FORT MYERS, Fla - Last year, the Eagles registered the best conference record (13-3, .813) of teams in their first year of membership in the A-Sun’s 23-year history of sponsoring women’s basketball. Their overall win percentage, .733, ranked second only to FIU’s .750 win percentage mark (21-7) in 1987-88.
The 2008-09 team will take on a much different look from last year's edition as head coach Karl Smesko must replace four starters and nine letter winners. His lone returning starter, Adrianne McNally averaged 10.8 points per game and 5.3 rebounds last year. Shannon Murphy started 10 games last year and connected on 35.7 percent of her 3-point field goal attempts.
The Florida Gulf Coast University women's basketball team had one of the most successful runs for a first year Division I program last season, finishing with a 22-9 overall record and a automatic bid to the 2008 Postseason WNIT. In the last four years, the Eagles have won 106 games, an average of almost 27 per season.
Following an inspiring run to the WNIT second round that saw the Eagles post their fourth consecutive 20-win season and become the first team in history to win a postseason game in their first year of Division I, there is optimism abound for the Florida Gulf Coast University women's basketball team, that returns one starter from a squad that won 22 games a year ago, as the 2008-09 campaign draws near. With sophomores Kristine Herman and Shannon Murphy back in the fold after solid rookie seasons, and junior Adrianne McNally returning after finishing third on the team in scoring last year and nine new faces on the roster, head coach Karl Smesko will have a blend of youth and experience on the floor this year.
"We have a very challenging schedule this season," said Smesko. "We are going to learn a great deal about ourselves, because this season will definitely be a test for us. Hopefully we will be ready."
Brittany Brown, 5-8 Jr. Flint, Mich.
Kristine Herman, 5-11 So. San Ramon, Calif.
Kelsey Jacobson, 5-8 Fr. Barnesville, Minn.
Courtney Chihil, 5-8 Fr. Tipp City, Ohio
Shannon Murphy, 5-7 So. Brighton, Mich.
Amanda Fesseden, 5-9 Jr. Wichita, Kan.
One of FGCU’s key returners for the coming year, Murphy is the most experienced of a deep corps of FGCU guards heading into the 2008-09 season. With the graduation of first-team All-Atlantic Sun selection Chelsea Dermyer, she will look for an expanded role in all facets of the game this season.
“Shannon had a few big offensive outbursts last season,” said Smesko. “This season we are counting on good consistent production.”
Kristine Herman appeared in 21 games off the bench in 2007-08, averaging 2.7 points and 1.0 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game. She provides good outside shooting and will have a chance to contribute.
“Kristine has improved a great deal in the off-season,” said Smesko. She is stronger and much more confident.”
Junior transfers Brittany Brown and Amanda Fesseden and freshmen Courtney Chihil and Kelsey Jacobson are also expected to make immediate contributions in 2008-09. Brown scored more than 1,000 points in her two years at Labette Community College. She was named First Team All-Jayhawks conference in 2007, while averaging 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game last season, in leading Labette to a 24-6 record.
“Brittany has a lot of talent,” said Smesko. “She will be very effective once she gets a good handle on our system.”
Fesseden started all 25 games as a sophomore at Hutchinson Community College. She led the team in scoring rebounding, while shooting an impressive 43.7% from behind the arc. She was named First Team All-Conference, First Team All-Region VI, and All-American Honorable Mention as a sophomore.
“Amanda is a really good shooter,” said Smesko. “We are going to be looking to her for offensive production and rebounding.”
Chihil played at Alter High School in Tipp City, Ohio. She was named First Team All-League, earned First Team All-Area, and was named Second Team All-State as a senior.
“Courtney can play either guard spot,” said Smesko. “She makes a lot of plays. She has a real chance to get quality minutes as a freshman.”
Jacobson comes to FGCU from Moorhead High School in Barnesville, Minn. She earned All-Conference, All-State, and Team MVP honors as a senior.
“Kelsey is a solid guard,” said Smesko. “She has shown a genuine interest in becoming better.”
Emma Beddome, F 5-10 Jr. Melbourne, Victoria, Austrailia
Samantha Gray, F 5-11 Fr. Greenwood, Ark.
Diana Jacklin, F 6-0 RS-Fr. Berwyn, Ill.
Chelsea Lyles, F 6-0 Jr. Colorado Springs, Col.
Adrianne McNally, F 5-11 Jr. Howell, Mich.
Kristina Mingos, F 5-11 Fr. Kansas City, Kan.
McNally finished the 2007-08 season as the Eagles most versatile player, finishing the year with averages of 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest. She finished second on the team, knocking down 40.8 percent of her field goal attempts last season.
“Adrianne is a good all-around basketball player,” said Smesko. “She can play any position. She is tough and understands how to play.”
Jacklin will see her first collegiate action this season, after redshirting as a freshman last season.
“Diana is a very good athlete,” said Smesko. “She is long and has a knack for getting blocked shots and deflections.”
Smesko is also looking for big contributions from junior Emma Beddome, junior Chelsea Lyles, freshman Samantha Gray, and freshman Kristina Mingos. Beddome started in all 38 games as a sophomore at Western Nebraska Community College. As a sophomore, she averaged 10.0 points and 3.9 rebounds, while shooting 44.3 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from three-point range, 82.9 percent from the charity stripe and leading the team in minutes.
“Emma is a smart player with good offensive skills,” said Smesko.
Lyles played volleyball and basketball at Western Nebraska Community College. She was named First Team All-Region in basketball, while leading the Cougars in scoring and rebounding.
“Chelsea is a high-energy player,” said Smesko. “We are going to need her to score in a variety of ways.”
Gray led Greenwood High School in scoring, rebounds, and blocks as a senior. She is a three-time Class 5A All-Conference selection, a two-time Class 5A All-State selection, and a two-time Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Northwest Arkansas team selection.
“Samantha is a good-sized wing who has good skills,” said Smesko. “She could also play a little inside.”
Mingos was named First Team All-State all four years of high school. She earned First All-Metro honors as a freshman and Second Team All-Metro as a sophomore and senior.
“Kristina is a versatile player,” said Smesko. “She should be able to play just about anywhere on the floor.”
FGCU will host the Florida Gators in a rematch of last season’s second round WNIT match-up in their home opener Nov. 14. The first road game comes two days later (Nov. 16) at Florida State, and the Green and Blue will open the A-Sun portion of the schedule on Dec. 4, 2008, at Stetson.