Nov. 12, 2006
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team (1-0) hits the road for its first away contest of 2006-07, playing at UC Irvine at 7 p.m. on Monday.
The Eagles are coming off a season-opening 75-69 victory over Montana Tech on Friday in a game contested at Spokane Community College. The Orediggers would then top Montana State in MSU's season-opening contest on Sunday, 66-57. UC Irvine has yet to play in 2006-07 and will be playing its season-opening contest versus EWU.
In EWU's victory over Montana Tech, the Eagles were led by Joanna Chadd (16 points, 4-of-9 on three-pointers), Katy Baker (13 points, seven rebounds), Brittney Osborn (14 points, five rebounds), Jessica Huntington (five rebounds), Tara Holgate (three blocks) and Nicole Scott (four blocks). The latter two players helped Eastern to a convincing 10-0 blocks advantage in the contest.
Runs of 12-2 (late in the first half), 14-2 (early part of second half) and 7-0 (breaking a 67-all tie with two minutes left) helped Eastern Washington claim its season-opening contest.
The Eagles are coming off a 13-15 (7-7 Big Sky Conference) season, which saw EWU finish in a fourth-place tie in the regular-season standings. As the fourth seed, its highest seed in the tourney since 1995, Eastern fell in a tournament conference quarterfinal contest to No. 5 Weber State, 74-69.
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.
Last season, UC Irvine went 7-7 in Big West Conference play last season, 9-19 overall. In the Big West Tournament, the Anteaters fell in the first round to Cal State Northridge, 66-64. The Anteaters were selected fifth (coaches) and seventh (media) out of eight Big West teams in the 2006-07 preseason polls.
Eastern returns home to take on Corban (2-1) at 7:05 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 17). No. 25 Washington will be traveling to Cheney for the first time in 16 years on Nov. 21 and will take on the Eagles in a 5:30 p.m. contest.
- 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.