The Gonzaga women are a close-knit group, but Coach Lisa Fortier is ready for some separation – on the court, that is.
The Zags are 13 practices into fall camp and three weeks away from the regular-season opener against Montana State.
However, Fortier admitted after Saturday’s FanFest to be “antsy” about how the lineup will come together.
“We haven’t seen a lot of separation in practices yet,” Fortier said after FanFest, which drew about a thousand fans.
However, the Zags will hold a closed-door scrimmage later this week against an undisclosed opponent.
That and the remaining practices will go a long way in settling out the starting lineup and the rotation.
“You’ll start to see who’s understanding things and who gets left behind in certain new offenses and new defenses,” Fortier said. “And when we start tweaking things, who can pick it up and who can be effective.”
Fan Fest offered a small sample size, but several players stood out in the 16-minute scrimmage.
Junior Kaylynne Truong, currently penciled in to back up her sister Kayleigh at the point, looked much improved in scoring a game-high 12 Points.
Freshman Bree Salenbien scored only 5 points, but looked every bit the five-star recruit in her 12 minutes on the court. At 6-foot-2, she also looked comfortable taking the ball downcourt – a big plus if she ends up at the wing.
Perhaps the biggest revelation was Eliza Hollingsworth, a redshirt sophomore from Australia who lost her entire first year and half of her second to injury.
A 6-2 forward, Hollingsworth showed some glimpses late last year, notably with a big 3-pointer in the West Coast Conference title game.
She showed much more on Saturday, reaching the finals of the 3-point shooting contest and driving well in the paint.
“We’re excited to know that we’ll get to see her more this year,” said Fortier, who compared Hollingsworth to Jill Barta.
“You have to guard her differently because of what she’s capable of,” Fortier said. “We haven’t had a post player who can shoot it like she does since Jill, to stretch the defense in ways you don’t generally see from post players.”
Based on those comments, fans might begin to pencil in a starting lineup in their heads: Hollingsworth and senior Melody Kempton at forward, Salenbien at the wing, Kayleigh Truong at the point and senior Cierra Walker at shooting guard.
Then again, Fortier has shown a deference to her upperclassmen as starters – how else to explain that Jill Townsend didn’t start a game until her junior year?
Perhaps Salenbien will be the sparkplug off the bench, able to spell Walker at guard or Abby O’Connor on the wing.
And what of sophomore forward Yvonne Ejim, who all but carried the Zags in the WCC title game and showed more strength on Saturday? Then again, she and Kempton don’t present an outside shooting threat.
“There’s a lot of things we have to figure out,” Fortier said.
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