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Sports >  Gonzaga women

‘They never stopped believing:” Gonzaga women drawing inspiration from last year’s late surge

Oct. 5, 2022 Updated Wed., Oct. 5, 2022 at 8:50 p.m.

By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

As the Gonzaga women look ahead to a new basketball season, they can’t help but draw some inspiration from last year.

Coach Lisa Fortier did just that Wednesday afternoon.

The occasion was West Coast Conference Media Day in Las Vegas. Joined by senior guards Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong and two interviewers, Fortier looked back at a regular season that contained more than the usual number of peaks and valleys.

The low point, everyone acknowledged, was a 24-point loss at BYU that cost the Bulldogs a chance to win the WCC regular-season title.

“But they never stopped believing,” Fortier said of her players.

Two weeks later at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, she said, the Zags walked onto the Orleans Arena floor for the title game “and didn’t even think about that.”

The Zags won that game and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament to finish 27-7.

Even in the tournament loss at Louisville, Fortier pointed out “we spotted them 14 points and tied that sucker. I hope that’s something we keep remembering.”

“I think that’s the biggest challenge and the positive we can take from that,” Fortier added. “Let’s work on what’s in front of us and never give up on ourselves.”

The challenge is different this year.

Two hours earlier, the preseason poll showed the Zags as heavy favorites to reclaim the regular-season title from BYU.

GU has carried that burden almost every year for the past 15 years, which begged a question.

Asked whether she would be cranky had GU not been picked to win the title, Fortier sidestepped the question.

“I’m always cranky,” she said as the Truong sisters smiled.

“It’s like that every year for us – we’re used to having the target on our backs,” Fortier said.

Fortier, however, said she believes the WCC is “more balanced” than usual, thanks partly to the transfer portal.

“There’s a lot of talent a lot of players back, so even though we’re used to (being the favorites), it’s going to be harder than ever,” Fortier said.

The livestream interview – no outside questions were taken – was short on details. Fortier didn’t elaborate on how players will step into new roles, what she’s expecting from her senior leaders, or even if Kaylynne will earn a starting spot alongside her sister.

All three heaped praise on junior forward Yvonne Ejim, the top GU player who didn’t make the one-day trip to Vegas.

“Vonnie is one of those special players who has all the aspects” of offense, defense and the ability to handle the ball,” Fortier said.

“And she’s as hungry as any player. And she’ll ask, ‘Can you make it harder for me?’ ”

For the players, the challenge is the same, but different.

“Everyone is excited because we’re just hungry,” said Kaylynne, who added that the players drew closer together during a recent lakeside retreat.

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