FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women’s basketball squad, led by preseason All-Conference selections senior Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS) and redshirt sophomore Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS), earned top billing in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason coaches’ and media polls, the conference announced on Tuesday.
In the coaches’ poll, FGCU’s took eight of the 10 first place votes, with ETSU and Belmont each picking up one vote. In the media poll, the Eagles received all 19 first place votes.
“We know there are high expectations for our program,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said. “We have high expectations of ourselves. I believe the conference will be the strongest it has been since we joined the conference in 2007-08. I think nearly every team should be improved from a year ago.”
Under the direction of Smesko, the 2011-12 edition of the Eagles return eight players, including four starters, from last year’s 28-4 squad that won the program’s second A-Sun regular season title and made its fourth consecutive WNIT appearance. Hansen, a 2011 A-Sun second team All-Conference performer and All-Freshmen team honoree, is FGCU’s top returning scorer (13.3 ppg) and rebounder (5.8 rpg). Hansen also ranked first in the conference for field-goal percentage at .524 during her rookie campaign.
Chihil, 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 in 2010-11, started all 32 games and averaged 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest last season.
“It is good to see Hansen and Chihil receive some recognition,” said Smesko. “They had excellent seasons last year and have been practicing very well this year. I think we have a few players who have the ability to be All-Conference players.”
For the first time in conference history, the A-Sun let the fans decide preseason awards via Facebook. Belmont’s Haley Nelson was picked as the Preseason Player of the Year, while the Bruins were also picked to win the regular-season title. Chihil was tabbed the fan’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
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 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.
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 preseason 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.