The Zags have much to be proud of coming off of last season’s successes. They had a 29-5 record and a program-best No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In addition, they were able to maintain their competitiveness after losing two of their star players within 48 hours.
The team’s winning reputation is not lost on others - Gonzaga was picked to win a fourth straight West Coast Conference basketball championship this season. The team received seven out of 10 votes - the other three went to BYU. Even though the squad lost three starters from last season (Zykera Rice, Laura Stockton and Chandler Smith), they still have a lot of momentum and experience going for them. “Coaches know that we graduate good players every year, but that we do a good job of coaching players to step up and fill those roles,” said head coach Lisa Fortier.
Along with substantial experience, there are some new faces that will hopefully add to the Zags’ ambitions this year. There are two players who redshirted last year (Kylee Griffen and Anamaria Virjoghe) and three true freshmen (Eliza Hollingsworth and twin guards Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong) who should all have some good looks this coming season.
So what does this all mean? Where will we see the Zags go if everything goes according to plan? How far will they go? While they undoubtedly have superior talent, they are not a team that is going to go deep into the NCAA Tournament. That’s just the way that it is. In order for that to actually happen, you would need to count on other teams to come out and completely choke. That’s fairly unlikely.
To be completely honest, the best case scenario for the women’s team is to make it past the second round of the tournament. In the past three years, the women have not made it through the second round. A realistic “best case scenario” for this team is to see them get to the Sweet Sixteen - maybe the Elite Eight. I wouldn’t hope for much more than that. Yes, the skill is there but there are too many other variables namely, this being the first time since the 2015-16 season without leaders such as Stockton and Rice. Of course players always rise up and fill vacant positions, but adjusting to new roles along with trying to battle their way through the tournament is a tall order. For now, lets just hope that we see the women competing during the second weekend.