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Gonzaga women use late study session to prepare for season opener against Cal State Bakersfield

Gonzaga guard Jessie Loera runs the offense for the Zags at the 2019 FanFest scrimmage. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Jessie Loera runs the offense for the Zags at the 2019 FanFest scrimmage. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Gonzaga coaching staff will be doing some cramming this weekend.

Until Friday night, head coach Lisa Fortier and her staff didn’t have much to work with in preparation for Sunday’s season opener against Cal State Bakersfield.

“We don’t know a lot about Bakersfield,” Fortier said. “We have to take the scout and digest it … and execute our game plan.”

The Bulldogs had film from last year, but, the Roadrunners return just two starters and five players overall. Moreover, UCSB didn’t have an exhibition game, only an intrasquad scrimmage, before Tuesday’s season opener against Cal State Dominquez Hills.

The Roadrunners won that game 83-74, but were routed at Washington 80-49 Friday night.

“We’ll take the Friday film and add it to the film session Saturday,” said Fortier, who also practiced Saturday. “It’s nice to have that file the day after we’ve seen them against a Division 1 opponent.”

Regardless, the Zags should be a heavy favorite in the Kennel, where they lost just once last year. They also return loads of experience from a team that went 29-5 last year.

For what it’s worth, GU is ranked 23rd in the USA Today coaches’ poll, though not in the Associated Press media poll.

The Zags also will be backed by a big crowd. The women have sold out of season tickets for the third consecutive season and set a record in the process.

The Bulldogs’ sold 4,618 season tickets, eclipsing the previous record of 4,468 set last season.

UCSB lost three starters from a team that went 14-17 overall and 10-7 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Ninth-year coach Greg McCall has only one senior, 5-foot-2 guard Dalis Jones. Sophomore point guard Ashley Austin is the top returning scorer (9.6 points per game), but she had almost as many turnovers (61) as assists (63).

The Roadrunners also return 6-1 junior center Vanessa Austin (no relation to Ashley). Last year, Austin averaged 8.4 points and almost five rebounds.

UCSB also welcomes four redshirts from last year back into the lineup. That process was helped by a three-game summer trip to Puerto Rico.

“Getting a chance to look at what this group could do early on has been huge for us,” McCall said. “I liked the fact that we played with a lot of energy and discipline. It made it easier on us coaches to correct mistakes in the moment.”

UCSB has finished in the top half of the WAC standings since joining the league in 2013-14.

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