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September 13, 2012     Cheney Free Press
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September 13, 2012

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Page 2 Section 2 Free Press Thursday, September 13, 2012 Eu3' ern women get le,00s time to prepare for Big Sky basketball grind New additions to conference mean non-conference schedule gets trimmed for 2012-13 By PUL DELANEY Staff eporter The 2012-13 Eastern Washington University women's basketball schedule appears to have a slightly more slimming, lighter look to it - at least on the non-conference side. With the addition of North Dakota and Southern Utah as new members to the Big Sky Conference, Eastern's league schedule had to expand and the warm-up games had to shrink. The schedule, released Sept. 6, includes 20 games against BSC teams and nine more non-league con- tests. There's also a Nov. 4 "exhibition" game versus Carrgll College from Helena, Mont. that does not coun on the overall season record The added games in conference, plus shaving the n0n-league schedule concerns EWU head coach Wen, ty Schuller, who likes to have ample games-to help prepare the team for the grind of Big Sky play. Schu Cler, who will begin her 11th season as Eastern head coach, was 16-14 overall and 10-6 in conference play last season. Ir the BSC's previous life there was room for 13 non-..'onference games. "You kind of had a second seasc n when you came to the Big Sky; I don't know if I wm tld consider the non-conference season a second seascn because it's so short," Schuller said. Now "It's a very minor tune-up and you better be ready to go," she said. "Before Christmas you better be ready to go because we've got two conference games before Christmas, Weber and Idaho State." "It was a challenge to even put together a non- conference schedule because with holidays there's not much time between November and the start of league play," Schuller said. Schuller knows every team is in the same boat, however. While there's not a lot of quantity, there's cer- tainly quality, she said. "Cal's a very good team, Pacific is another team that's very, very good," Schuler said. Eastern doesn't have games where they can "take off," as Schuller said. In other words, have it easy, because the Eagles travel to Gonzaga where H the crowd will be big and loud. When theseason starts we know it's going to be four months of really grinding." The Eagles open the season at home on Veteran's Day, Sunday, Nov. 11 at what will be an entirely "new look" Reese Court. They play against Pacific, one of eight national tournament opponents the Eagles will play in 2012-13. Eastern's home court now features new seating on the. bench side of the building and plan to have video replay screens up and running by then as well. Following a road game, the Eagles will enjoy one more home game Nov. 18 against WCC-opponent Portland before heading out on a seven-game road swing. Over Thanksgiving, the Eagles will play in the Cal Classic by Doubletree in Berkeley, Calif. East- ern opens the tournament against host-Cal,:which advanced to the second round of the 2012 NCAA Women's National Championship. Eastern's final game in Berkeley will be against either Cal State Fullerton or Georgetown - another second-round team in last year's tourney. Eastern's final three opponents Of the non-confer- ence schedule are all former members of the Big Sky. The Eagles will play at Idaho on Nov. 27, at Gonzaga on Dec. 4 and at Boise State Dec. 7. Staying in the Northwest for non-conference gives Schuller the perfect level and style of competition the team needs to prepare for BSC play. "I don't know how much good it would do for us to go down and play a Texas Tech or Florida Inter- national," Schuller said. "That's just not the type of competition we're going to see in the Big Sky." Schools like Pacific and Portland are teams Eastern recruits against and ones who feature players with similar skills and characteristics to what they see in the Big Sky. "In terms of getting us prepared for conference, I think it's an excellent schedule," Schul- ler said. She'd just like a few more opportunities to test the tune-up. "I think 20 conference games is a lot," she said. "I know how much we put into preparation and how long the season can get," Schuller said. "And I know other people in our league put in just as much work as we do." It's a real chore, she sai d, "Because you have to get after it; it's not that you don't get after it for non- con- ference games but every single Big Sky game means a ton." And to hav 20 of them means a ton, Schuller said. "We all have to do it, it's not just us who has to do it, but it's a lot and mentally and physically we put a lot into every contest, it'll be tough but that's the Big Sky." "You have to be warriors and you have to be tough in every aspect to be successful in our league," she said. Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com. Eastern volleyball begins Big Sky play It was not the smoothest preseason but the Eastern Washington University vol- leyball team survived, and now looks ahead to conlerence play. Eastern begins Big Sky play today, (Sept. 13) at Sacramento State. The Eagles (0-11) make their home debut this Monday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. against Portland State. In the first month of the 2012 season, the Eagles were hit with a rash of injuries, as we I as an unexpected coaching change. Easte  played its first nine matches of the year vithout a veteran setter, while also deali t with limited personnel and experi- ence n tte I)act "ow. S mior setter Laney Brown was able to rel Im to the starting lineup during last weeh nd's tournament at Iowa State. But !Ii iil ='!Hi almost as, soon as she was back in the rotation, the Eagles lost two more impor- tant players. Freshman' defensive specialist Ser- enaAh Choy suffered an injury to her right hand during Eastem's match against Syra- cuse and senior Shelby Puckett exited the final match ofthetoumey against Iowa last Saturday with a sprained ankle. Puckett is questionable for the match at Sac State. Ah Choy is expected to be out for at least two weeks. "Despite these continuing injuries, we are improving with every match," EWU head coach Lisa Westlake said. "But the most important thing for us right now is the mental game." llli;'il IiiliI |i'ilIl!!lii.l lllillie :iiillIll I!i1ii After the PSU game the Eagles hit the road for a pair of contests at Montana State, Sept. 20 and Montana Sept. 22 before return- ing home for four sb'aight matches beginning with Southern Utah, Sept. 27. EWU's Black rides earns Big Sky Soccer playerof week award Sophomore forward Cassie Black, from the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team, was recognized by the Big Sky Conference as Offensive Player of the Week for her performance at the Viking Classic in Eastern's two games against Utah State and Boise State Sept. 7-9. Black was particularly impressive against Boise State last Sunday. She con- tributed two goals in 75 minutes of play, which helped Eastern secure a 3-1 win - its first ever against the Broncos and first in the 2012 season. Black is Eastern's top point producers with four so far in her second year. She also led Eastern as a freshman in 2011, with six goals for 12 points. Eastern soccer finally home versus Idaho, Hawaii After five straight games on the road, the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team will return home this weekend to face Idaho, Friday, Sept. 14 at4 p.m. and Hawaii Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. Both matches will take place at EWU Sports and Recreation Center Soccer Field. The Eagles are coming off their first win of the season - a solid 3-1 victory against Boise State which was the first ever against the former Big Sky member. The match saw the same strong performance Eastern had been showing all season, but this time, 4he Eagles were able to find the bake of the net. "We have been ;)laying really strong," head coach George Hageage said. "Hopefully we get a boost from the goals we scored against Boise State, and that keeps our offense going." 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