For now, expectations for the Gonzaga women don’t extend beyond Friday night’s exhibition against Carroll College.
The Saints compete at the NAIA level, but play better than that, GU coach Lisa Fortier said after practice Thursday afternoon at the Volkar Center.
“We can’t just roll out of bed and expect to compete,” Fortier said. “They’re very talented and tough on the boards – we have a lot to look forward to.”
For GU, that includes a challenging nonconference schedule that continues Wednesday with the home opener against Montana, games against regional rivals Eastern Washington and Washington State, and the Vancouver Showcase matchup with defending national champion Notre Dame.
“Whether it’s against Notre Dame or Carroll College, we’re competing against ourselves,” Fortier said. “We’re trying to get ourselves ready for the latter part of the season.”
That means March. The Zags, 27-6 last season and with a veteran lineup, fully expect to get back to the NCAAs for the third straight year.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said Loera, who started several games last season when Stockton was injured. “This will be a really exciting test.”
Zykera Rice will start at forward along with LeeAnne Wirth, whose twin sister Jenn – the presumptive starter going into the season – is out with a broken finger in her shooting hand.
Jenn Wirth is expected to be out from one to three weeks, Fortier said.
Carroll isn’t a typical NAIA team. The Saints went 25-8 last season, winning the Frontier Conference regular-season title and advancing to the NAIA National Championship Round of 16.
This season, Carroll is picked to repeat as conference champ and is ranked seventh in the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball coaches’ poll.
Senior forwards Hannah Dean and Cassidy Kosena earned Preseason All-Conference honors.
The 6-foot-1 Dean was named NAIA second-team All-American and first-team all-conference a season ago after averaging 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Kosena returns after redshirting the 2017-18 season. In 2016-17, she averaged 14.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per contest shooting 52 percent from the floor.
The game will be a homecoming for four Saints who played high school in the Spokane area.
They are Brittney Johnson, a senior guard from Ferris; Jaidyn Lyman, a sophomore guard from Mt. Spokane; Molly McDermott, a freshman forward from Gonzaga Prep; and Sienna Swannack, a freshman guard from Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls).
Last season, Carroll averaged 59.7 points per game, shooting 40.6 percent from the floor and 33.1 percent from 3-point range.
Gonzaga is 5-0 in the series and won 64-31 in Spokane in the schools’ most recent meeting in 2015.
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