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Gonzaga women use practices, closed-door scrimmage as chance to jell before exhibition against Warner Pacific

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 29, 2019

Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier works with players on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, during practice at Gonzaga University. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier works with players on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, during practice at Gonzaga University. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

After a trip to Europe and fall practice, the Gonzaga women have learned each others’ tendencies a bit too well.

That’s one of the best reasons to get this season going, starting with Saturday’s exhibition game against Warner Pacific. Tipoff is at 2 p.m. at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

“Just playing against ourselves, sometimes we really don’t know how we’re going, because we know our own plays really well,” senior guard Katie Campbell said at practice Monday.

“The goal is really to focus to see how we’re all playing with each other and see how well our plays are doing and our transition and to see how everything jells,” Campbell said.

Things should jell just fine against Warner Pacific, an NAIA Division II program from Portland. Competition will heat up with home games on Nov. 10 against Cal State Bakersfield and four days later against Tennessee Martin.

Then again, the Zags already have a good measuring stick from last week’s closed-door scrimmage against UCLA.

According to coach Lisa Fortier, the Zags were “a little bit less athletic than UCLA, but skill-wise I think we were a little bit ahead of them.”

“We definitely have some things to work on,” Fortier said. “We’ve got to move our feet and we’ve got to work together a little bit … and not commit silly fouls.”

The Zags have good reason to expect a season that could match or better last year’s 29-5 record, one of the best in school history.

They lost three starters but return two full-timers in Campbell and LeeAnne Wirth, plus the experienced Jenn Wirth, Jessie Loera and Jill Townsend. Townsend and Jenn Wirth made such an impression last year in the West Coast Conference, they were named to the 10-player preseason all-conference team.

Those five got the start against UCLA.

“And I think that barring injury, I think that’s what we’re going to go with,” Fortier said.

Fortier threw out three more names – sophomore forward Melody Kempton, junior guard Louise Forsyth and freshman point guard Kayleigh Truong – as “having played very well” during fall camp.

Implied in Fortier’s comments is that those three will be the first off the bench, and that makes sense.

Kempton, from Post Falls, provided a big lift last year, especially on the boards, and figures to spell either of the Wirth twins.

Forsyth, a strong shooter, has the versatility to back up either Townsend – as she did when the latter went down to injury last postseason – or Campbell.

Truong has made big impression so far and will spell Loera.

Things are less clear further down the roster. Perhaps the biggest wild card is post Anamaria Virjoghe, a 6-foot-5 transfer from NAIA Northwest Christian. Virjoghe redshirted last year and hopes to compete for playing time.

The status of another international, true freshman Eliza Hollingsworth, is unclear. She could redshirt, although Fortier and her staff might want her to provide more depth in the paint alongside Kempton.

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