All of Kelly Graves’ West Coast Conference coaching peers believe his Gonzaga women’s basketball team has the talent to win its 10th conference championship in a row, according to a poll released Thursday at the league’s tipoff event in Los Angeles.
Gonzaga, which went 27-6 overall and 15-1 in winning the WCC last year, returns the dynamic senior-guard duo of Haiden Palmer, the 2013 WCC tournament MVP, and Jazmine Redmon, the reigning conference defensive player of the year.
Returning starting forward Sunny Greinacher joined Palmer and Redmon on the preseason All-WCC team. Gonzaga lost starter Taelor Karr to graduation, but the Zags return starting center Shelby Cheslek, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Pullman.
“We are really long,” Graves said in Los Angeles. “We are tall not only on the inside, but on the perimeter as well. But really, our strength starts and finishes with our great senior class.”
The Zags have six players on their roster listed at 6-foot-2 or taller, including 6-foot-3 senior center Stephanie Golden. They also added 6-foot wing player Lindsay Sherbert, a junior, who sat out last year after transferring from the University of California.
“Lindsay Sherbert is a phenomenal basketball player,” said Graves, whose team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Iowa State last season. “I think we are little further ahead than we were last year when we had so many new faces.”
Palmer said she can’t wait for the season to tip off, which will happen Nov. 8 against Idaho in the McCarthey Athletic Center. “I can’t wait to beat up on somebody else.”
The coaches picked San Diego to finish second and St. Mary’s a close third over Brigham Young.
“I really think this could be the strongest league we’ve ever had,” Graves said. “If you don’t play well on any given night, you are going to lose.”
Most of the other leading players picked Gonzaga as the team they most wanted to play. Palmer said the Zags thrive on that competition.
“I love it,” Palmer said. “It makes you want to perform.”