Date - Opponent - Time/Pacific
Feb. 11 - at Montana State - 6:05 p.m.
Feb. 13 - at Montana - 6:05 p.m.

Eagle Webcasts . . .
All of Eastern Washington's women's basketball games at home, as well as all Big Sky Conference games, will be available to view, free of charge, at

By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information

The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team is hitting the road this week to try to extend its first-place lead in the Big Sky Conference. After winning their first seven conference games, the Eagles have lost their last two and will look to get back on track Thursday (Feb. 11) at Montana State and Saturday (Feb. 13) at Montana. Both contests are set to begin at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time.

"This week is a big one for us on the road against two very good teams in Montana State and Montana," said head coach Wendy Schuller.

The Bobcats of Montana State are currently fifth in the conference standings, and are winners of three-straight conference games. The Bobcats are led in scoring by Katie Bussey, who is averaging 14.3 points per game. Sarah Strand averages a team-high 6.8 rebounds and pours in 12.9 points per game. The Eagles defeated the Bobcats 69-63 on Jan. 9 at Reese Court in the first meeting of the season.

"Montana State is coming off of a great weekend where they went on the road and got a sweep," said Schuller. "They are dangerous because of their ability to score points in a hurry. Our main focus these next few days will be on us and working towards getting back to defending well as a team."

The match-up with Montana could end up being another battle of the league's No. 1 and No. 2 teams, as Eastern has already played in two games this season against the second-place team in the conference. The Grizzlies are currently in second in the conference with a 7-3 record. The Eagles defeated the Grizzlies 67-64 in an overtime thriller on Jan. 8 in Reese Court.

The Grizzlies are coming off of a road split, losing 59-55 at Weber State and winning 67-53 at Idaho State. Montana is led by junior forward Sarah Ena, who is averaging 12.3 points per game and a team-high 5.5 rebounds. Her brother, Paul Ena, played as a true freshman for the Eagle football team in 2009 and finished with 63 tackles.

"The last few weeks I haven't felt like we defended with the same level of intensity that we did early in conference play," said Schuller. "We have to get back to playing with the toughness and grit that got us to the top spot in the Big Sky. Every team will be making adjustments the second time around in Big Sky play and it'll be important for us not only to make adjustments but find ways to counter what a team might be trying to do."


Evans Repeats: For the second-straight year, Kyla Evans from the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team has been named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII squad as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). The junior was selected to the second team after earning first team honors a year ago.

A 2007 graduate of Brewster (Wash.) High School, Evans has a 3.97 grade point average as a communication studies major with minors in government and leadership. She has previously been named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team as a freshman and sophomore, and was honored as an Eastern Washington Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December 2008 and January 2010.

She also helped the Eagles to a fourth-place spot on the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches Association Academic Honor Roll Top 25 as a freshman, and a No. 8 ranking as a sophomore. Eastern has been honored by the WBCA for eight-straight seasons.


Fear the Reese: The Eagles are 9-2 when playing at Reese Court this season. Eastern's home opener against Idaho on Nov. 19 turned into a thrilling, 54-51 overtime victory for Eastern. Eastern also turned in another overtime thriller against Big Sky rival Montana on Jan. 8, defeating the Grizzlies 67-64.

The only two losses for the Eagles at Reese Court this season came at the hands of Cal Poly on Dec. 16 and Sacramento State on Feb. 6.

"Defending our home court will continue to be vital heading into the second half of league play," said Schuller. "Our players seem to be energized when we play home and the great crowds we have had lately have really fired us up to another level."


Breakin' Records: With their 77-65 victory over Weber State on Jan. 23, the Eagles surpassed the school record for best conference start in history.

"We are quite happy with our 7-0 start," said Schuller. "We weren't aware of the school record until that night and anything we can do to positively represent Eastern Washington University is something our team is proud to accomplish."

The Eagles tied the previous record of 6-0 with a victory over Idaho State on Friday (Jan. 22). The previous record of 6-0 was set during the 1984-85 season when the Eagles competed in the Mountain West Conference.

"This group of young women has worked extremely hard and continued to believe in themselves, each other and this program even when things didn't always go our way," said Schuller. "They are a true example of what perseverance and faith can do in your life."


Team Ball: Part of the Eagles success this season can be attributed to the team basketball Eastern has been playing. The Eagles have just one player, Julie Piper, who is averaging more than 10 points a game -- despite the fact that the Eagles feature one of the top scoring offenses in the conference.

By comparison, every other team in the top half of the conference has at least two players averaging 10 points or more a game.

"Our team talks a lot about winning as a team and one thing we really enjoy is sharing the credit," said Schuller. "Individual accolades aren't what this team is about. Everyone has a job and I think a huge part of our start can be attributed to players understanding their job and getting it done for the sake of the team."

Seven different Eagles have led the team in scoring in single games this season, and six different Eagles have led the team in rebounds. Also, seven different players are averaging at least six points per game.


Evans Shines: Junior Kyla Evans from Brewster, Wash., had quite the week from Jan. 18 though Jan. 24. The three-point ace started off her week with a solid performance against Idaho State on Jan. 22 with 11 points and four steals. Evans then had the top scoring performance of her career, scoring a career-high 24 points against Weber State one night later.

Her performances didn't go unnoticed by the Big Sky Conference, which named her the Big Sky Player of the Week. The award was the first for any EWU player this season and was the first in the three-year career for Evans.

She currently owns the school record with a .391 career three-point shooting percentage. She is fourth all-time at EWU in three-pointers made with 156 and fourth with 398 attempts. Evans is just 40 treys from the school record of 196 held by Stephanie Ulmer (2002-05).


Work to be Done: Coach Wendy Schuller is happy with Eastern's start in conference, but still says there are several things they need to work on to continue their success.

"Our start is exciting, but as a team we have talked about several ways we need to improve, especially on the offensive end of the floor," said Schuller. "We have had a variety of players step up on the offensive end of the floor for us but we need more consistency from individual players and we have some more specific areas offensively where we know we can improve as a team."

"A lot of basketball lies in front of us so the best we can do is just play together and work together daily to continue to improve," said Schuller. "We want to approach each game with the same businesslike attitude that we have to this point."


Back-to-Back Games: In a league-wide cost-cutting measure, schools will be playing more back-to-back games. The Eagles are 4-0 on the season in back-to-back games.

"We have great depth and that will help us with back-to-back games, especially as we get deeper into conference play," said Schuller.


Losing Streak Broken: Eastern's 67-64 overtime victory over Montana on Jan. 8 was its first win in the series since the 2005-06 season, when the Eagles edged the Lady Griz 58-56 at Reese Court.  The win on Jan. 8 broke a seven-game losing streak to the Lady Griz, who are the reigning Big Sky Conference champions.

"We knew coming in that Montana played a tough zone defense," said head coach Wendy Schuller. "That gave us trouble especially early in the game and we were not attacking it the way we needed to be attacking. We made some adjustments and I thought our team did a nice job of making some key stops down the stretch."

Those key stops came in the way of turnovers by Montana down the stretch when Eastern held a one-point lead. Sarah Ena, who led Montana in scoring with 19 points, turned the ball over with 15 seconds remaining and Lauren Beck turned the ball over with five seconds remaining to put the game on ice for the Eagles.


Senior Leadership: Head coach Wendy Schuller has been impressed with the progression and leadership of senior starting point guard Jessica Huntington. She is averaging 6.3 points a game along with a team-high 4.2 assists.

"Huntington is as solid as a point guard gets," said head coach Wendy Schuller. "She takes great care of the ball and has a great understanding of our system of play. Her greatest attribute is her work ethic - she has put a lot of time into making herself into such a solid player and as a coach it's reassuring to know that we will get everything she has every time she steps on the court."


Second-Year Players Making Strides: Second-year players have been a bright spot early on for the Eagles, with true sophomore guards Brianne Ryan and Chene Cooper taking their game to another level.

"Cooper has really matured this season in terms of taking care of the ball and decision-making," said Schuller. "She still does a great job of pushing the tempo for us and creating things as she did last season, but this year she is doing that a little more under control and making good choices."

Cooper is averaging 7.2 points a game off the bench, including back-to-back games in which she scored a team-high 17 in a win against Memphis and 14 against Gonzaga. She also averages 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

"Ryan has really rounded out nicely this season -- she is a good rebounder and is turning into our defensive stopper," said Schuller. "We know we can put her on the opponent's perimeter shooter, and with her speed, length and hard play, that she'll do a great job."

Ryan has started all 22 games this season and is averaging 9.1 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.


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More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM

Recent EWU Women's Basketball Headlines . . .
February 6, 2010 - Hornets Sting Eagles 78-69
February 5, 2010 - Kersee Lind and Kyla Evans are Scholar-Athletes of the Month
February 4, 2010 - Evans Repeats on Academic All-District Squad
February 3, 2010 - Eagles Fly Over Redhawks 67-50
January 30, 2010 - Eagles Fall At Portland State 67-60
January 25, 2010 - Evans Named Big Sky Player of the Week
January 23, 2010 - Eagles Earn Historic Victory Over Weber State 77-65
January 22, 2010 - Eagles Tame Bengals 70-60 To Remain Unbeaten In Big Sky
January 16, 2010 - Eagles Sneak Past Bears 51-49
January 14, 2010 - Eagles Cut Down Lumberjacks 66-52
January 9, 2010 - Eagles Victorious Over Bobcats 69-63
January 8, 2010 - Eagles Best Lady Griz in Overtime Thriller 67-64

EWU Basketball Highlights . . .

  • The Eagles have advanced to the Big Sky Conference semifinals three of the past eight years.
  • For the last eight years, Eastern has ranked among the top 10 teams nationally in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. In 2003-04, Eastern had the top grade point average in the country, 3.63. In 2008-09 EWU ranked ninth (3.42).
  • Two Eagles have attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second team honors - Joanna Chadd in 2006-07 and Kathleen Nygaard in 2003-04.
  • The past eight seasons, 67 players have earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, the most in the league.


Eagle Returning Letter Winners . . .

Julie Piper attained the most impressive recognition for the Eagles during her sophomore season in 2008-09, as she earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades. She also ranked highly in the league's statistical rankings, placing fifth in free throw shooting (78.3 percent), sixth in rebounds per game (6.8) and 18th in points per game (11.1). Her shooting from the charity stripe also placed her 130th among NCAA Division I players and was the eighth-best in Eastern history. She will enter her junior campaign second in EWU history for career free throw shooting percentage (76.0). She had the best scoring output by an Eagle in the 2008-09 season, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in Eastern's battle with Big Sky runner-up Portland State on Jan. 24. Piper also set the team pace in rebounds in 18 different contests.

Kyla Evans continued her attack on the Eastern record books as a sophomore. She made 60 three-point baskets, the fifth-highest single-season total ever recorded by an Eagle, and moved her career sum to 112, good for fifth place. In fact, the sophomore's current career three-point shooting percentage of 38.4 is on pace to set the school record. Evans placed 82nd nationally in three-point shooting percentage (36.1) and 100th in three-point baskets per game (2.07). She was third and eighth in those respective categories in the Big Sky ranks. She made 6-of-10 in a 90-75 win over Montana State on Jan. 29 to help the Eagles to within one of the school record of three-point makes in a game (EWU shot 13-of-27 from beyond the arc in that contest). Evans showed her prowess in the classroom, as well, earning ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 8 first team accolades. She was also the EWU Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December.

Nicole Scott had an outstanding junior season, as well, and the best display of her skills came on Dec. 13 against Pacific that helped her earn Co-Big Sky Player of the Week honors. In that contest, Scott nailed all six of her shots, including three treys, in the best shooting performance by an Eagle since Felice Moore also went 6-of-6 at Montana State on March 6, 2004. Additionally, Scott crafted an impressive streak of consecutive free throws made with 29 straight from Nov. 25-Feb. 7, just two shy of being one of the 22 longest such streaks in Division I history. She led the league in free throw shooting in Big Sky games by converting on 86.5 percent of her attempts (32-of-37). She was also an intimidating force inside, placing sixth in the conference in blocks per game (0.97).

Jessica Huntington was one of the steadiest point guards in the country in her junior season, as her assist-turnover ratio of 1.85 (94-to-50) was the tops in the Big Sky and 23rd best among Division I players. She also averaged 3.24 assists per game, placing seventh in that category among league players. She converted 40.7 of her three-point attempts (22-of-54), the sixth-best average in Eastern Washington history.

Tatjana Sparavalo also had some impressive performances during her sophomore season. She scored 15 in a challenging road game versus UNLV and shot at a high level against Portland on Dec. 15, making 5-of-9 attempts from the floor. In addition, Sparavalo had six of Eastern's points during a game-changing 18-3 run in a victory over Weber State on Jan. 10.

Brianne Ryan started 19 games as a freshman and saw her shooting percentages rise once league play commenced, markedly in the three-point category. She shot 27.3 percent from the arc in non-conference games (9-of-33) and 45.2 percent in league contests (14-of-31).

Chene Cooper also played well as a freshman in 2008-09. Her aggressive nature showed in her steals per game average of 1.62, seventh-best in the Big Sky. She also placed 12th in assists per contest with 2.41. In addition, she improved her shot-selection and shot-conversion skills throughout the season, making just 28.3 percent of her attempts through the first 22 games before converting on 41.3 percent over the last seven games. 

Breauna Russell played in 16 games as an Eastern freshman in 2008-09, finishing the year with 16 points and 11 steals.


About Head Coach Wendy Schuller . . .

Under head coach Wendy Schuller, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team has reached heights unseen in Cheney in decades, both on and off the basketball court.

Over the past eight campaigns, the team has been ranked amongst the top 10 squads on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll, something only achieved by one other team (Indiana State). The Eagle squad of 2003-04 placed first nationally with a 3.63 grade point average.

Schuller led Eastern to back-to-back .500-or-better regular-season Big Sky Conference records for the first time in school history (2004-05 and 2005-06) as well as tournament appearances in five of her eight seasons at EWU. To put that achievement into perspective, Eastern Washington played in just five BSC Tournaments in its first 13 years of Big Sky play.

Since the Big Sky began sponsoring women's sports in 1988-89, the Eagles have compiled two overall winning seasons and five trips to the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals. Both of those winning marks came during Schuller's time on the Eastern campus, as did three of the five conference semifinal appearances.

Schuller and the Eagles have made Reese Court a challenging place for visitors to play, as Eastern has compiled a commanding 38-29 mark (.567 winning percentage) in its last 67 games played there. Eastern went 8-6 at home last year en route to recording 2.5 times as many overall wins as was attained the previous year, 10.

In 2005-06, Eastern Washington qualified for the Big Sky Conference Championship for the seventh consecutive season and was the fourth seed at the event for the second straight season, its highest seeding since the 1994-95 campaign.

She led Eastern to a winning campaign in 2004-05 (16-12) to start just the team's second set of consecutive winning seasons for the Eagles since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 campaigns.

The 2003-04 season saw Eastern Washington qualify for the BSC Tournament semifinal round for the third straight season.

In 2002-03, Eastern had its first winning campaign in 16 years at 17-12 and came the closest to making the Big Sky championship game in school history, falling in the semifinal round to top seed and host Weber State by just nine points, 64-55.

In Schuller's first season of 2001-02, Eastern Washington claimed a tournament quarterfinal contest as the fifth seed for the first of two straight seasons. The Eagles topped No. 4 Northern Arizona 70-57 to mark its furthest advancement in the tournament in seven years.

Prior to arriving at Eastern, Schuller began her coaching career at Northwestern State University. In 1993, she started coaching as a graduate assistant for the Lady Demons while earning a master's degree in sports administration.

Following graduation, she became a full-time assistant, and her duties included acting as defensive coordinator and primary recruiter and working with opponent preparation and general operations.

In 1997, she was promoted to associate head coach.

Her last six years at the Natchitoches, La., school saw her also serve as the senior woman administrator.

In total, Schuller coached for nine seasons at NSU under head coach James Smith, the most successful coach in Southland Conference history.

In that time span, the team won 185 games and two conference titles and earned a pair of wins over top-25 teams as one of the top-30 winningest NCAA Division I programs of the 1990s.

Schuller earned her bachelor's degree in business in 1992 from Fresno Pacific University after playing for the Sunbirds as a shooting guard.

Her senior season, she helped lead FPU to a 25-6 record, a No. 14 national ranking in the NAIA ranks and advancement to the NAIA Tournament's Round of 16. She was also selected as an NAIA Academic All-American that season.

A native of Redlands, Calif., Schuller and her husband, Mark, have an 9-year-old son, Rory (born Oct. 16, 2000), and a 6-year-old daughter, Megan (born July 15, 2003). The family resides in Cheney.


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