By Peter Sowards
Sophomore point guard Kylie Huerta started the season as a role player coming off the bench, playing substantial minutes but not featured as a focal point of the team.
A lot has changed in a few short months.
Huerta dominated on both ends of the floor, leading the lady Eagles to 63-49 victory over Sacramento State on Feb. 7 at Reese Court. Her seven assists led the team and her 13 points—including 11 in the second half—were second only to redshirt sophomore Lexie Nelson, who scored a game-high 17 points on 6-9 shooting. Huerta added five rebounds and a team-leading four steals, and has had five or more assists in her last six games.
“If there was a game ball to be given, Kylie [Huerta] gets the game ball tonight,” coach Wendy Schuller said. “She was phenomenal for us, not just on the offensive end.”
After Sacramento State cut EWU’s lead to two with 10:58 remaining, Huerta took control, hitting a jumper to give the Eagles a five-point lead. Huerta found Nelson wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer on the next offensive possession to put the Eags up by eight, then immediately stole the inbounds pass and converted an easy layup to give EWU its first double-digit lead of the game. With 8:00 remaining she converted another layup, capping a 9-0 run that consisted of one assist and three field goals for Huerta, putting the Eagles up by 12. “The lane was just open for me tonight so I kept trying to get in there,” Huerta said.
Huerta’s leadership role on the team has increased greatly with more playing time. “Last year, being a freshman, [I] didn’t play much but [I] got a little bit of a taste of what was going to go on,” Huerta said. “At the beginning of the year I was still just like, ‘Oh, do my teammates really believe in me?”
Huerta does not have those doubts anymore. “Every game, my teammates, I can see they look up to me.”
“Kylie Huerta played great for us,” Nelson said, “especially down the stretch [and] made some big plays for us.
Senior center Carrie Ojeda posted her sixth double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds, two off her career high. “Carrie [Ojeda] was a beast on the glass for us,” Schuller said.
EWU improved their overall record to 13-9 and 9-4 in the Big Sky Conference, good for third overall and just one game behind the University of Montana at 10-3. Northern Colorado sits in second place at 9-3 in conference play.
The Eagles imposed their will defensively, limiting Sacramento State to their lowest scoring output of the season. The Hornets shot just 20-of-61 from the field, including a paltry 5-23 from three-point range.
Eastern takes on Northern Arizona at 2:05 p.m. on Feb. 9 as they look to continue their upward trajectory in the Big Sky Conference standings. Northern Arizona is just 4-8 in Big Sky play and is 5-16 overall on the 2012-2013 season.