2017-18 season begins on Friday for Eagles - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

2017-18 season begins on Friday for Eagles

Photo: EWU Athletics Photo: EWU Athletics

By Eastern Washington Athletics

CHENEY, Wash. – The 2017-18 season officially begins for the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team this Friday (Nov. 10) as they travel to Fresno State for a matchup against the Bulldogs. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Pacific time inside the Save Mart Arena.
 
MEET THE EAGLES: Under 17th year head coach Wendy Schuller, the Eagles return three starters from a team that went 19-14 overall last season. During the upcoming campaign, EWU looks to make it four-straight seasons with at least 19 wins.
 
One of the starters returning for Eastern this year is the Big Sky Conference Preseason MVP, Delaney Hodgins. The senior averaged 17.5 points per game a year ago and was tabbed to the All-Big Sky First Team following the conclusion of the season. With 1,428 career points, Hodgins ranks fifth on the Eastern Washington all-time scoring list, just 437 points away from breaking the current record, held by her older sister Hayley Hodgins (2013-16) with 1,865 total points.
 
EWU went 12-6 in Big Sky play last season and finished fourth in the regular season, earning a first-round bye at the BSC Tournament. The Eagles advanced to the semifinals, and extended their season with a second-round appearance at the Women's Basketball Invitational. This season, Eastern was predicted to finish as high as sixth in the preseason polls.
 
During the last three seasons EWU has a record of 61-38 overall (.616), and have eclipsed the 20-win mark twice as they continue to establish itself as one of the top program's in the Big Sky Conference.
 
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS: Fresno State also opens the 2017-18 campaign on Friday and are fresh off a 93-59 exhibition victory over Fresno Pacific on Nov. 3.
 
The Bulldogs return eight letter winners from a team that reached the 2017 Mountain West Championship game for the second-straight season. They also boast preseason All-Mountain West selection Candice White.
 
SERIES HISTORY: The two teams have only met three times in program history, with the last meeting coming on Nov. 25, 2000 where the Eagles lost 45-67 in Fresno. Eastern trails the all-time series 1-2 and are 35-39 all-time against teams from the Mountain West Conference.
 
EXHIBITION SUCCESS: The Eagles played host to The Master's University for their lone exhibition of the season on Sunday, cruising to an 87-56 victory. The Eagles had a well-balanced attack offensively, as three players recorded points into the double figures. Preseason Big Sky Conference MVP Delaney Hodgins led all players with 21 points, while Uriah Howard and Violet Kapri Morrow accounted for 14 points apiece. Howard also led Eastern with seven rebounds and four steals. As a team, Eastern Washington was solid from the field, shooting 46.6% from field goal range.
 
Defensively, the Eagles won the turnover battle as they forced 27, including 21 steals to amass 35 points off of them. Eastern Washington was also able to shutdown the Mustangs, as they only shot 32.1% from the field and 22.2% behind the arc. The EWU defense made a statement as they prohibited TMU from hitting a field goal for the final 7:45 of the second quarter up until the 3:06 mark in the third.
 
UP AHEAD: After Friday's matchup, the Eagles prepare for another road game at a Mountain West Conference school in Air Force. This matchup is a makeup from last year's game that was canceled due to inclement weather. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. PT.
 
­MEET THE NEWCOMERS: During the offseason, the Eagles added freshmen Cailyn Francis (6-3, C, Yuba City, Calif.), Lily Perkins (5-11, F, West Covina, Calif.) Brittany Klaman (5-11, G, Melbourne, Australia), and Lea Wolff (5-7, G, Leverkusen, Germany) to the squad.
 
In the exhibition, the EWU freshmen class combined for 24 points, as Klaman and Wolff totaled eight points each in their Eagle debuts. Perkins added six and redshirt freshmen Amira Chandler tacked on two.

RETURNING EAGLES: Although the Eagles lost Tisha Phillips and Ashli Payne, who averaged 14.0 and 12.3 points per contest last year, respectively, to graduation, the EWU roster is full of talent ready to step up and take their place.
 
Eastern's roster is comprised of two seniors in Hodgins and Mariah Cunningham. Amira Chandler, Violet Kapri Morrow and Alissa Sealby make up the junior class, while Andie Easley, Uriah Howard, Baylee Rexing and Symone Starks round out the sophomore class. After a knee injury six games into the season, Amy Hartleroad returns as a redshirt freshmen.
 
In addition to Hodgins, 2016-17 starters Morrow and Sealby return for Eastern. Morrow, a junior, ranked fourth on the team in both points per game (7.6) and rebounds per game (3.6) last season.
 
As a freshman, Starks averaged 4.8 points per game last season and ranked third on the team with 2.3 assists per contest. She also averaged 2.4 steals to lead the Eagles. Cunningham returns for her senior season, along with Howard, who both made impacts for EWU off of the bench last year.
 
THE SCHEDULE: Eastern plays 30 regular season games, 14 of which will be contested at home on Reese Court. The nonconference portion of the schedule consists of 12 games, including matchups against several Power 5 conference opponents. The first road trip of the year and the regular season kicks off at Fresno State (Nov. 10) and Air Force (Nov. 14). Eastern returns home to play host to Utah Valley on Nov. 25. The always rigorous 18-game Big Sky Conference slate begins on Dec. 28 against Northern Colorado, who posted a 22-8 overall record a season ago.

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