FORT MYERS, Fla. – Head coach Karl Smesko has announced the full 2011-12 schedule for the reigning Atlantic Sun Regular Season Champion FGCU women’s basketball program. The Eagles will navigate a slate that will see them play a minimum of 14 home games, which includes an exhibition contest, at Alico Arena.
FGCU wrapped up the 2010-11 season with a 28-4 overall record (17-3 A-Sun) and earned the program’s fourth straight automatic bid to the Postseason WNIT, while also securing the eighth 21-plus win season in the nine-year program history.
The 29-game slate features contests against six teams that that competed in the 2010-11 postseason. Seven opponents on the non-conference schedule finished with RPI's in the top-190 nationally.
“This is a very challenging schedule,” said Smesko. “I was happy to see us continue intra-state rivalries with UCF and FIU. I am also pleased we were able to get four BCS schools on our 2011-12 schedule. Lastly, we were able to schedule some exciting home games that our supporters will be excited to watch.”
Following a Nov. 4 exhibition against NCAA Division II foe Eckerd, FGCU will open the program’s 10th season with a return trip to Seton Hall on Friday, Nov. 11. Led by second-year head coach Anne Donovan, the Pirates are coming off an 8-22 season, where they finished 1-15 in BIG EAST play. The Eagles defeated Seton Hall, 64-57, in the 2010-11 season opener for both squads on Nov. 12, 2010.
The Green and Blue then head across Alligator Alley to take on FIU on Nov. 14. The Panthers finished 16-16 (10-6 Sun Belt) last season and advanced to the semifinal round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
The Eagles land at Alico Arena for their home opener on Saturday, Nov. 19 when they host the Spartans of Michigan State. MSU, who finished last season 27-6 overall and 13-3 in Big Ten play, earned their first outright Big Ten Championship and qualified for the program’s 11th NCAA Tournament, losing to Wisconsin-Green Bay (65-56) in the second round. The Spartans, ranked No. 18 in the final 2010-11 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, defeated the Eagles in their first meeting in East Lansing, Mich., 94-71, on Dec. 13, 2009.
The Green and Blue welcome the Spiders of Richmond into Alico Arena on Friday, Nov. 25, before hosting NAIA foe Webber International on Monday, Nov. 28. The Spiders finished 18-12 (9-6 Atlantic 10) last season, advanced to the quarterfinal round of the A-10 Conference Tournament and fell to UNC-Wilmington 63-54 in the first round of the WNIT.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, the Eagles open Atlantic Sun Conference play with a home matchup with ETSU, who has won three of the last four A-Sun Tournament Championships and become one of FGCU’s biggest conference rivals.
A road trip to Orlando on Saturday, Dec. 8 pits FGCU against UCF. The Knights are coming off their most successful season as a member of Conference USA, as they finished 22-11 overall (12-4 C-USA). Under head coach Joi Williams, UCF won the Conference USA Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, earning a No. 13 seed and falling to No. 4 Ohio State, 80-69, in the first round.
The Eagles return home to host their final two games of 2011, as they welcome USC Upstate (Dec. 19) and ACC foe Virginia Tech (Dec. 21) to ‘The Nest.’ The Hokies and newly-appointed head coach Dennis Wolff, who took over the reins of the program on March 22, return eight players from their 2010-11 squad that finished 11-19 overall. FGCU won the only previous contest, 73-65, last November in the Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, Mexico.
The Green and Blue wrap up the non-conference schedule with a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii to play a trio of contests in the Hawaii Tournament from Dec. 28-30. FGCU will face NC State, Alcorn State and Hawaii in the round-robin format.
The Wolfpack finished last season with a 14-17 overall record (4-10 ACC) and fell to Miami in the first round of the ACC Tournament. NC State returns 11 players, including four starters, from last year’s squad.
The Rainbow Wahine’s (11-19, 5-11 WAC) season came to a close with a 71-59 loss to New Mexico State in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, while the Lady Braves fell to No. 6 seed Grambling (72-63) in the first round of the 2011 Farmers Insurance SWAC Basketball Tournament to finished the 2010-11 campaign 12-14 overall (11-6 SWAC).
The New Year welcomes conference play back for the Eagles with a trip to the “Peach State”. FGCU takes on A-Sun foes Mercer and Kennesaw State on Jan. 2 and Jan. 4, respectively. The Green and Blue then return home for a pair of games against North Florida (Jan. 7) and Jacksonville (Jan. 9), before hitting the road for a trio of away contests. FGCU heads to the “Music City” to battle Belmont (Jan. 12) and Lipscomb (Jan. 14), before traveling to DeLand, Fla. on Jan. 21 to face 2011 NCAA participant and defending A-Sun champion Stetson.
Remaining home dates for the Eagles in conference play include Mercer (Jan. 26), Kennesaw State (Jan. 28), Lipscomb (Feb. 9), Belmont (Feb. 11) and Stetson (Feb. 18).
On the road to close out the 18-game double round-robin A-Sun schedule, FGCU will visit UNF (Feb. 2), Jacksonville (Feb. 4), USC Upstate (Feb. 23) and ETSU (Feb. 25).
The 2012 A-Sun Tournament will again be played inside Mercer’s University Center. The eight-team tournament format kicks off on Wednesday, Feb. 29 and the championship game will be played on Saturday, March 3, with the winner being awarded an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles return eight players, including four starters from last year’s squad that went 18-1 at Alico Arena. Redshirt sophomore Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS), a 2011 A-Sun second team All-Conference performer and All-Freshmen team honoree, is FGCU’s top returning scorer (13.3 ppg), rebounder (5.8 rpg) and field goal shooter (.524). The Green and Blue’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made (249), senior Kelsey Jacobson (Barnesville, Minn./Moorhead HS) is another full-time returning starter, while senior Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS), who was named to the 2010-2011 Capital One Academic All-District 3 Women’s Basketball first team and also earned a spot on the Division I-AAA Women’s Scholar-Athlete Team, started all 32 games and averaged 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest in 2010-11.
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.
Off to a record for pre-season ticket sales, combined season tickets for both the men’s and women’s teams are also available again for a combined 50 percent discount. Season tickets for either the men’s and women’s program range from $84-$259. A combined season ticket (both teams) ranges from $126-$389.
For the most up-to-date schedule throughout the season, click the 'Schedule' link on the women's basketball page.