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Lady Eagles open season at home against Stetson
Shawnda Atwood started 25 games last year and averaged 8.6 points per contest. Her role should increase even more this season. - photo by MICHELLE BOAEN/staff
    The Georgia Southern Lady Eagles are ready to see what they’ve got.
    After a difficult 2005-06 campaign  filled with costly injures, the Lady Eagles open their season tonight with a 5 p.m. game against Stetson in Hanner Fieldhouse.
    “We’re ready,” junior guard Tiffany Brown said. “We’ve been working on our offense, and things have been going smoothly. We are very ready.”
    GSU lost two starters and a total of four players – three seniors and offseason transfer Fallon Lee - from last year’s 11-18 (7-11 in SoCon) squad. The team will look to fill the void left by first-team All-Southern Conference selection Nicole Newton, last year’s leading scorer and rebounder. The Lady Eagles, who opened their season with 12 straight road games in 2005, are eager to begin this season in the comforts of home.
    “Being here at Hanner with our fans supporting us to get us riled up, we’ll put some points on the scoreboard and hopefully get us our first win,” said junior Shawnda Atwood, who started 25 games last year and averaged 8.6 points a contest.
    Steston is coming off of a 61-49 loss at North Carolina A&T Friday night. The Hatters were led by senior forward Janene Maclin’s 14-point, 11-rebound performance, while junior guard Jamie Nesbit added 10 points and six rebounds. GSU coach Rusty Cram feels the Lady Eagles and the Hatters have a similar talent level.
    “Stetson might not be as fast-paced as some of the teams we’ve been scrimmaging, but we think they’ll be fundamental,” Brown said.
    GSU welcomes four freshmen this year and Cram anticipates they’ll all contribute immediately. Freshman Carolyn Whitney is likely to see time at point guard today.
    “Our freshmen are really good,” Brown said. “Some of them have been stepping up in our scrimmages and doing really well, especially our post players. They should help us a lot this year.”
    Without any seniors, the Lady Eagles will also need major contributions from the team’s five juniors, who will be counted on to carry the young squad.
    “The most important thing is just to stay focused, play hard, concentrate on things we work on in practice and try to just execute as perfectly as possible,” Atwood said. “Another week of practice would definitely help us out, but it’s time to go and do it. Our preparation has been OK, it maybe could be a little bit better, but the season is here and we’re ready to get things going.”
    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.