Big Sky regular-season champion Eagles and Big Sky tournament champion Vikings face off in league debut
EWU vs. Portland State
Saturday, Jan. 8 - 2:05 p.m.
Reese Court - Cheney, Wash.
(All home games and all Big Sky Conference games)
On Saturday (Dec. 8), the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will take the first step in defending its Big Sky Conference title when the team hosts Portland State at 2:05 p.m. on Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The game will be the first Big Sky contest of the season for both schools, and will be the first of two "Dam Cup" showdowns in 2011.
The Eagles, who were picked second in both BSC preseason polls, enter the game with a 4-8 overall record. The Vikings, who were tabbed right behind EWU at third in both polls, owns a 7-6 record thus far in the 2010-11 season, which ranks second in the Big Sky.
"It's a whole new season for us," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "Every game in the Big Sky is a big game for us. Portland State is a team that was picked toward the top of the polls, and they are certainly playing like it."
Saturday's game will present an interesting battle, as both teams are defending champions in the Big Sky. The Eagles captured the regular-season title a year ago with its impressive 12-4 record in league play. It was the school's first-ever conference title and the best league mark earned by an EWU squad since the 1984-85 season when Eastern was still a member of the Mountain West Conference.
The Vikings were crowned BSC tournament champions after they defeated Idaho State, Montana State and Montana in the postseason playoffs. PSU advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, where it fell in the first round to then-No.9 Texas A&M, 84-53.
Portland State returned three starters from its 2009-10 squad, including junior guard Eryn Jones, who is averaging 12.5 points per game, and leading the team in assists with 61. Jones is shooting 45 percent (27-60) from beyond the arc this year, which ranks 16th in the nation.
PSU's sophomore guard Courtney VanBrocklin, who sat out the 2009-10 season after transferring from Boise State, is leading the team in scoring this year with a 12.8 points per game average. She is also the Vikings' top rebounder with 5.8 boards per game.
Two-time Big Sky All-Tournament selection Kelli Valentine may also pose a threat on Saturday, as she is the third Viking with double-digit scoring numbers. She averages 10.0 points per game, while also hauling in 4.9 caroms per contest.
"Portland State is going to come in here with a lot of firepower," expressed Schuller. "They are physical, they are tough and they know how to win."
Last season, the Eagles and Vikings split the regular-season series, with each team winning on its home court. Eastern's 78-68 victory on March 6, 2010 was the first for the Eagles since the 2007 season when they topped PSU at home by a score of 80-61.
EWU holds a 27-22 advantage in the all-time series, which dates back to the late 70's, but the Vikings have had the upper hand as of late, winning seven of the last ten meetings.
THE DAM CUP –This season, the two schools started a five-sport rivalry cup called The Dam Cup, which celebrates the friendly rivalry between the states of Oregon and Washington within the Big Sky Conference. The so-named rivalry refers to the four dams linking Oregon and Washington that one passes on the 339-mile drive from the Portland State campus to the Eastern Washington campus. Located along the Columbia River, they are Bonneville Dam, The Dalles Dam, The John Day Dam and the McNary Dam.
The five sports competing for the cup are football, women's soccer, women's volleyball, women's basketball and men's basketball. The Dam Cup is based on a point system, with points only rewarded for regular season contests. Each women's basketball match between the Eagles and Vikings are worth two points apiece for a total of four points possible toward the school's total for the 2010-11 season.
Eagle Fast Breaks
- As Eastern heads into the 2011 Big Sky Season, there are three Eagles who are averaging double-digit scoring numbers. Julie Piper leads the way with 12.1, while Brianne Ryan and Tatjana Sparavalo follow at 11.1, 10.9, respectively.
- Piper and Sparavalo, as well as sophomore Carrie Ojeda, are also averaging at least five rebounds per game, with Piper leading the way at 6.5 caroms per contest. All three players rank among the top 20 in rebounding in the Big Sky Conference.
- Junior Chene Cooper has dished out a team-leading 66 assists thus far in the 2010-11 campaign. Her average of 5.5 dimes per game ranks second in the Big Sky and 26th in the nation. Her assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.1 (66-32) is the top mark in the BSC, while also ranking in the top 30 in Division I women's basketball.
- In the last five games, in which the Eagles have gone 3-2, the team has shot 44 percent from the field (137-of-311). Prior to that, the Eagles were making only 35 percent of their shots (167-473). EWU has recorded a higher field goal percentage than its opponent in each of the last five games, and have earned an 85-57 advantage in assists.
- The Eagles have impressed with their ability to take care of the basketball in the pre-conference season. EWU ranks first in the Big Sky in assist-to-turnover ratio at 0.9 (175-196), and third turnover margin at +2.4. As a team, Eastern averages 16.3 turnovers per game, which ranks 62nd in the nation, while its assist-to-turnover ratio is also in the top 75 of all teams in Division I women's basketball.
- As a team, the Eagles are second in the Big Sky in offensive rebounding at 16.7 per game. Eastern is eighth, however, in defensive rebounds with a 22.0 average. The team has five players who rank in the top 15 in offensive boards. Although this statistic is linked to a high number of missed shots (304-784), the team is at least giving itself ample opportunity for second-chance points.55th in the nation, while its assist-to-turnover ratio is also in the top 75 of all teams in Division I women's basketball.
Eagle News & Notes
Piper Rules Big Sky's Senior Class
Julie Piper has proved to be the most efficient senior shooter in the Big Sky Conference at this point in the 2010-11 season. She owns the top mark for all seniors in the league in field goal percentage (.492) and free throw percentage (.862). Her field goal percentage of .492 also ranks among the top 100 players in Division I women's basketball.
Ojeda and Ryan Close Out 2010 With a Bang
In Eastern's final game of the 2010 calendar year, sophomore Carrie Ojeda and junior Brianne Ryan both notched career highs. Ojeda recorded two career high marks with nine rebounds and four blocked shots against the Bearcats of Willamette. Ryan scored a career-high 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and is now the top junior in the Big Sky Conference in field goal percentage (.427).
Evans Dominates from Downtown
With 21 treys already this season, senior Kyla Evans has moved up to second in the Eastern record book for career three pointers made. She has 191 total in her tenure, which is just four shy of the current record of 195. She is also one of only two active players in the Big Sky who has 150+ career three-pointers and the only current Eagle who appears in the Big Sky record book, as she is eighth in career three pointers (191) and tied for 19th in career three-point field goal percentage (.382).
Coop Hits Career Marks in Back-to-Back Games
Junior Chene Cooper had a career night in Eastern's 75-67 win over UC Irvine on Dec. 15 and in EWU's 73-44 rout of Saint Martin's on Dec. 11. The five-foot point guard scored 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting against the Aneaters, and pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds in the contest. Her previous career highs in those categories were 23 points and eight rebounds. This performance came one game after she set another career high in assists. Against Saint Martin's, she had an astounding 12 dimes, which is the best single-game assist performance for any player in the Big Sky this season. Her previous career high in that category was seven.
Sparavalo Sizzles Off the Bench
Senior Tatjana Sparavalo has scored in double figures in seven of Eastern's 12 games, including the four of the last six. She is currently Eastern's third-leading scorer with 11.2 points per game, which she has earned in her 226 minutes off the bench. She recorded two double-doubles in the first two weeks of year, with 16 points and 10 rebounds against Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 12) and 21 points and 10 rebounds in EWU's narrow loss to Boise State (Nov. 20). In Eastern's recent outing against San Diego (Dec. 18), Sparavalo led the team with 17 points, which included four three pointers.
Julie Piper has not missed a single game since the first time she stepped on the court as a freshman in 2007. She played in all 29 games during her rookie season, all 29 as a sophomore in 2008-09 and all 31 last year, as well as all 10 of the current season. She has started 92 of those 99 games. Besides her consistent court presence, Piper has scored at least two points in every game since Feb. 14, 2009 (0 vs. ISU), and has had at least three rebounds in every game since Nov. 28. 2008 (2 vs. UNLV). This season, Piper has had six double-digit scoring outings, and two of 20 or more points.
Coop Climbing the Charts
Just a junior, Chene Cooper has already cracked the top 10 list in one category of the EWU career record book, and she is quickly closing in on another. Cooper has 128 total steals thus far in her career, which ranks seventh in the EWU record book. Fifty-seven of those steals came last season, which is the seventh-best single-season performance in Eastern history. With 225 total assists in her career, she is only 15 away from the top 10 in that category, which is certainly a feasible goal as she has already tallied 66 this season.
Seven in Row for Ryan
Prior to Eastern's game against Saint Martin's, in which she scored just five points, junior Brianne Ryan had scored in double figures in seven-consecutive outings. Ryan is one of only two players in the Big Sky to have a double-digit scoring streak of seven or more games. She tallied a career-high 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting in Eastern's most recent outing against Willamette on Dec. 30.
Freshman Aubrey Ashenfelter has seen minutes in every game of the 2010-11 season. As Eastern's backup point guard, she averages 12.9 minutes per game. A product of Southridge High School in Portland, Ore., Ashenfelter has scored 32 points for Eastern and dished out 20 assists. Freshman Laura Hughes, who came to Eastern from Richland, Wash., has also been an important player off the bench this season. Hughes provides depth in the post, averaging 2.1 rebounds per game and 3.0 points. She played a season-high 22 minutes against national-powerhouse Gonzaga on Dec. 3.
Piper Named to Omni Hotels Classic All-Tournament Team
Julie Piper was selected as one of five standout players for the 24th Annual Omni Hotels Classic All-Tournament Team. Piper averaged 15.0 points per game in the two games played in Boulder, Colo., on Nov. 26 and 27. She shot an impressive 52 percent from the field and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. With those eight made free throws over the weekend, she moved into the top 10 in the Eastern record book for career free throws made. She now has 207 in her tenure. Piper registered her first double-double of the season against the Ramblers with 20 points and 13 rebounds. She was 7-of-15 from the field, and knocked down all six of her attempts from the charity stripe. She also scored in double digits against the Purple Aces, tallying 10 points of 4-of-6 shooting. Although her time on the floor was limited due to foul trouble, she added six rebounds and two steals in just 15 minutes.
Current Eagle Brianne Ryan is the daughter of one of the all-time greats in the Eastern Washington Women's Basketball program, Neil Ryan (formerly Neil Ann Massie). Neil Ryan played basketball for EWU from 1979-82, and is the third-leading rebounder in school history with 1,008 career rebounds. Her career rebounding average of 8.47 ranks fourth in the EWU record book, while her 346 rebounds in the 1979 season is the fourth-best single season performance in program history. She is also one of the all-time leading scorers, as her 1,190 career points ranks seventh overall in the EWU record book. She ranks sixth in career field goals made (509) and tenth in field goals attempted (1,001). EWU's relationship with the Ryan family does not stop there. Head coach Wendy Schuller recently signed Brianne's younger sister and Neil's youngest daughter, Kayleigh, to a national letter of intent to play basketball at Eastern starting in the 2011-12 school year.
Piper Selected as Candidate for Lowe's Senior CLASS Award
EWU senior forward Julie Piper was selected as one of 30 candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as a NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. The 2011 women's candidate class includes five players who were CoSIDA Academic All-Americans last year, 22 student-athletes with grade point averages of 3.0 or better, four players who participated in the 2010 Women's Final Four and 15 players on the preseason watch list for the John R. Wooden Award. The candidate class will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
Eagles Sign Four for 2011-12 Season
Four high school seniors from the state of Washington have signed national letters of intent to play basketball at Eastern Washington University. The members of the 2011 recruiting class include 5-foot-1 point guard Kylie Huerta from Kentwood High School, 5-11 guard Kayleigh Ryan from Lynden Christian High School, 6-0 forward Melissa Williams from Camas High School in Vancouver and 5-10 shooting guard Hayley Hodgins from Chiawana High School in Pasco. Huerta was ranked among the top 110 point guards in the nation according to ESPN Hoopgurlz.com, and earned South Puget Sound League North Division Co-MVP honors in 2010 after leading the league in points per game (18.9) and steals (57). Ryan, sister of current Eagle, Brianne Ryan, is a dual-sport athlete, earning letters in basketball and volleyball at Lynden Christian. As a junior on the basketball team, she averaged nine points, eight rebounds and 4.7 assists per game for the Lyncs. Williams was selected as the 2010 Greater St. Helen's League Player of the Year and the Columbian's All-Region Player of the Year. She led her team to the Class 3A District Championship in 2010, averaging 16 points per game throughout the year. Hodgins was a member of the Columbia Basin Big Nine Cascaded Division first-team in 2010 and was twice named the Tri-City Herald Athlete of the Week. Hodgins was the league's leading scorer during her junior year, averaging 18.4 points per game. She shot 46 percent from three-point range, which was also the best in the league.
Accomplishments Under Schuller
- The 2009-10 squad won the school's first-ever Big Sky Conference regular-season title and hosted the league tournament for the first time in school history.
- The 2009-10 Eagles advanced to the Women's National Invitation Touament, which marked the first national postseason appearance for EWU since 1987.
- Eastern earned an overall record of 19-12 and conference record of 12-4 in 2009-10, which were the best recorded by an EWU team since the 1984-35 season.
- Julie Piper was named 2010 Big Sky Most Valuable Player, becoming the first player in program history to earn such an honor.
- Schuller was selected as the 2010 Big Sky Coach of the Year. She has collected 113 wins at EWU, which is the second-most victories in school history.
- The Eagles have advanced to the Big Sky Conference semifinals in six of Schuller's nine years at the helm of the program (2002-06, 2010).
- For the past nine-consecutive seasons, Eastern has earned a spot on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll -- something achieved by only one other team in Division I history (Indiana State). Eastern has been among the top five academic teams in the nation in seven of those nine years, including the 2003-04 campaign, in which the team placed first nationally with a 3.63 cumulative grade point average.
- Two Eagles have attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second-team honors -- Joanna Chadd in 2006-07 and Kathleen Nygaard in 2003-04.
- Kyla Evans received ESPN The Magazine All-District VIII honors in 2009.
- The past nine seasons, 74 players have earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, the most in the league.