Nov. 14, 2006
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team plays its first game in Cheney in 2006-07 on Friday, when it takes on NAIA member Corban College.
The Eagles claimed a season-opening 75-69 win over Montana Tech in a game contested at Spokane Community College on Friday (Nov. 10) before embarking on a road trip to southern California and dominating UC Irvine, 80-60, after going on a 22-5 run early in the second half to pull away.
The Warriors are 2-1 on the season, earning wins over Northwest Christian College and William Jessup University and falling to California Baptist University. Last season, Corban was 25-7 (14-4 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference) and advanced to the league semifinals before seeing its season come to an end.
Corban is No. 22 in the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Preseason Rating.
In the win over UC Irvine, Katy Baker had her first career double-double with the Eagles in just her second game, tallying 16 points and earning 11 rebounds. Three other Eagles contributed double-digit point totals: Ashley Knight (14), Tara Holgate (10) and Joanna Chadd (10).
Eastern's 22-5 run increased EWU's 37-35 lead with 18:35 remaining to 59-40 with 11:23 left. From that point on, the Eagles saw their lead fluctuate from 15-21 points, as Eastern held on for the victory.
In EWU's victory over Montana Tech, the Eagles were led by Chadd (16 points, 4-of-9 on three-pointers), Baker (13 points, seven rebounds), Brittney Osborn (14 points, five rebounds), Jessica Huntington (five rebounds), 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 the Big Sky Conference quarterfinalst to No. 5 Weber State, 74-69.
The Eagles were selected fifth (tied with Portland State) in the Big Sky's 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.
Eastern's next home game is against No. 23 Washington at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 21. That will mark the first trip by the Huskies to Cheney in 16 years.
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.
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 participated 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 with 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. 23 Washington on Nov. 21 before taking on No. 9 LSU just four days later in the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic.
All of the 2006-07 women's basketball home games will be audio broadcast free of charge, along with selected road contests. The first broadcast will be this Friday for the Eastern-Corban game. For more information, access www.teamline.cc. Audio links will also be available at www.goeags.com.
All games played either at Reese Court or on the road in Big Sky Conference play will be available to view on the Internet at www.bigskytv.org. The cost is $59.95 for a 2006-07 season pass for EWU games (which also includes volleyball and men's basketball contests) and $99.95 for all Big Sky teams. Single games can be viewed for $6.95.