In its 31-year history as a member of NCAA Division I, the Eastern Washington women’s basketball program has a rich tradition of success, both athletically and academically. Before joining the Big Sky Conference prior to the 1988-89 season, EWU advanced to five Mountain West Athletic Conference tournaments, earning the program’s first-ever bid into the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship at the conclusion of the 1986-87 season. Since then, the Eagles have qualified for 13 Big Sky tournament berths, winning the league in 2009-10. Eastern has seen its student-athletes earn a total of 64 All-Big Sky awards, highlighted by a pair of Big Sky Player of the Year recipients. Academically, EWU has received 204 Big Sky All-Academic honors in its history and has ranked in the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll 12 times since 2000.
Eastern reclassified to NCAA Division I prior to the 1982-83 season, experiencing success right off the bat. Under EWU Hall of Fame head coach Bill Smithpeters, the Eagles won at least 20 games in both the 1983-84 and 1984-85 campaigns and recorded double-digit win totals in league contests. EWU earned its first-ever NCAA Championship bid following the 1986-87 season, cementing the program as one of the region’s best. Eastern’s all-time leading scorer, Brenda Souther, lettered from 1983-87 and would later become part of the Big Sky All-Decade Team.
EWU joined the Big Sky Conference prior to the 1988-89 season, placing fourth in the league standings and advancing to the semifinals of the conference tournament the following year. Heidi VanDerveer took over for Smithpeters in 1994-95, taking the Eagles to the Big Sky Tournament in her first two seasons with the program. Following VanDerveer’s short stint with the team, Jocelyn Pfiefer took the reins in 1997-98, leading Eastern back to the conference tournament in her final two seasons with the program in 1999-00 and 2000-01.
Looking to create some consistency in the coaching department following Smithpeters' departure, Eastern hired Wendy Schuller to lead the program prior to the 2001-02 campaign. Coming from Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., Schuller quickly adjusted to the rigors of the Big Sky, guiding the program to heights not seen since the 1980s.
The Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the Big Sky Tournament in each of Schuller’s first three seasons, winning 17 games in 2002-03, the most since the 1987-88 season. EWU finished fourth in the conference standings at the conclusion of the 2004-05 campaign, the highest since 1994-95. Following a couple of down years, Schuller promptly led Eastern to its first-ever Big Sky title in 2009-10, winning 19 games and earning the program’s first WNIT bid in school history. Most recently, EWU finished its 2012-13 campaign with 19 wins, including 14 victories in league play, earning its second bid to the WNIT in the process.
Under Schuller, Eastern has flourished, both on the court and in the classroom. Both of EWU’s Big Sky Player of the Year recipients, Julie Piper and Brianne Ryan, played under Schuller, as did the program’s three Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year honorees. The Eagles have also earned 13 First Team All-Big Sky awards and five Big Sky All-Tournament honors during Schuller’s tenure.
Acacemically, Kathleen Nygaard and Joanna Chadd earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors while seven ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII awards have been collected under Schuller. As a team, Eastern has been placed on the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll 11 times during Schuller’s tenure, topping the list in 2004 and placing in the top five six times.