2006-07 Regular Season Begins Friday for Eagles

Nov. 9, 2006

The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team begins its 2006-07 campaign with a Friday contest versus Montana Tech. The Orediggers have started their season with a 3-0 mark after the NAIA institution went 6-23 last season. Tip-off is slated for 2:05 p.m.

Due to the proliferation of volleyball matches being played at Reese Court this weekend (the 2B WIAA State Volleyball Tournament and a pair of home matches for the Eagle volleyball squad), the basketball game will take place at Spokane Community College. Admission is free.

The Big Sky Conference selected the Eagles fifth (tied with Portland State) in its media poll, while EWU placed sixth in the coaches poll. The favorite chosen by the media was defending tournament champion Northern Arizona, while the coaches were not able to differentiate between defending regular-season champ Idaho State and Montana, as the two teams tied for their top spot.

The Eagles are coming off a 13-15 (7-7 Big Sky Conference) season, which saw Eastern Washington finish in a fourth-place tie in the regular-season standings. As the fourth seed, its highest seed in the tourney since 1995, EWU fell in a tournament conference quarterfinal contest to No. 5 Weber State, 74-69.

The Orediggers will be bringing with them a number of Spokane-area players, including Jessie DePell (Freeman H.S.), Rebecca Gimeno (St. George's H.S.) and Angela Gimeno (St. George's H.S.).

There is also an interesting Northwest College connection in this contest. Two of the Montana Tech players transferred from the Powell, Wyo., based school (Adrea Thomas and Teresa Merrill), while Eastern Washington's two assistant coaches both either played or coached there (Janis Beal played at Northwest College, while Tom Webb coached there).

Following Friday's contest, the Eagles travel to southern California to take on UC Irvine in the Anteaters' opening contest of the season at 7 p.m. on Monday. Eastern's first game at Reese Court will come on Nov. 17, as Corban (1-0) pays a visit to Cheney.

Notes:

  • The 2006-07 Big Sky slate commences on Friday, as two games have a 2:05 p.m. start time, one being the Montana Tech-EWU game, while the other one is the Portland State at UC Santa Barbara contest. Other BSC games that day include Bethany at Sacramento State and Idaho State at BYU.
  • Eastern Washington has compiled consecutive .500-or-better conference campaigns for the first time since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons. In 2004-05, the Eagles went 8-6 in Big Sky play, 16-12 overall.
  • The Eagles have flourished at home of late, bringing into the 2006-07 campaign a 19-4 mark (.826 winning percentage) at Reese Court in its last 23 contests.
  • EWU enters the 2006-07 campaign having qualified for the six-team Big Sky Conference Tournament in each of head coach Wendy Schuller's five years at the helm of the Eagles. Overall, Eastern has played in seven consecutive tournaments after only playing in three the first 11 years that the BSC sponsored women's sports.
  • After losing a talented group of post players, Eastern looks to rely on an experienced tandem of guards in 2006-07 and play more up-tempo basketball than has been the case previously in the Schuller era.
  • Seven letterwinners, including three starters, return for Eastern, while two letterwinners (both starters) were lost. The three starters returning are Sydney Benson, Leah Gonnella and Brittney Osborn.
  • Joanna Chadd is among the returnees as well. In 2005-06, she claimed Big Sky Conference Co-Defensive MVP honors after recording 0.9 steals per game, to go 9.1 points and 2.3 assists per game. She also served as the team's leading three-point shooter, making 48-of-139 for 34.5 percent accuracy.
  • Benson had an outstanding freshman season, averaging 2.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
  • Gonnella returned to the Spokane area last year to attend EWU and play for the Eagles, as the Mead High School grad and University of Toledo transfer tallied 5.6 points and 2.8 assists last season. She also poured in 31 three-point shots.
  • Osborn has had two solid years as a wing for the Eagles. Last season, she averaged 6.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
  • The roster, as always, has a strong Washington flair to it, as nine of the 14 players reside in the Evergreen State. Four of those are from cities located east of the Cascades: Katy Baker (Spokane), Anny Eller (Kennewick), Gonnella (Spokane) and Jessica Huntington (Yakima). Of the remaining five players, one each are from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Nevada.
  • After qualifying for three Big Sky Tournament semifinal contests in the past five years, the Eagles' goal in 2006-07 is to claim the conference championship. EWU qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1987 after claiming the Mountain West Conference (predecessor to the Big Sky Conference in women's athletics) Tournament championship with a 77-74 win at Montana in the title contest. The Eagles fell at Oregon in NCAA play, 75-56.
  • Eastern Washington as a team was honored recently, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. It marked the fourth consecutive season that the Eagles had ranked third or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.
  • This season's non-conference schedule will serve as ample challenge for the Eagles, as the team prepares itself for the Big Sky Conference schedule. Included in EWU's November and December slate of contests will be games versus a pair of top-25 squads. The Eagles will play host to No. 25 Washington on Nov. 21 before taking on No. 10 LSU just four days later in the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic.
  • All games either played at Reese Court or on the road in the Big Sky Conference will be available to watch on the Internet. The cost is $59.95 for a season pass for EWU games (which football, volleyball and men's basketball contests) and $99.95 for all Big Sky teams.
View: Mobile | Desktop