It looks like Gonzaga will be scoring points on the volleyball court and the soccer field by early next year. The West Coast Conference released the modified spring schedules for each sport after the WCC postponed the seasons of all its fall sanctioned athletic events earlier this year due to COVID-19.
In the summer, the WCC planned to postpone all fall conference competition until Sept. 24, but once it became evident that doing so was not a viable option, the WCC Presidents’ Council decided to suspend operations for those sports indefinitely.
The GU volleyball and soccer teams continue to adhere by WCC, state and university guidelines for practices, often dividing their teams up into multiple practice squads. There has been no announcement made regarding the possibility of fan attendance at these events, but as it stands now with state and regional guidelines in place, fans will not be able to attend the games played at GU.
“In-person voluntary and mandatory athletically related activities outside of competition, including training and practices, may be conducted at the institution’s discretion in accordance with NCAA regulations and local health and safety guidelines,” the WCC said in a statement earlier this year.
Women’s volleyball will get its conference play underway first, with its first scheduled matchup coming at home against San Diego on Jan. 26. USD finished atop the WCC last season with a 17-1 conference record and was ranked No. 21 in the nation.
The Zags will take on the Toreros again the following day, and look to claim victory against a squad that bested them in six of the seven sets they played against each other last season.
This season has WCC teams playing all of their 18 games in back-to-back contests against an opponent at a single location, as opposed to previous seasons where teams split their matchups against other schools with a spread out home and away series.
After GU heads to Stockton, California, for its duel matchups against Pacific, the Zags play in an away series against BYU on Feb. 9 and 10. The Cougars finished second in the WCC in 2019 and ranked as the No. 17 team in the nation after winning the conference and making it to the final four in 2018.
The Bulldogs have four consecutive home games against Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount between Feb. 16 and 24 before taking a trip to Pepperdine for two games in Malibu, California. Pepperdine finished in the top three of the WCC in the last two seasons with a 14-4 conference record both years.
To end the regular season, GU has its only home and away split series of the year against Portland on March 26 and 27. The Bulldogs travel to Portland first before returning home to host their senior night against the Pilots, who the Zags beat in the final game of their season last year.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to compete with this group, and give our seniors what they’ve worked so hard for!” head coach Diane Nelson said. “We have stayed focused on the positive, and this schedule is just that.”
GU women’s soccer normally plays in a series of tune-up games against more regional opponents in the spring, but the spring of 2021 will instead feature the WCC regular season that the Zags anticipated happening in the fall. The Zags have one contest scheduled against each of their WCC foes for nine consecutive Saturdays from Feb. 20 until April 17, mirroring scheduling arrangements of previous seasons.
GU, who finished in fourth place in the conference in both the past two seasons, will travel to San Francisco to start the year. The team will be looking to earn a bid to the 48-team NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship Tournament by winning the WCC regular season title that consists of five home and four away games for the Zags.
"We are so excited to play again," women's soccer head coach Chris Watkins said. "We're really young, but talented and we're anxious to get started."
The Bulldogs have an away game scheduled against BYU on March 27, with BYU being back-to-back conference champions who have only lost one game in the WCC during that time. Following a home stand against Portland, the Zags will take on the second place finishers in the WCC last year in Santa Clara on the road. The Bulldogs will finish the regular season at home against Pepperdine, who have kept the Zags out of the conference’s top three the past two years.
GU men’s soccer will get its own WCC action underway Feb. 28 at home against San Francisco, who finished at the bottom of the WCC last season with a 0-7 conference record. After jumping from eighth place in the WCC in 2018 to third place last season, the Zags will look to continue to climb the WCC standings in hopes of claiming their first conference title since 1998.
"I couldn't be happier or prouder of our guys with their approach and commitment to preparing for the upcoming season," men’s soccer head coach Paul Meehan said. "We trained extremely well this fall and go into the December break a better team than when we arrived [in] August. We are eager to continue preparing for what we know will be a very challenging match schedule."
Following their opener against San Francisco, the Zags will go on the road for two games against LMU and SMC. LMU finished second in the WCC last season with the Zags losing a tight 0-1 overtime matchup against the Lions, and SMC are the defending WCC champions and haven’t lost a conference game in two seasons.
In total, the Zags have four home games scheduled in the WCC and close the regular season out against Pacific for GU’s senior night.
As the seasons for each GU team draws nearer, they will have the opportunity to schedule nonconference games against other opponents. Which teams, the numbers of games or when the matchups will take place throughout the course of their seasons is undetermined for each team at the moment, but they will release scheduling updates at a later date.