Women's Basketball: The Wirth twins and Townsend take on goals

Juniors LeeAnne Wirth (left), Jill Townsend (middle) and Jenn Wirth have led the Bulldogs to a 28-2 record and No. 12 ranking overall this season. 

If you keep up with Gonzaga women’s basketball, you know three of the most crucial players on the team are also best friends and housemates. What you might not have known is it didn’t start out that way.

When junior guard Jill Townsend first met junior forwards Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth, she said she didn’t immediately like them. It was nothing specific, but the chemistry just wasn’t there. It was like she was overwhelmed by their friendliness and bubbly personalities.

Head coach Lisa Fortier said she thought the twins would get along well with Townsend. Jenn and LeeAnne browsed her social media and had the same feeling. They were excited to play at GU with her, but it was LeeAnne who eventually felt the vibe that Townsend wasn’t their biggest fan.

A few months later, something changed. Townsend realized the twins were more similar to her than she thought, and they began to mesh. Over the past three years, their friendship has grown in all kinds of ways. They ended up living together in Kennedy Apartments sophomore year and now live in a house with two other girls — junior Georgie Royse, a former rower for GU, and Alexis Jones, Townsend’s hometown friend who attends Eastern Washington University.

Though the three athletes travel often for basketball and spend most of their week in the gym or resting their bodies, Townsend and the twins still make time to bond with their housemates. Whether that means watching “The Bachelor” every Monday night, going out for Thai food, doing homework together or searching for new coffee places, they always find a way to enjoy themselves.

“Our house, collectively, has a coffee problem, a massive coffee problem,” Royse said. “We have an espresso machine, three Keurigs, a kettle, like every single coffee thing you could have in a house.”

When they have the time, Townsend, Jenn and LeeAnne will take a book to Mulligan Field and read under the sun. As a stark contrast to their athletic personas, Townsend is a book and movie connoisseur; the twins enjoy discovering more about their faith through various books, along with experiencing mystery and poetry genres.

“We’re with each other 24/7 on the basketball court,” Townsend said. “But then we go home and it’s like another aspect of our lives that’s totally different that we can enjoy together.”

Townsend, Jenn, LeeAnne and Royse agreed there is never a dull moment in the house. One minute they’re doing homework and the next, they’re performing a dance routine, having a deep conversation or singing along to one of Townsend’s impromptu piano concerts.

“She’s amazing on the piano. Oh, my God, gorgeous, like absolutely gorgeous,” Royse said. “And she’s very humble about it.”

Amid their delirium in trying to catch up on homework, they also end up planning their dream vacations and potential trips after the season ends. Occasionally, they have to retreat to their rooms to actually be productive.

“We’re just goofy and messing around, and don’t really get much done when we’re in the same room, just because we’re having fun together,” Jenn said.

Though Townsend, Jenn and LeeAnne evoke different parts of their personalities depending on the social setting, they are all fun, goofy and easy to talk with.

Townsend is thought to be just as outgoing as Jenn and LeeAnne because of her tough and fiery on-court demeanor, but she is actually more reserved upon first meeting her off the court. However, once you break through Townsend’s shell, her eccentricity matches that of the twins’.

“It’s just funny to see the different sides of her and to hear how people perceive her from what we know her to be,” Jenn said.

Initially, the twins worried their new housemates would be intimidated by their weirdness, but Royse’s and Jones’ personalities complement theirs, adding to the energy in the group.

“You go home and you’re like, ‘All right, what’s the adventure today?’” Royse said.

Royse attempts to attend as many of their games as her schedule allows, so she can support her friends in their basketball journey. Having been on the rowing team freshman year, she understands their lifestyle and is able to live vicariously through them when she misses it.

“It’s so fun watching them play and really getting to see the thing that they’re so passionate about and have such a talent for,” Royse said. “It’s so nice to be able to support them in their endeavors and what they’re really successful in.”

Townsend, Jenn and LeeAnne are busy most of the time, but because Royse also has an engaging schedule, it isn’t unfortunate. Before Royse decided to live with them, they laid out all the days they would be gone throughout the season, ensuring her it really wasn’t many. Royse is still excited to have more time with them when the season ends, but she can’t complain because of how well the team is doing this year, boasting a 28-2 record and No. 12 national ranking.

“I feel like they deserve so much more recognition,” Royse said. “They are amazing players and how they play on the court should get Gonzaga’s attention, you know? The student section should be as filled as it is, I feel like, at men’s games.”

The three of them sometimes get into small arguments, but they can snap out of it in a second. With as much time as they spend together, they’re like sisters. Because of that, fighting is inevitable, but ultimately, it is all smiles and laughs in the house. There are no housemate conflicts or drama, just a group of girls trying to have fun, despite their crazy schedules.

“There are definitely times when we’re at each other’s throats because we’re with each other 24/7,” Townsend said. “But then it’s just like, ‘OK, that’s done. Now, what are we going to do? Like, want to make cookies or something?’”

Not only are Townsend and the twins best friends outside of basketball, but their relationship transfers onto the court. Because of how comfortable they are around each other, they can easily hold each other accountable by telling the others to pick up their energy or stop overthinking a shot they missed. 

“I use these two as fire to get me going when I’m having a rough start or a rough game, so it’s just really nice to have their energy around,” Jenn said.

The sibling dynamic between the twins helps them click on the court. One always knows where the other is going to be. Townsend, being the honorary triplet, is a part of that dynamic as well.

“We know what each other’s thinking just by, like, a quick glance on the court,” LeeAnne said.

They have each other’s backs both on and off the court. They are like family, and it shows in the way they interact and talk about each other. Not only that, but their families have basically adopted each other. Townsend’s brothers have two more sisters to mess around with and Townsend spends time with the twins’ mom whenever she comes to visit.

“I always feel really blessed to be able to play with them,” LeeAnne said. “When Jill does something good or Jenn does something good, I feel like I’ve done something good, just because they’re my best friends and I love watching them succeed.”

Though their friendship got off to a rocky start, Townsend’s first impression of the twins is something they joke about. 

From their experiences and development over the past few years, it is clear their relationship will remain strong, even after they play their last game in The Kennel.

Samantha DiMaio is a staff writer.

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