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Sports >  Gonzaga women

Gonzaga women must rally again in wake of Eliza Hollingsworth’s concussion

Feb. 1, 2023 Updated Wed., Feb. 1, 2023 at 5:29 p.m.

Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Lisa Fortier looks on against the Santa Clara Broncos in the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center on Sat. Jan. 7, 2023 in Spokane.  (James Snook/For The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Lisa Fortier looks on against the Santa Clara Broncos in the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center on Sat. Jan. 7, 2023 in Spokane. (James Snook/For The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo
By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

The Gonzaga women will need to dig just a little deeper after starting forward Eliza Hollingsworth suffered a concussion last week.

The Zags are still perfect in the West Coast Conference at 11-0, but the margin for error just got smaller as they prepare for a tough road trip to the Bay Area.

That’s because Hollingsworth is staying home to recover, the athletic department confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

Gonzaga has been playing shorthanded for 2½ months but has lost just once in that span, at No. 2 Stanford, and sits at 21-2 overall with a 14-game winning streak going into Thursday night’s game at Santa Clara.

But there’s a sense of unease as the regular season heads into the home stretch.

“We’re back to that eight-player rotation,” coach Lisa Fortier said last weekend, after closer-than-expected wins over WCC cellar-dwellers Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.

Santa Clara (13-10, 4-6 WCC) is only a couple of spots higher in the standings, and the 17th-ranked Zags had no trouble handling the Broncos in the first meeting, on Jan. 7 in Spokane.

In that game, GU had a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter and cruised to a 78-61 win. Hollingsworth put in a solid 26 minutes , with eight points and seven rebounds, which begs the question: Who picks up the slack?

The answer, of course, is everyone. But with only eight scholarship players available, it’s not that simple.

Recounting the long-term injuries to Kayleigh Truong (foot) and Maud Huijbens (concussion), Fortier opined on the current challenge.

“We said, ‘OK, if you’ve got Eliza and Maud and Kayleigh all healthy, then you don’t need this much production from everyone else.’

“Then one goes out and you need a little bit more from everybody, and by the time you have three our four players out, you need a little bit more from everybody.”

That means more time on the court. Starters Kaylynne Truong, Brynna Maxwell and McKayla Williams each logged 34 minutes against Pepperdine, with Esther Little putting in 30 in her first collegiate start and Calli Stokes moving to forward and playing for 28.

Those kind of numbers were unheard of at GU until this year, as Fortier and her staff employed a deep rotation – even players like Jill Townsend and Jill Barta averaged about 26 to 28 minutes.

But in the case of Truong, Maxwell and Yvonne Ejim, the coaches often can’t afford to give them more than a short break.

More minutes means more opportunities, and the players have responded. On Saturday, that was Maxwell, who went 6 for 9 on 3-pointers as GU pulled away in the fourth quarter.

“She gave us more than a little bit more,” Fortier said of Maxwell. “As did some others in stretches.”

Now those stretches will get a bit longer, and against teams that will try to replicate the physical style employed by LMU and Pepperdine.

“Santa Clara. I think they’re a tough team to play because they’re physical and they play hard,” Fortier said.

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