SACRAMENTO, Calif. – For Lisa Mispley Fortier, the Sweet 16 is a little sweeter.
How sweet remains to be seen.
The Gonzaga women’s basketball assistant coach traveled to Sacramento on Thursday, two days after her doctor gave her the green light and telling her that actual due date was Wednesday, not April 1, as they had previously believed.
Yes, Fortier is that pregnant.
“I get to go. I thought there was no chance he was going to let us go,” Fortier said. “It’s definitely worth it. And I’m not that uncomfortable. I don’t know if I’m forcing myself not to be because we’re so busy or if I’m just lucky.”
Actually, she knows how lucky she is.
“The convergence of the biggest moment of my personal life and the biggest moment of my professional life so far, coming together at the same time,” she said. “They’re both monumental events.”
That’s why the biggest buzz around the seventh-seeded Bulldogs’ practice Wednesday had little to do with the NCAA tournament or third-seeded Xavier, their opponent Saturday night at ARCO Arena.
“I’m just really happy she gets to go,” head coach Kelly Graves said. “If those first two games didn’t induce labor, she’s in for the long haul.”
“I can’t believe we don’t have it already,” GU senior Tiffanie Shives said. “All the excitement here?
“I still think it’s going to be on the ride home and Pete’s (trainer Peter Clark) going to have to deliver it.”
Fortier and her husband Craig are making contingency plans.
“We’re both from that area,” she said. “All of our family is there. We have familiarity with the area. It’s not like we’re going to be across the country. Worst-case scenario, we’ll be able to get ourselves where we need to go. We’re working on a plan to be a little more specific.”
But no one is happier than assistant coach Jodie Kaczor Berry.
“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “I hate being the center of attention.”
That’s because she’s also pregnant, due in July.
“I plan better,” she said.
“It was planned, but a little bit miscalculated, obviously,” Fortier said. “We’re going into our slow time of the season, but we were by no means trying to have it at this time because we knew this team was going to go far.”
It’s not like her husband didn’t have the same problem. He’s an assistant for the Whitworth men’s program, which made it to the Division III Sweet 16, necessitating a trip to North Carolina two weeks ago.
“If we would have been a little better planning, we wouldn’t be dealing with any of this right now,” Fortier said, adding it has been pretty sweet around their house this winter.
When Whitworth lost, snapping a 25-game winning streak and ending the season at 25-3, that allowed Craig to be with his wife last weekend in Seattle. There, the Bulldogs ran their winning streak to 20 games and their record to 29-4 with wins over North Carolina and Texas A&M.
After the 71-70 upset of second-seeded A&M Monday night in Seattle, Graves was pinballing around outside the locker room when he saw Fortier with her back to the chaos and Craig rubbing her back.
“Oh, oh, labor,” he said.
“I got all these of texts from people saying, ‘I’m going into labor and I’m not even pregnant yet,’ ” Fortier said.
“The second game, I did start to feel my heart beat down in my side. I don’t know if it was the baby’s or mine, but it was a little bit exciting. I tried to stay calm out there, but you can only make yourself stay calm so much.”
She said the team has been a fun part of the experience.
“It’s been a process for them,” she said. “They’ve been excited for us the whole time, but they’re protective of me, too. As much as they want me to be on the road, they’re asking me if I can do this and they tell me to get off the court.
“The hardest thing is staying out of the drills. Kelly’s done a good job. When it was time, he started kicking me out of drills. I realize now my role has changed now. I can pass, but I can’t defend.”
The players aren’t above making fun of Fortier, calling her “Big House,” or putting basketballs under their practice jerseys.
“We’ll be in the middle of a drill and she’ll say, ‘Sorry, pushing on my bladder, gotta go pee.’ ” Shives said with mock exasperation. “Every day. It’s an every day occurrence.”
Assistant coach Michelle Elliott has a little different perspective.
“I feel really out of place,” the second-year assistant said with a pretend pout.
“Not really. Jodie and Lisa are so awesome. We get along so well, but at the same time, they’re married and starting a family. I like where I’m at. I get to learn from their experience and see how they do it, so I can be prepared when it happens for me someday.”
Graves, the father of three, is enjoying the scene.
“It enhances the entire experience, the whole setting, everything that we’re about,” he said. “Tell me that kid is not going to be loved. Jodie’s, too. They’re going to have free baby-sitting.”