The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team has unveiled its 2012-13 schedule, which features a familiar but challenging non-conference lineup and a busy Big Sky slate.
Eastern opens the season at home on Veteran's Day (Nov. 11) with a game against Pacific, which is one of eight potential opponents EWU will play in 2012-13 that participated in national tournaments a year ago.
Following the season debut at Reese Court, Eastern will have its first road test against another one of those schools in Cal State Northridge. Both the Tigers and Matadors competed in the 2012 WNIT.
The Eagles will enjoy one more home game on Nov. 18 against WCC-opponent Portland, before heading out on a seven-game road swing. That meeting between the Eagles and Pilots will be the 24th in history, as the two teams have played one another almost every year since 1985-86.
Over Thanksgiving, EWU will play in the Cal Classic by Doubletree in Berkeley, Calif. Eastern opens tournament play 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-conference slate 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.
"With the Big Sky adding two new teams, our non-conference schedule has really shrunk," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "Instead of maybe going and playing a BCS-level opponent at their place for something a little different, we are sticking with more west coast, familiar teams that we tend to play year-in and year-out. But really, those are all great games to have.
"I don't know how much good it would do for us to go down and play a Texas Tech or Florida International," added Schuller. "That's just not the type of competition we're going to see in the Big Sky. With schools like Pacific and Portland, we recruit against them and they have players with similar skills and characteristics to what we are going to see in the Big Sky. In terms of getting us prepared for conference, I think it's an excellent schedule."
With the addition of North Dakota and Southern Utah to the league, the Big Sky Conference schedule now features 20 games. And, for the first time in Schuller's 11-year tenure, conference play will kick off before Christmas break.
"It's definitely going to be a grind," said Schuller. "That's the one word I can think of to describe this conference schedule. I think the hardest part of it will be the mental aspect. Asking our players to focus for 20 games in this span of time is tough. But we'll just have to approach it like we always have - one game at a time. We'll keep our heads down and look at each individual step, not the long road as a whole."
Eastern opens the league season on Dec. 20 at Weber State, followed by a game against defending regular-season and tournament champion Idaho State on Dec. 22.
The Eagles return to Reese Court for their first game of the 2013 calendar year against perennial Big Sky power Montana on Jan. 3. Eastern will host Montana State on the fifth.
Fans will enjoy an improved Reese Court at all of Eastern's home games this season, as new premium seating was added on the scorer's table/team benches side, and the existing wooden bleachers were moved to the ends of the court. In addition, a new video board will be added to the existing scoreboard at Reese Court this fall.
The Big Sky Conference tournament will be take place March 14-16 at the site of the regular-season champion. After being a six-team affair for most of its history, it will now include seven teams, with the regular season champion receiving a first-round bye. The tournament will include a quarterfinal round with six of the teams playing, followed by semifinals and the championship game.
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