Excited, determined, ready and waiting, the Eastern Michigan University’s women’s basketball team cannot wait to get its 2010-2011 season going.
The Eagles closed out their 2009-2010 regular season with an 89-84 win over Toledo in overtime, which made them 22-9 (11-5 in the Mid-American Conference).
Eastern is led by fourth-year coach AnnMarie Gilbert, who wasted no time in showing EMU what she is all about. In her first season with EMU she became the fourth first-year coach in league history to win a MAC title. She led the 2007-2008 squad to 16-12 and 11-5 records, and the West championship title.
The Eagles are paced by their senior point guard and captain Cassie Schrock. Gilbert said she is “the glue that keeps us together.”
This being her last season with EMU, Schrock “want[s] to be the best leader [she] can be” and her main focus is winning this season.
“I really want to win, and I will do whatever it takes,” Schrock said.
Leading the way for the Eagles’ offense last season was junior guard Tavelyn James, who posted a record-setting season. One of those records being when she tied her own career-high and an EMU record of 40 points in a game in a victory over Toledo on March 2. James is being held to high standards and expectations by Gilbert, who expects nothing but the best from her.
EMU had an early start to its season with a few competitions this summer. The team traveled to Canada Aug. 29- Sept. 1 to participate in the Foreign Tour. It has played in four games, averaging 82 points and winning all by an average of 19 points.
The Eagles roster has many returning faces. It includes two seniors in forward Kristin Thomas, who led EMU in rebounding last season, and guard Sydney Rodgers-Huntley for whom Gilbert has very high hopes. Also returning are junior forward Paige Reddit and sophomore center India Hairston.
Along with those returning, the roster includes incoming freshmen Desyree Thomas, Sara Stone, Olivia Fouty and Natachia Watkins. The group of youngsters has already been coined by Gilbert as the “Fabulous Four.” Each of them is going to play a special role. The team lost two seniors from last season.
“Our four freshmen will fill the spots really well,” Reddit said.
Already this season EMU has seen its share of obstacles. After an internal investigation of the team, it self-reported four violations of NCAA rules. The team, however, has let that set into the past and continues to look ahead, keeping its eyes on any team’s ultimate prize.
“I think we have a huge chance at winning the MAC this year,” Reddit said.
During the offseason, the Eagles took the time to work on their strength.
“If you become strong physically, you will become a better basketball player,” Gilbert said.
Not only does Gilbert take great pride in the newly hired strength and conditioning coach Adam Seit, but the players have confidence in him and his strategies.
“We’ve definitely gotten stronger as a team and developed great chemistry,” Schrock said.
Eastern’s 2010-2011 schedule is not an easy one, featuring a trip to Columbus, Ohio, where it will face off with the Ohio State Buckeyes on Nov. 14.
The matchups Schrock is looking forward to include the games against Central Michigan, Toledo and Bowling Green. However, she said, “We’ll just take it one game at a time.”
For Reddit, it’s when the team travels to her hometown of Kansas City, Mo., to play the University of Missouri Kansas City that she looks forward to the most.
“I am really excited and optimistic about this coming season,” Gilbert said.
The Eagles will tip off in an exhibition game Friday Oct. 29 at the Convocation Center when they take on Saginaw Valley. Game time is set for 7 p.m.