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Embry-Riddle women ranked among Top 25 for 1st time in program history

College Basketball

Embry Riddle's Melissa Pfeifer flies into the lane as the Eagles host UC-Maritime on Feb. 1, 2018, in Prescott. The Eagles cracked the NAIA women's basketball Top 25 rankings for the first time in program history Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, currently sitting at No. 24. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

Embry Riddle's Melissa Pfeifer flies into the lane as the Eagles host UC-Maritime on Feb. 1, 2018, in Prescott. The Eagles cracked the NAIA women's basketball Top 25 rankings for the first time in program history Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, currently sitting at No. 24. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

Burke: ‘I would say we’re slightly ahead of schedule’

After nine straight wins, including a big victory over Cal-Pac rival UC-Merced this past weekend to gain sole possession of first place in the conference, the Embry-Riddle women’s basketball team earned its first Top 25 ranking in program history Tuesday morning.

A panel of NAIA coaches across the country released their fifth pole of the 2017-18 campaign, with Embry-Riddle cracking the Top 25 with 57 votes.

The No. 24-ranked Eagles (20-3, 10-1 Cal-Pac) are among four schools in Arizona that play NAIA Division II basketball, which include Ottawa-Arizona, Benedictine-Mesa and Arizona Christian.

Embry-Riddle is the first Cal-Pac school ranked in the Top 25 during regular season play. UC-Merced, receiving votes this week but on the outside looking in, were preseason Top 25.

“I would say we’re slightly ahead of schedule,” second-year Embry-Riddle head coach Becky Burke said Tuesday when asked if she expected to be a Top 25 in just year two of the program. “I envisioned this program a certain way. I had pretty high goals and expectations. But these girls, they’ve been able to translate what we are asking for to the floor so quickly. I’m so excited for them.”

Burke, a former Louisville guard who led the Cardinals to a Final Four in 2008-2009 before losing to UConn in the national championship, believes the group of players she has are the type of kids that won’t let a Top 25 ranking become a “distraction” or inflate their egos.

“Today, we sat them down and talked with them about it. This is the standard we’ve set for ourselves, but we have a lot to do yet,” Burke said. “It’s important to stay humble.”

A group of NAIA coaches from around the country produce eight polls a season, including a preseason poll and a final poll before the national tournament begins.

UP NEXT

The Eagles have three road games left on the regular season schedule before the Cal-Pac Conference Championship Tournament begins Sunday, Feb. 25, at UC-Maritime in Vallejo, California.

Embry-Riddle is scheduled to travel south to play Benedictine-Mesa (14-10, 7-4 Cal-Pac) on Saturday, Feb. 10. The Eagles beat the Redhawks 72-56 back on Dec. 7. Tipoff Saturday is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Embry-Riddle than travels to Lancaster, California, to play Antelope Valley on Thursday, Feb. 15, and La Sierra on Saturday, Feb. 17.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email bbergner@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.

2017-18 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Poll (Feb. 6)

RANK WEEK SCHOOL [1st Place Vote] Record FINAL POINTS

1 2 Southeastern (Fla.) [11] 23-0 312

2 1 Concordia (Neb.) [1] 25-1 302

3 3 College of the Ozarks (Mo.) 26-1 293

4 4 Saint Xavier (Ill.) 21-2 281

5 5 Marian (Ind.) 24-2 273

6 7 Eastern Oregon 23-2 261

7 8 Indiana Tech 25-2 246

8 6 Jamestown (N.D.) 24-3 244

9 10 Northwestern (Iowa) 18-6 232

10 9 Southern Oregon 22-2 220

10 12 Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) 22-4 220

12 11 Hastings (Neb.) 20-5 193

13 14 Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) 18-7 179

14 16 Northwest Christian (Ore.) 19-3 172

15 13 Morningside (Iowa) 18-8 171

16 15 Taylor (Ind.) 18-8 164

17 17 St. Francis (Ill.) 17-7 155

18 17 Valley City State (N.D.) 20-3 148

19 19 Lawrence Tech (Mich.) 21-4 133

20 20 Indiana Wesleyan 19-7 129

21 21 Rio Grande (Ohio) 24-2 110

22 22 Friends (Kan.) 18-7 108

23 24 Bryan (Tenn.) 19-6 89

24 NR Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) 20-3 57

25 NR Saint Francis (Ind.) 16-10 47

Other Receiving Votes: Mayville State (N.D.) 47; Reinhardt (Ga.) 43; Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) 33; Indiana East 27; Oregon Tech 24; Oklahoma Wesleyan 16; Concordia (Mich.) 12; UC-Merced 9; St. Thomas (Fla.) 5; Tennessee Wesleyan 4; Huntington (Ind.) 3