The Gonzaga women put up some crazy numbers Thursday night at the Kennel.
They added up to a 95-49 victory against Pepperdine and another West Coast Conference championship, but the biggest statistic of the game had nothing to do with what happened on the court.
Buried in the box score, next to the word “attendance,” was a number: 200.
For the first time this season, the GU women were playing at home in front of live, cheering fans. Making up for lost time, the fans drove from Okanogan, Washington, or flew in from Arizona, Oregon, Texas and Canada.
Mostly, they came for the seniors, especially the student-athletes who arrived in the fall of 2017: Jill Townsend, Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth, Louise Forsyth and Gillian Barfield.
They came to GU for the academics and the family atmosphere, but also because of a winning tradition that stretches back almost two decades.
They took that torch four years ago; now it’s even brighter.
Going into Saturday’s Senior Day game against Loyola Marymount, the class of 2021 has won 104 games and lost 17.
That’s the best four-year span in program history, the Courtney Vandersloot-led teams of 2008-11 included. In WCC games during that period, GU is 59-5 and a fraction off the 53-3 mark of the Vandersloot era.
The ledger would look better but for some tough luck in the postseason: The insulting No. 13 seed in the 2018 NCAAs, the injuries to Townsend and Laura Stockton in the WCCs a year later and the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament when GU was all but guaranteed to host games at the Kennel.
Like other seniors, they’ve also had chunks taken out of their final season. But they persevered – “controlling what we can control,” Townsend said before the season began.
They’ve done that, too. With a handful of games left, they are 20-3 overall, 15-1 in the WCC and guaranteed to cut down the nets after Saturday’s game.
This senior class has done that every year.
“Tough and fun,” coach Lisa Fortier called them this week, and when asked to recall their favorite moments, all five seniors responded in kind.
For Townsend, it came during fall 2018 at the Kennel, when GU knocked off No. 8 Stanford. “It was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it … we played an almost perfect game, and not a lot of people expected that.”
Winning also meant a lot to Jenn Wirth, who during fall 2019 helped the Zags win the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida.
“It was the first time that this coaching staff had been a part of winning a Thanksgiving tournament,” Wirth said.
“Good teams, good team basketball and just a lot of fun.”
Forsyth recalled getting the chance to play in front of her family during the 2018 Vancouver (British Columbia) Showcase. Barfield said she cherished the chance to go to Europe the following summer “with 15 of my best friends.”
LeeAnne Wirth felt the same about that trip.
“We played a few games, made a lot of great memories with my teammates,” Wirth said.
The Zags have time to make a few more – next weekend in Las Vegas and two weeks later at the NCAAs in Texas.
But first comes Senior Day. Townsend, the epitome of toughness the past few years, expects to get the job done on the court, but said she can’t guarantee that she’ll hold up emotionally when the game ends.
“I remember when I was a freshman,” Townsend said . “Four years is a long time, and the next thing you know … it’s definitely bittersweet.”
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