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USA TODAY Coaches poll ranks FGCU’s women’s basketball #1

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FGCU head coach Karl Smesko speaks to his team prior to a Gulf Coast Showcase game between the FGCU and the University of Arkansas that took place at the FGCU's Alico Arena in Fort Myers on Saturday, November 28, 2020.

Only 20 consecutive wins were required before the FGCU women’s hockey team was ranked in 2020-21.

The Eagles (22-1) ranked No. The USA TODAY Coaches Poll was released Tuesday afternoon and ranked the Eagles (21-2) at No. 24. The team had been steadily rising over the last 11 weeks, and was first to receive votes last week.

“We have played a lot of good basketball this season, and it is nice to earn this recognition,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said in a release. Our best basketball lies ahead.

This is the first national ranking for the program since it was ranked No. 24 were also voted in that poll. To climb to the top, the Eagles received 77 votes. DePaul and Northwestern were both able to jump up to the No. 24 spot.

Monday’s Associated Press poll showed that FGCU was among the first to receive votes. Nine points behind No. 1, the Eagles scored 22 points. 25 DePaul was defeated Monday night. Since March 16, 2015, the Eagles haven’t been in the AP Top 25.

“Being ranked for the first time this year is amazing,” FGCU junior guard Tyra Cox said. Our team is so special. It is nice to get recognized. There is still a lot to be done on the court and off it for March basketball. But, something feels special.

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Cox was eighth in scoring for the Eagles. After FGCU’s seven top scorers were eliminated, Cox was also the most successful returning scorer. She was just about to play Liberty in the ASUN Tournament title game. Six of those top scorers from last year used up their eligibility, and five of them signed professional contracts overseas. Kerstie Phills decided to not use her last season of eligibility because she was concerned about COVID-19. She had already graduated.

With a victory in their home games against Liberty (second-place) at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, the Eagles can win the ASUN title. They clinched at least a share with their victory Sunday over North Florida.

Since Ohio State transfer Kierstan bell was allowed eligibility, FGCU have not lost since. With losses to Missouri State, now No. 17 and Arkansas, currently No. 13), in overtime, at the Gulf Coast Showcase.

Bell was introduced in a victory over Davidson the next game. Since then, the Eagles have won 20 consecutive games to match Bell’s record of 20, which has helped them gain national recognition. Cox was also unable to play in four of their first four games because she had a hand injury. The Eagles are now unbeaten when Cox is on the field.

2015 was the last time FGCU appeared in an AP poll. With a highest of 20th, the Eagles were there for five weeks.

FGCU has been ranked No. 24 in USA TODAY Coaches poll in 3 different seasons. Last season’s cancellation saw FGCU at No. 24. For 11 weeks, Eagles were in Poll Number One. 22. In 2015 and 2018, they were also in the poll.

Greg Hardwig, a sports journalist for The News-Press and Naples Daily News is Greg Hardwig. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at [email protected] Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/

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