FORT MYERS, Fla. – For the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference Champion FGCU women's basketball team, the 2012-13 season is here. The Eagles of head coach Karl Smesko officially returned to the court to open preseason on Monday night when they assembled at Alico Arena for their first official practice.
Smesko, the reigning A-Sun Coach of the Year who has an overall record of 322-76 and a 261-49 record (82-12 A-Sun) in 10 seasons at the FGCU helm, and his staff -- assistants Abby Scharlow, Chelsea Dermyer and Chelsea Lyles and director of operations Mel Thomas -- have a young team, with seven freshmen and a pair of sophomores on the 15-player roster.
The Eagles are coming of the most historic season in their Division I history, advancing to the NCAA Tournament and earning a No. 12 seed in the Raleigh Region. FGCU finished with a 29-3 overall record that included a league-first 18-0 mark in the A-Sun. The Eagles verified the conference’s third-ever unbeaten regular season by cruising through the Atlantic Sun Tournament and taking the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Green and Blue, with their seven trifectas vs. St. Bonaventure in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, set the NCAA record for three-pointers in a season (342) and three-pointers made per game (10.7).
FGCU graduated five talented seniors from last year's squad. That group – Courtney Chihil, Kelsey Jacobson, Eglah Griffin, Nicoya Jackson, Sarah Brolsma-Whitfield -- helped FGCU post a record of 57-7 over the least two season. Chihil and Jacobson, the FGCU and A-Sun all-time leader in career three-pointers, helped the Eagles to three WNIT berths, three A-Sun regular season crowns, one A-Sun Tournament title, one NCAA Tournament appearance and a 107-19 record during their four years with the program.
The Green and Blue return two starters from last year’s squad in redshirt junior Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS) and redshirt senior Brittany Kennedy (Spokane, Wash./Lewis and Clark HS/Oregon State). Hansen excelled both athletically and academically in 2011-12, earning Full Court Mid-Major All-American Honorable Mention honors, the A-Sun and DI-AAA ADA Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, the A-Sun Tournament MVP, a Capital 1 Academic All-District 4 first team selection and FGCU’s first unanimous A-Sun All-Conference first team selection in program history. She finished the season averaging a team-best 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and ranked second on the team in steals (2.0) and blocks (23). She also ranked in the top-15 in the A-Sun in six categories (points, rebounds, FG Pct., FT Pct., steals, blocks) and 18th in the nation in field goal percentage (.524). Kennedy led the Eagles in steals (2.4) and was second on the team in rebounds (4.8). The Oregon State transfer ranked 2nd in the conference in steals (in A-Sun Regular Season games) and registered a steal in 20 of 24 games she has played in, including recording eight steals at Lipscomb on Jan. 14, 2012. Kennedy showed flashes of being a lock-down defender during the season when she held A-Sun leading scorer Briana Williams (Mercer) to 3 points and 7 points in their two meetings and forced 2012 A-Sun Player of the Year Victoria McGowan (Stetson) into 12 turnovers in two games. Kennedy also helped limit 2012 A-Sun Freshman of the Year Taylor Mills to six points, on 3-of-10 shooting, and five turnovers in their A-Sun semifinal matchup.
The Eagles’ other returning letterwinners include redshirt senior Lerrin Cook (Kearny, Ariz./Ray HS/Yavapai College), true senior Joyce Iamstrong (Chicago, Ill./Thornton Fractional South HS/Jefferson College) and sophomores Anthi Chatzigiakoumi (Athens, Greece/General Sr. HS of Kallithea) and Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds HS).
Smesko and Company welcome in a stellar recruiting class, which includes transfers Jenna Cobb (New Holland, Ohio/Miami Trace HS/Butler) and Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./ Twin Lakes HS/Valpo) and freshmen Amanda Moore (Seymour, Ind./Seymour HS), DyTiesha Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover HS), Jamie Gluesing (Greendale, Wisc./Solon HS), Stephanie Haas (Avon Lake, Ohio/Magnificat HS), Bethany Murrell (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine HS), Katie Meador (Salem Communuity HS/Salem, Ill.) and Taylor Gradinjan (Cudahy HS/ Cudahy, Wisc.). Adams, a fifth-year senior, will be able play this season, while Cobb has to sit out the year due to NCAA transfer rules and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
FGCU will open the program’s 11th season against Division II Warner on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Alico Arena. Led by fourth-year head coach Matt Murphy, the Royals are coming off a 15-15 season, where they finished 8-6 in Sun Conference play and lost in the conference semifinals.
FGCU is 7-3 all-time (3-2 in Division I) in season openers, including 7-1 in season openers at home.
FGCU season tickets can be purchased in person at the Alico Arena ticket office or by phone at 239-590-7145. The FGCU ticket office is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
Combined season tickets for both the men’s and women’s teams are available again for a combined 50 percent discount. Season tickets for either the men’s and women’s program range from $99-$279, while a combined season ticket (both teams) ranges from $149-$419 depending on the seat location and whether or not an individual is a renewal or new purchaser.
For the most up-to-date schedule throughout the season, click the 'Schedule' link on the women's basketball page.
FGCU fans can follow FGCU women’s basketball on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FGCUWbb, on Twitter @FGCUWbb and on Instagram @FGCUWbb.