20200215 WBB Senior Night Action -CMcInelly

Jill Townsend looks to be the center piece for A GU team that has eight nonconference games and 16 WCC games on tap for the year. 

Inherent to winter in Spokane comes basketball season, and the Gonzaga women’s basketball team has unfinished business to take care of this year.

Fresh off the best season in program history, the Zags return a majority of their key pieces from last year’s team. The 21st ranked Zags are looking to build off of their premiere record and make it back to the NCAA tournament.

This year the Zags are led by two preseason All-West Coast Conference selections, reigning WCC Player of the Year Jill Townsend and First Team All-WCC selection, Jenn Wirth. Townsend returns after leading the Bulldogs in scoring last season with 12.2 points and ranked fifth in the conference with a field goal percentage of 49.1%.

Wirth returns to GU for her senior year fresh off posting career-high numbers in points and rebounds last season. 

Alongside Wirth and Townsend, the Zags return a plethora of depth and scoring from last year’s team but lose two starters from last season in Katie Campbell and Jessie Loera. Replacing these two senior leaders will be a challenge, but the squad has more than enough talent and experience to hang with any team in the country.

The squad will lean on the experience of returners such as WCC All-Freshman Team guard Kayleigh Truong, as well as contributions from Kaylnne Truong and Louise Forsyth. Guard Cierra Walker will also be eligible after sitting out last season due to the NCAA transfer policy.

Once again, the team will be led by head coach Lisa Fortier in her seventh season at the helm of the program. Fortier has managed to take GU’s program to new heights in her six seasons in charge. Last season, GU reached its highest ranking in program history, when the team was ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press poll.

Before the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19, the team was set to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and possibly make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015. With a projection as a three seed, GU would have held the highest tournament ranking in school history. The abrupt end to the season left the squad and fans wanting for more. The Zags were second in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage and were third in scoring defense.

The Bulldogs will open up the season at the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic November 28-30 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Here GU will go up against preseason No. 1 South Carolina that finished last season ranked No.1 in the nation at a 32-1 record. South Dakota is also in the field after going 30-2 overall and winning both the regular season and conference titles in the Summit League. Oklahoma is the last team to finish out the four-team tournament after ending last season with a record of 12-18. This should be a very good test early in the season for the Zags and will be a great measuring stick for the squad moving forward in the season. 

The Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic is the official start to the nonconference season for GU and is one of a possible few tournaments the team will play in before the start of the conference season.

When looking at the conference schedule, GU opens its season at LMU on Dec. 28. The first home game is on Jan. 2 versus Saint Mary’s. The marquee games versus BYU are on Jan. 23 at home and Feb. 18 in Provo, Utah. Senior Night will be on Feb. 27 against Loyola Marymount.

With the season approaching fast, the Zags look poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament relying on the depth of their team and their senior leadership. Here is to a healthy, safe, and fun 2020-2021 season of college basketball. 

Tommy Connolly is a contributor.

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