Junior Brianne Ryan highlights Eagle honorees as a first-team selection
Three members of the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team were recognized by the league's head coaches as All-Big Sky selections for the 2010-11 season, it was announced Monday (March 7) by the league office. Junior guard Brianne Ryan was honored on the All-Big Sky first team, while junior Chene Cooper and senior Julie Piper were part of the honorable mention squad.
Ryan, a product of Lynden Christian High School in Lynden, Wash., is no stranger to league honors, as she was named the Big Sky Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. But this year is actually Ryan's first time on an All-Big Sky Conference team - and she jumped right to the top, as one of six elite players on the first team. Portland State's Eryn Jones was named the 2011 Big Sky MVP and was a unanimous first-team selection, while Montana State, Montana, Idaho State and Northern Colorado also landed one player each on the prestigious list.
Ryan finished the Big Sky season as the third-leading scorer in the league, averaging 15.9 points per game. Her field goal percentage in league-only statistics (50.8) also ranked third overall in the conference. She scored in double figures in all but one Big Sky game this season, and turned in the single-best offensive performance of all players in league with a career-high 33 points on 14-of-18 shooting against Sacramento State on Jan. 22.
Although Ryan certainly excelled on the offensive end, her contributions defensively were just as impressive. She averaged 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals throughout the conference season, while often having to guard the opposing team's top player.
"Ryan has had a phenomenal season, and especially during conference play, she really stepped up her game," commended EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "She has not only become a great defender for us, but also someone who we can rely on to score. She has improved our team's three-point shooting a lot over the last year – and individually, she is shooting 16 percent higher from the arc than she did a year ago. She is really doing a great job knocking down shots. Making 50 percent from the field is certainly not an easy thing for guards to do."
"Besides all of her offensive contributions, Ryan is probably our best defender as well," added Schuller. "She is an absolute warrior. She always draws the toughest assignments, and she leads the league in minutes played. She never sits out in games, and plays hard every day in practice."
Cooper, a five-foot point guard out of Lakes High School in Puyallup, Wash., was named to the honorable mention squad, marking the first conference honor for the junior. Cooper was undeniable in conference play this season, as she led the league in assists and steals. In league-only statistics, she averaged 5.0 dimes per game and 2.6 steals. She was also among the top 15 scorers in the Big Sky, averaging 12.9 tallies per game.
She was the only player in the conference to have had 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 10+ assists at least once this season. She actually had two games with 10+ assists, including a career-high 14 against Sacramento State on Jan. 22. That passing performance was the best turned in by any player in the Big Sky this season.
"Coop makes us go. She is our wheels," said Schuller. "She gives us spirit, gets us running and makes a lot of things happen on both ends of the floor. She is leading the league in assists and steals, which just tells you she is everywhere all at once."
"Coop has the ability to score a lot of points for us, but she also knows how to distribute and find ways for others players to score," added Schuller. "She has had a great year for us and we expect her to continue to get better and better."
Joining Cooper as a member of the honorable mention squad was Piper, who was named the Big Sky MVP a year ago. This season, Piper was one of the top five rebounders in the league, averaging 8.1 boards per game, as well as one of the top five shot blockers at 1.1 per game. In the final four outings of the conference season, Piper averaged 9.5 caroms per contest, which included two career-high performances of 15 boards against Montana State (Feb. 24) and Montana (March 5).
Piper was also a constant offensive threat, averaging just under 10 points per game in league play. Her free throw percentage of .800 was among the top 10 in the conference, while her field goal percentage (43.9) in all games during the 2010-11 season ranked seventh in the Big Sky.
"Piper is one of those seniors who is extremely hard to lose because she has been the heart and soul of this team," expressed Schuller. "There is not a player out there who has a better work ethic than Piper. She is in the gym 365 days a year working on her game trying to get better. She cares about her teammates even more than she even cares about herself. She has played through pain, injuries and everything else, all for the betterment of this program."
Piper, a native of Roseburg, Ore., ranks among the top 10 in the EWU career record book in six different categories. She ranks eighth all-time in points scored with 1,171 career tallies and fifth in rebounds with 775. Even more impressive than her records though, are Piper's reliability and longevity. She has not missed a single game since the first time she stepped on the court as a freshman in 2007, and she has started all but seven of the 118 total games played in her tenure.
Eastern's season will continue this week at the 2011 Big Sky Conference tournament in Portland, Ore. The Eagles, who earned the No. 6 seed in the tourney, will take on No. 3 seed Montana State in the quarterfinal round on Thursday (March 10) at 4:35 p.m. Pacific time.
2010-11 Big Sky Women's All-Conference Team
Eryn Jones, Portland State #MVP
Brianne Ryan, Eastern Washington
Chelsea Pickering, Idaho State
Katie Baker, Montana
Rachel Semansky, Montana State
Lauren Oosdyke, Northern Colorado
Sarah Balian, Montana State
Katie Bussey, Montana State
Amy Patton, Northern Arizona
Courtney Stoermer, Northern Colorado
Courtney Vanbrocklin, Portland State
Honorable Mention: Chene Cooper, Eastern Washington; Julie Piper, Eastern Washington; Kaela Oakes, Idaho State; Ashleigh Vella, Idaho State; Lyndi Seidensticker, Montana State; D'Shara Strange, Northern Colorado; Kelli Vallentine, Portland State; Kylie Kuhns, Sacramento State and Caitlin Anderson, Weber State.
Most Valuable Player: Eryn Jones, Jr., Portland State
Co-Defensive Player of the Year: Sarah Balian, Sr., Montana State and Courtney Stoermer, Sr., Northern Colorado
Top Newcomer: Courtney VanBrocklin, So., Portland State
Outstanding Freshman: D'Shara Strange, Northern Colorado