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Women’s soccer notebook: Improved Gonzaga women proved ready for West Coast Conference play

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 2, 2019

Gonzaga forward Lauren Elwer  and Washington State’s Brianna Alger chase the ball  during a nonconference match Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, at Gonzaga University. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Lauren Elwer and Washington State’s Brianna Alger chase the ball during a nonconference match Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, at Gonzaga University. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga’s women’s soccer team is ready to live up to its preseason West Coast Conference expectations.

Exceeding them is a distinct possibility.

A brawny, Power 5-heavy nonconference schedule has helped prep the Bulldogs (7-3), who open WCC play on Saturday when they host San Diego (4-4-1) .

When Gonzaga was picked fifth in the WCC preseason poll this past summer, it was the Bulldogs’ highest preseason ranking since 2006.

Gonzaga has since forced each of its big-conference foes to sweat it out.

The defensive-minded Bulldogs dropped a pair of one-goal decisions to 14th-ranked Washington State and 19th-ranked Texas. On Sunday, GU fell 2-1 to Baylor in Waco, Texas.

Eight of Gonzaga’s 10 matches have been decided by a goal, including its recent road wins over Nebraska and Kansas State, the program’s first two wins over Big 12 opponents.

Third-year Gonzaga coach Chris Watkins’ squad has also dispatched Colorado State, Sam Houston State, Seattle University, Idaho State and Montana.

Watkins, a former associate head coach at WCC national power BYU, has the Bulldogs aiming to knock the Cougars off the conference mountain. BYU (10-0) was ranked No. 4 in the latest national poll.

Gonzaga is on pace to continue the program’s climb under Watkins. It finished 10-8-1 in 2017 and 10-4-4 in 2018.

Having one of the program’s all-time great scorers and two promising freshmen helps.

Redshirt senior midfielder and All-WCC talent India Jencks ranks fifth in Gonzaga’s record books with 18 career goals. Freshmen Erin Healy and Lauren Elwer lead the team with four goals each.

Junior goalie Isabel Jones has 26 total saves and has yielded one goal or less in seven of Gonzaga’s 10 games.

Cougs visit No. 2 Stanford, No. 20 California

The 14th-ranked Washington State Cougars (8-1, 1-0 Pac-12) jump right into the meat of their arduous conference schedule, visiting No. 2 Stanford (8-1, 1-0) on Thursday and No. 20 California (9-1, 1-0) on Sunday.

Six Pac-12 women’s soccer teams are ranked.

WSU, which ranks No. 8 in the nation in scoring (2.78 goals per game), has given the four-time defending Pac-12 champion Cardinal trouble in recent years Nine of the last 10 matches between WSU and Stanford have been decided by one goal.

Thursday’s game with Stanford is also a reunion for WSU graduate transfer Averie Collins, a former Stanford midfielder and Bozeman product who is tied for first in goals (five) for the Cougars.

Local rivals EWU,

Idaho clash

Eastern Washington’s Big Sky Conference rivalry game with Montana was postponed last weekend due to inclement weather in Cheney.

The Eagles (3-5-2, 0-1 Big Sky) get another shot at a local conference rival on Sunday when they play host to Idaho (3-8-1, 0-1-1 Big Sky).

EWU and Idaho both tied preseason Big Sky favorite and defending league champion Northern Colorado 1-1 last week.

EWU is led by Sariah Keister (five goals), and Idaho is paced by Maddie Haas (two goals, two assists).

Goalies lead Whitworth, North Idaho

Whitworth (2-6, 1-3 Northwest Conference) has been led at the gate this season by Isabelle Arends, who ranks third in the league in saves (26 in eight games).

Former Lewiston star and current North Idaho goalie Kaysha Bailey ranks third in the Northwest Athletic Conference in save percentage for the Cardinals (5-3-3, 3-2-1 NWAC East Region).

Bailey helped the Cardinals shut out undefeated Columbia Basin last weekend in a scoresless tie.

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