The season is three weeks away, but Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier likes what she sees on the basketball court.
“I love this group of players,” Fortier said this week. “It feels good when you go to practice – they practice hard and they’re good communicators.”
And they’re just plain good – a fact confirmed on Wednesday when Fortier’s West Coast Conference rival coaches stamped the defending champion Bulldogs as the team to beat this year.
Gonzaga (26-7 overall and 14-4 in the WCC last year) claimed eight of 10 first-place ballots and 79 points overall to finish atop the preseason poll.
The Bulldogs also placed two players – forward Jill Barta and point guard Laura Stockton – on the 10-player preseason all-WCC team.
Being tabbed as the preseason favorite is nothing new for GU, which has been picked No. 1 in 10 of the last 14 seasons. The Bulldogs usually live up to expectations, winning 12 of the last 13 regular-season titles.
The Bulldogs, now in their fourth year under Fortier, are coming off a sweep of the WCC regular-season and tournament titles.
Two of the key players were Barta and Stockton, both juniors this year.
Barta, a two-time first-team all-WCC pick, received her second-straight Preseason All-WCC nod.
Last season, she led team averaging 16.8 points per game, fourth in the league and 92nd in the NCAA, while averaged six rebounds per game, 13th in the WCC.
Stockton, who was selected all-WCC Honorable Mention and WCC All-Tournament last year, was selected Preseason All-WCC for the first time. Last year, Stockton led the team averaging 4.4 assists per game and had 144 assists, third in the WCC and 10th all-time in a season at GU.
Gonzaga begins its season with an exhibition game against Northwest Christian on Nov. 5 at 2 pm inside the McCarthey Athletic Center
Saint Mary’s (20-13, 13-5) received the other two first place votes and was the preseason pick to finish second in the conference with 72 points. The Gaels were followed by BYU (20-12, 13-5) in third with 68 points.
San Diego (14-16, 7-11) and Loyola Marymount (14-16, 9-9) were picked fourth and fifth with 54 and 48 points respectively. The Toreros return heralded senior Maya Hood, who missed a majority of the 2016-17 season after suffering a knee injury in December.
The Lions welcome a heralded transfer for the second consecutive season with junior Gabby Green eligible to compete following two years as a starter for California.
Three points separated the sixth and seventh spots on the poll between a pair of teams with head coaches entering their second seasons. Santa Clara (14-16, 9-9) was selected sixth with 39 points while San Francisco (18-13, 11-7) was picked seventh with 36 points. Pacific claimed eighth overall with 28 points after going 10-21 (5-13) last season.
Pepperdine and Portland round out the preseason poll with the Waves, under first-year head coach DeLisha Milton-Jones, collecting 14 points for ninth and the Pilots. The Waves went 7-23 (5-13 WCC) last season, and the Pilots quadrupled their conference record from the previous season with a 6-24 (4-14) WCC) mark.
Eight programs placed at least one student-athlete on the preseason all-conference Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s led all programs with two representatives each on the squad, with Stella Beck and Sydney Raggio from Saint Mary’s.
Also earning Preseason All-Conference honors are Cassie Broadhead Devashrayee of BYU, Maya Hood of San Diego, GeAnna Luaulu-Summers of Pacific, Yasmine Robinson-Bacote of Pepperdine, Anna Seilund of San Francisco and Cheyanne Wallace of Loyola Marymount.