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A Deeper Dive into the Gonzaga Women’s Non-Conference Schedule

Notre Dame and Stanford will be the litmus tests

Kyle Terada | USA TODAY Sports Images

Gonzaga fans will get their first chance to see the 2018-2019 women’s team tomorrow during Fanfest, taking place at 4 pm. The bad news, obviously, is that the team lost Jill Barta and Emma Stach. The good news is that they have a trio of impressive seniors and several role players returning. They are going to need their experience to navigate through a difficult non-conference schedule. Let’s break it down, shall we?

The Warm-Up

  • Nov 7 vs Montana
  • Nov 11 at Eastern Washington
  • Nov 13 vs Idaho State

Gonzaga opens with a trio of regional Big Sky Conference teams that should be the perfect opportunity for the women to get their feet under them before heading into the tough portion of the schedule. Gonzaga defeated Montana by 15 in Missoula last season and have won six straight against the Grizzlies. Eastern Washington, who finished third in the Big Sky last season, has typically played Gonzaga tough in Cheney, but Gonzaga has won 14 straight games in that series. This will be the first time Gonzaga has faced Idaho State since defeating them in 2015.

The Heart

  • Nov 17 at UNLV
  • Nov 22 vs Notre Dame (Vancouver Showcase)
  • Nov 23 Vancouver Showcase
  • Nov 24 Vancouver Showcase
  • Nov 28 vs Colorado State
  • Dec 2 vs Stanford

Gonzaga’s leadership and toughness will be tested in a crazy two-week gauntlet, starting on the road in Las Vegas. UNLV won the Mountain West regular season championship last season for the first time in school history and return a good majority of that squad.

Gonzaga will then head north of the border to compete in the Vancouver Showcase, one of the premier women’s tournaments in the country. They get the unenviable task of facing defending National Champion, Notre Dame, in the opening round. The Irish will be the favorites to win it all again this season and should be the number one team in the country to start the year. Final Four hero Arike Ogunbowale returns, along with three other starters from that team. They welcome back their All-American center Brianna Turner, who missed last season with a torn ACL.

Gonzaga will face the winner or loser of Rutgers-Drake. Long-time head coach Vivian Stringer led Rutgers to a 12 game improvement last season and Drake went 18-0 in the Missouri Valley before winning the conference tournament. The other half of the bracket features perennial powers South Carolina and Oregon State along with solid mid-major programs Western Kentucky and ETSU. However this bracket shapes out, Gonzaga will be facing three incredibly talented opponents.

Gonzaga will then come home to face Colorado State, a top-four Mountain West team who won a game in the WNIT last season. Then comes the marquee home game of the schedule when national powerhouse Stanford comes to the Kennel. Gonzaga is 1-7 all-time against Stanford, with the lone win coming in November of 2016 at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal were voted second in the Pac-12 coaches poll and return 12 players from last year’s team that made its 11th-straight Sweet 16. They also bring in Lexie and Lacie Hull from Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley. The Hull twins led Central Valley to a remarkable 102-6 record the last four seasons and capped it off with a GEICO National Championship this past winter. I can imagine there will be a few extra Stanford fans in attendance at this one.

The Tune-Up

  • Dec 9 vs Washington State
  • Dec 16 at Missouri State
  • Dec 20 vs Idaho

The final three games are the perfect tune-up before WCC play begins at the end of December. The Cougars will take the drive over to Spokane looking to beat the Zags for the first time in three seasons. Gonzaga is 6-3 in their last nine games against WSU, who are led by new head coach Kamie Ethridge, formerly of Northern Colorado. The Cougs were picked 11th in the Pac-12 Coaches Poll.

The Zags will finish up their non-conference slate against of pair of WNIT teams from last season. Missouri State won a WNIT game, while Idaho made it to the Big Sky Championship game before falling and heading to the WNIT.

In short, Gonzaga doesn’t really have a single cupcake on this schedule. The meat of the schedule in late November is going to show where this team stacks up on a national scale. Realistically, 8-4 seems like a good result. Losses to Stanford and Notre Dame are forgivable and playing a good UNLV team on the road is a tough task. I think the coaching staff and fans would be happy with two competitive games against Stanford and Notre Dame, and if they can pull off the upset at home over Stanford, even better.

A full report from Saturday’s FanFest will be posted on Sunday morning.