Women's Basketball to Play in Caribbean Challenge
Friday, September 03, 2010

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team will be going tropical this November as the Eagles will participate in the 2010 Caribbean Challenge, which will take place on Nov. 25 and 26 at the Aventura Palace Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Teams competing in the tournament include James Madison, Iowa, Montana, Virginia Tech, Purdue, and FGCU. All teams will play two games with the Eagles going up against Virginia Tech (Nov. 25) and Purdue (Nov. 26).

“This is a great opportunity for us to play two BCS schools on a neutral court,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “It is consistent with our effort to schedule challenging and exciting events for our players.”

Virginia Tech finished last season with a 15-15 overall record (4-10 ACC) and fell to Boston College in the first round of the ACC Tournament. The Hokies will have a different look in 2010-11, as they lost their top-2 scorers (Utahya Drye and Lindsay Biggs) and 42.9-percent of their scoring.

The Boilermakers, who finished 15-17 overall (9-9 Big Ten) last season and lost to Illinois State in the second round of the postseason WNIT, will battle the Eagles on Nov. 26. Purdue returns leading scorer Brittany Rayburn (14.6 points per game), who was named second team All-Big Ten by the coaches and third team All-Big Ten by the media a season ago.

The Caribbean Challenge is run by Fort Collins, Colo.-based Triple Crown Sports, which also organizes men’s college basketball tournaments in Cancun. Triple Crown coordinates the Preseason and Postseason Women’s NIT as well.

The Aventura Palace has 777 rooms, most of which have ocean views. The resort is set within an 85-acres expanse, combining the jungle with wide and spacious lawns and gardens. The basketball tournament is played on site, and all practices are on site as well.

For more information on the women’s Caribbean Challenge, visit www.tccollegesports.net.

As a team, FGCU returns 52.8-percent of its scoring, 47.5-percent of its rebounding, and three starters in juniors Eglah Griffin (Fort Myers, Fla./Seminole CC/Dunbar HS) and Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS), and senior Shannon Murphy (Brighton, Mich./Brighton HS), from a squad which posted 24 wins to secure the program’s seventh 21-plus win season in the eight-year program history and secured their third consecutive postseason WNIT automatic bid after finishing A-Sun play with a 17-3 record, good for second place. Murphy, a 2010 Atlantic Sun All-Conference second team performer, is the Blue and Green’s top returning scorer (10.7 ppg). FGCU’s top rebounder (6.2 rpg) and three-point threat (41.3-percent) Chihil is another full-time returning starter, while Griffin made 15 starts and averaged 7.6 points per contest in 2009-10.

FGCU finished 14-0 at home during the 2009-10 season, extending their home winning streak to 24 games. The 24-game winning streak is the fourth longest current home winning streak in Division I women’s basketball heading into the 2010-11 campaign. The Eagles are 41-3 (.932) all-time in Alico Arena, which ranks second overall in Division I home-court winning percentage behind Tennessee.

Smesko, who is entering his ninth year with the Eagles, returns seven players from last year’s squad and welcomes in a stellar recruiting class, which includes Katlyn Payne (Chicago, Ill./Fort Myers Bishop Verot HS), Lerrin Cook (Kearny, Ariz./Yavapai College/Ray HS), Sarah Brolsma Whitfield (Eugene, Ore./Lane CC/South Eugene HS), Nicoya Jackson (Houston, Texas/Southwestern Christian College/Cypress Springs HS), Amber Rechis (Martin, Tenn./Westview HS), Jordan LaDuke (Flushing, Mich./Flushing HS) and Nancy Aguilar (El Paso, Texas/Frank Phillips CC/Eastwood HS).