Just as it did in 2009-10, Eastern ready to prove pollsters wrong
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team knows what can happen when picked seventh in a Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll. The last time the Eags started the season ranked seventh, they ended it with a Big Sky Championship to their name.
In the 2011-12 Big Sky Preseason Coaches' and Media polls, released Tuesday (Oct. 18) by the conference office, Eastern was tabbed seventh by the coaches with 26 total points, and sixth by media members with 73 tallies.
Prior to the start of the 2009-10 season - the one in which EWU captured the BSC regular-season title with a stellar 12-4 league record - the Eagles were also selected seventh by the coaches and media.
Eastern, which begins its 2011-12 campaign on Nov. 6 with a home exhibition game versus Warner Pacific, will look to once again prove pollsters wrong.
Portland State was tabbed as the preseason favorite in both polls, with six first-place votes from the coaches and 11 from the media. The Vikings earned a share of the regular-season title last season, and by virtue of a tiebreaker with Northern Colorado, had the privilege of hosting the 2011 Big Sky tournament. PSU returned three of its starters from that squad, including the reigning Big Sky MVP, Eryn Jones.
Montana, which claimed the 2011 Big Sky Tournament title, was picked second in the coaches' poll with 55 total points and one first-place tally. The Lady Griz came in third, though, in the media poll. Northern Colorado was third in the coaches and second in the media, while Montana State was picked fourth in both.
2011-12 Big Sky Preseason Polls
|Coaches' Poll||Media Poll|
|Team||Points (1st-Place Votes)||Team||Points (1st-Place Votes)|
|1. Portland State||61 (6)||1. Portland State||156 (11)|
|2. Montana||55 (1)||2. Northern Colorado||134 (2)|
|3. Northern Colorado||49 (1)||3. Montana||129 (3)|
|4. Montana State||47 (1)||4. Montana State||125 (2)|
|5. Idaho State||34||5. Idaho State||114 (1)|
|6. Northern Arizona||38||6. Eastern Washington||73|
|7. Eastern Washington||26||7. Northern Arizona||54|
|8. Weber State||13||8. Weber State||38|
|9. Sacramento State||11||9. Sacramento State||32|
- At 17 players deep, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team begins the 2011-12 season with the biggest roster in head coach Wendy Schuller's 11-year tenure. This roster includes three returning starters from 2010-11, six other returning letterwinners, two returning redshirts, one non-lettering squad member, one transfer and four freshmen.
- Eastern returns two All-Big Sky Conference selections in senior G/F Brianne Ryan (First Team) and senior PG Chene Cooper (Honorable Mention).
- Ryan scored in double figures in all but four games of the 2010-11 season, and in league-only statistics, sheled the Big Sky in minutes per game (35.8), and was among the top three in scoring (15.9/game) and field goal percentage (.508). She also averaged 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game, which ranked 11th in the conference. Ryan's younger sister, Kayleigh, is also on the team as a freshman this year. And their mother, Neil Ann, also played basketball for Eastern from 1979-82. Neil Ann is still the third-leading rebounder in school history with 1,008 career boards, while her career rebounding average of 8.47 ranks fourth in the record book.
- Cooper was the only player in the conference to register 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 10+ assists at least once during the 2010-11 campaign. Last year in league-only statistics, Cooper ranked No. 1 in the Big Sky in assists (5.0/game) and steals (2.8/game). In overall season stats, Cooper was second in the conference in those two categories, but did own the best overall free throw percentage of all players at 86.0 (80-93), which is also the best single-season average in EWU history. Cooper also ranked in the top 30 in the nation in assists per game for 14 of the 18 weeks of the season. A five-feet even, Cooper is the shortest listed player on any 2011-12 Big Sky roster, and believed to be the shortest in Division I women's basketball.
- Among Eastern's four freshmen is 5-1 point guard Kylie Huerta (Covington, Wash.), who came to Cheney after a successful four-year career at Kentwood High School. In the years just prior to Huerta's tenure, Kentwood produced Gonzaga legend and current WNBA star Courtney Vandersloot, as well as Nebraska standout/two-time All-Big 12 honoree, Lindsey Moore. Kentwood is also the alma-mater of EWU men's basketball legend, Rodney Stuckey.
- The Eagles are coming off their second-straight postseason appearance. In 2010, Eastern earned an automatic bid to the Big Sky Conference semifinals after winning the regular-season title. In last year's Big Sky Championship, Eastern advanced the semis again after a 77-68 victory agaisnt Montana State in the quarterfinal round, which actually marked the first postseason win for EWU since the 2004 campaign.
- Last season, head coach Wendy Schuller joined Eastern Hall-of-Famer Bill Smithpeters as the only two coaches in EWU history to win a game at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont. Schuller led the Eagles to a 71-63 upset of the Lady Griz on their home court on Feb. 26, 2011.
- Eastern has earned 20 Big Sky Conference wins over the past two years, which is more than the Eagles had in the previous four seasons combined. In 2009-10, EWU captured the school's first-ever Big Sky regular-season title with a 12-4 league record.
- In the past 10 seasons, Eastern Washington women's basketball players have been honored 81 times on the Big Sky All-Academic list, which is the most for any women's basketball team in the league. The Eagles have also been recognized on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for nine of the past 10 seasons. Eastern was among the top five academic teams in the nation in seven of those 10 years, including the 2003-04 campaign, in which the team placed first nationally with a 3.63 cumulative grade point average.
- Entering her 11th season, head coach Wendy Schuller has amassed 126 wins - the second-most victories for any coach in program history. She has had 13 different players named to one or more All-Big Sky Conference teams, including the school's first-ever league MVP (Julie Piper in 2010) and Big Sky Newcomer of the Year (Julie Page in 2004).