They didn't accomplish the fete last year when they went to the NCAA National Championships. Even the year before when they finished 22-4, the EMU basketball women couldn't pull it off. But this season it took all of one week for the Royals to jump into the national poll.
After receiving votes in the preseason national listing, Eastern Mennonite's women are ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Sports Coaches Poll. The Royals are 2-0 after double-digit wins over Chatham and Lancaster Bible at the EMU Tip-Off Invitational last weekend. Even as they adjusted to some injuries as well as defections from last year's 21-7 team, EMU showed off one of their biggest strengths - their depth.
Coach Kevin Griffin also neared a milestone, as the wins tied him with Sandy Brownscombe for the most wins in program history. Griffin, a two-time ODAC Coach of the Year, has a record of 139-72 as he starts his ninth season at EMU.
The Royals have a huge test on the road tomorrow, playing at York (Pa.). The experienced Spartans, who are strangely not listed in the Coaches Poll but are No. 18 in the D3hoops.com preseason poll, were 20-7 last year. Also missing from the Coaches Poll is USA South preseason favorite Ferrum College, another road opponent for EMU (Dec. 7).
The games at York (Pa.) and Ferrum figure to be the two toughest contests for the Royals in the first half of the season before they get into the meat of their schedule against the much-improved Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
De Pauw University was a unanimous No. 1 in the Coaches Poll. No other ODAC teams beside EMU received any votes.
The Coaches Poll and the D3hoops.com Poll are the two "official" polls of D-III women's basketball. EMU received one vote in the D3hoops.com preseason poll, but did not crack the top 25.