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Gonzaga women begin WCC quest

Most West Coast Conference women’s basketball players have something in common.

Unless they are returning players at BYU or Saint Mary’s, they have never witnessed their team defeating Gonzaga in conference play.

Gonzaga opens its quest for a ninth consecutive WCC title at 6 tonight against San Diego (8-4) at McCarthey Athletic Center.

The Bulldogs went undefeated in conference play during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons and finished 14-2 in the WCC last year after a three-point home defeat against Saint Mary’s and a blowout loss at BYU.

The WCC coaches’ preseason poll tabbed BYU (61 points) as the favorite to unseat Gonzaga (60) this year, but GU coach Kelly Graves remains undaunted.

“We have 16 games to prove whether we’re the best team or not,” said Graves, whose Bulldogs finished nonconference play with a 10-4 record. “We’ve done that for eight straight seasons. I would take my squad anytime. I think this is the kind of team that can win a ninth straight championship.”

Six of the nine WCC teams finished nonconference play with records better than .500. That includes Santa Clara (7-5), which plays at GU at 2 p.m. Saturday in a homecoming for freshman guard Brooke Gallaway, who played at Central Valley.

Santa Clara’s head coach is Jennifer Mountain, the former Gonzaga player, St. George’s boys head coach and GU assistant coach. First-year assistant coach Stacy Clinesmith starred at Mead High and UC Santa Barbara before being drafted by Sacramento of the WNBA in 2000.