Jill Townsend ended her sophomore season with a major leg injury in the WCC semi-finals. Nobody knew if she would be able to compete by the start of the new campaign in October. Not only was she ready, but she ended her junior season as the West Coast Conference Player of the Year.
After thriving in a sixth-man role last year (9.4 points, 4.7 rebounds), Townsend stepped into the starting spot left by Chandler Smith this year. Much like Killian Tillie was dubbed Mark Few’s “problem solver,” Townsend was that reliable force for Lisa Fortier. She started all 31 games, averaged a team-best 12.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. She shot 49 percent from the field, 41 percent from deep, and 85 percent from the line.
Townsend became the vocal leader of the team, too, something left behind by Laura Stockton. Her fiery and tenacious personality on the court showed through in big moments. Her propensity for hitting clutch shots has been a trademark throughout her career. She’s loved by teammates and fans alike for how she carries herself.
Unfortunately, the Zags lost in the WCC tournament for the second straight year. Townsend battled through some questionable calls, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds, but eventually fouled out, only playing 24 minutes. Her sophomore year ended with a WCC Championship game loss and a season-ending injury, costing her two NCAA games. This season, they lost in the WCC semis, and the Coronavirus wiped out the NCAA Tournament altogether, one in which they were slated to play in Spokane. She’s played a grand total of seven minutes in the NCAA Tournament in three years.
She has a chance to change all that in her senior year. Gonzaga should be ranked in the top 20 to start the season after returning another good chunk of their roster. Townsend will be back as one of several seniors looking to end their careers on the best note possible. Sometimes a team with tons of depth doesn’t have clear leaders. That will not be the case next year. Townsend, alongside the Wirth twins, will be the clear captains on and off the court.
It’s hard to imagine the program actually getting better after their historic last two seasons, but on paper, their roster next year will be the most talented they’ve ever had. They have another great chance to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Townsend has the ability to become just the third player in WCC history to win back-to-back Player of the Year awards, and she has the leadership qualities to guide Gonzaga to their first Sweet 16 since 2015.