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The future of Gonzaga women's basketball shines bright

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An injury plagued season didn't go as expected, but the Lady Zags are primed for big things next year.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Note from Peter: Community, say hi to Danielle. Danielle, say hi to community. Danielle is one of the new contributors to The Slipper Still Fits and her speciality lies within the women's basketball team. Make sure to tell all your friends, we finally have women's coverage going forward. I look forward to her future pieces as well as the future of this team.

This season was far from what was expected of the Gonzaga Women's basketball team. The year started with a bang before league play brought about countless hurdles.

The Lady Zags found themselves in uncharted water, losing more games in WCC play this season than they had combined in the past five years. For the first time in 11 seasons the Lady Zags found themselves somewhere other than the top of the WCC.

They ended the season in fifth place, and this, combined with an early exit from the WCC tournament, landed them in the WNIT tournament, where they played two final games in the Kennel before being eliminated in the round of thirty two. Despite the season not going as expected, there were many bright spots.

The Zags brought in four newcomers this season and got two off of redshirts. While Kiara Kudron redshirted last season, she was a player who had already made a big impact on the court for the Zags. Coming in off of her redshirt season she did nothing less than what was expected of her, making big plays, scoring big baskets, and taking big charges. Despite a hand injury at the end of the season, Kudron came back strong for the WCC and WNIT tournaments, and will come back for her final season next year, hoping to bring the Zags back to the top of the WCC.

Barta became only the third Gonzaga freshman to be named to the WCC First Team, joining Courtney Vandersloot and Heather Bowman.

The Zags freshmen class this season was nothing short of impressive. Led by Jill Barta, the freshmen stepped onto the court in McCarthey and played like they had been there for years. Barta came out of her redshirt year strong. She was a bit of an unknown for the Zags. Many fans may have recognized the Montana natives name because of her decorated high school career. She led Fairfield High School to an 104-0 record in her four years as an Eagle and was named the Gatorade Montana Girl's Basketball Player of the Year her senior year. Barta lived up to all of the hype behind her as she emerged onto the scene at Gonzaga. She played in all 33 games for the Zags this season, starting the last 10 of them. She managed to score in double figures in 24 of those 33 games including eight 20 plus point games and four double-doubles. Barta became only the third Gonzaga freshman to be named to the WCC First Team, joining Courtney Vandersloot and Heather Bowman. She also became the highest scoring Zag in a conference season in the history of the program. Barta looks to continue her stellar career at Gonzaga in the next three years.

Along with getting Barta and Kudron off of redshirts, the Zags had three true freshmen and a transfer student join their roster. Zykera Rice joined the Zags from Clover Park High School where she finished her career with just under 800 points. Coming in at 6'1 the freshman showed her athleticism on the court. While she didn't play big minutes for the Zags, she made big plays when she was in, whether she was skying over opposing players for rebounds or making tricky shots. Look for Rice to emerge in the next three years as a force in the post.

Zhane Templeton came to the Zags by way of South Grand Prairie High School in Texas. She was named to the Texas Girl's Coaches Association First Team All State, and First Team All District. Templeton brought a familiar type of game to the Zags after losing three point standouts Keani Albanez and Lindsay Sherbert last season. Templeton knocked down many big threes for the Zags and was clutch on the defensive end, often guarding the opposing teams best player. She provided a great spark off of the bench and was often used as the sixth man. Look for Templeton to increase her three point shooting percentage in the future.

The last true freshman that the Zags got was a familiar name to all Zag fans. Laura Stockton joined the Zags after playing at Gonzaga Prep for four years. She was named the Seattle Times State Player of the Year in her senior season. Gonzaga fans have seen John Stockton and David Stockton both had great careers in the Kennel, and Laura came ready to prove she was here to play. Stockton became the backup point guard to Georgia Stirton playing about half of each game. While Stockton did not start a game this season, she appeared and made a difference in every game. She could often be seen taking charges or hitting jump shots as the time was winding down. Stockton played fearless throughout the course of the season, often driving into the key against players who towered over her. She managed to tally 82 assists and 222 points in her freshman campaign. Look for Stockton to be leading the charge for the Zags as they try to prove themselves next season.

While this season may not have gone the way the Zags planned for it to go, the future is very bright for this team. With the return of the outstanding freshmen class next season, the Zags will also get Emma Wolfram back from injury as well as Chandler Smith and Makenlee Williams, both transfers, off of their redshirt years. The Zags will also welcome a new freshmen class including Jessie Loera and Grace Collett. And the prospect of Elle Tinkle being granted a medical redshirt and returning for next season makes the future that much brighter. Look for the Zags to shine in the future, because if they can put this season behind them, their future success is a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.