The Gonzaga women’s basketball team isn’t looking past Air Force. Honest.
In Friday night’s season opener at the McCarthey Athletic Center, the Bulldogs host a Falcon team that went 2-28 a year ago and is coming off a 13-point exhibition win over a Division II school
Two days later, GU will entertain 16th-ranked Stanford.
“It’s going to be an exciting weekend,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said without giving away which game she’s more excited about.
Air Force opened with a 50-37 exhibition win last week over Division II Adams State, a game that saw the Falcons shoot 31 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free-throw line while turning the ball over 31 times.
It doesn’t matter, Fortier said.
“I keep reminding the players that we’re not good enough to look past anybody,” said Fortier, who ticked off some deficits from recent practices and from GU’s 64-31 exhibition win last week over Carroll.
That included occasional poor shot selection and “some holes in our zone,” said Fortier, who gave another reason to take Air Force seriously: The Falcons have a new coach in Chris Gobrecht, a savvy veteran who’s still the winningest coach at Washington.
“And we all know that we had a new coaching staff last year – you don’t know what to expect,” Fortier said with a smile.
Next up is Stanford, which returns nine letterwinners and three starters from a team that went 26-10 and is coming off its eighth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. The Cardinal has won at least 20 games in 14 consecutive seasons.
Looming large in Sunday’s game is the iconic figure of Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer, who enters her 30th year in charge of one of the nation’s winningest programs.
Fortier, who grew up in northern California, recalls working basketball camps for Vanderveer and developing an admiration.
“She’s really been an advocate for females in the business, which is great for me as a young coach,” Fortier said. “She’s always willing to talk basketball with me.”
GU has been on the wrong side of recent matchups with the Cardinal, notably an 83-60 loss in the NCAA Regional final in Spokane in 2011 and a 73-45 regular-season loss two years ago at Stanford.
The playing field seems a bit more level this week. For the first time in 15 years, Stanford isn’t picked to win the Pac-12; that distinction belongs to Oregon State, a team that was vanquished last March by none other than GU.
Asked if that provides some added confidence, Fortier said, “I think we should have confidence no matter who we’re playing.”
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