SPOKANE — No one looks past the Gonzaga women’s basketball team, but the Zags always return the compliment – no matter the opponent’s record.
“We never look ahead. It’s always about the next game,” coach Lisa Fortier said Tuesday, shortly after that focus was rewarded with the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year Award.
It’s Fortier’s fourth award in her first five years as head coach – a first for both the conference and the program.
The Zags also placed all three seniors – Laura Stockton, Zykera Rice and Chandler Smith – on the All-WCC first team, the conference announced.
Gonzaga was the preseason favorite to win the regular-season title, but the Zags exceeded those expectations by going 27-3 overall and 16-2 in the conference. It’s GU’s third season in a row with 20 or more wins.
Heading into the WCC Tournament, GU is ranked 14th in the Associated Press poll and 13th in the Rating Percentage Index or RPI.
Asked how this year’s squad compares with GU’s all-time best, Fortier said, “It should definitely be in the conversation – regardless of what the finish is like.”
The season will continue Monday with the semifinals of the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
No matter what happens there, GU is a lock for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs have been ranked in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ Polls for 14 consecutive weeks, and Gonzaga is in contention to host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games later this month.
Rice, Smith and Stockton were all selected to the first team, the second All-WCC honor for Rice and Smith and the first for Stockton. GU’s Jill Townsend was one of six to be named All-WCC Honorable Mention.
A second-team pick last year, Rice made the 10-player first squad this season after leading the Zags in scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 rpg) to rank 11th and 15th in the conference, respectively.
Rice ranks ranks third in the conference in field-goal percentage at 52.2 and was twice named WCC Player of the Week. She scored in double figures in all but two of 18 conference games.
Smith also moved up from the second team to the first. She ranked second on the team in scoring (9.3 ppg) and rebounding (5.2 rpg).
Smith had at least five rebounds in 11 WCC contests and dished out at least three assists nine times.
Stockton, an honorable mention pick two years ago, ranked fourth in the conference with 4.3 assists per game. She moved into third in career assists in GU history with her first assist of the night at Santa Clara on Feb. 21.
Stockton averaged 9.1 points per game, good for a tie for third on the team, and led the Zags in scoring three times during conference play.
Townsend’s honorable mention was the first in her career.
Pepperdine senior Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, the WCC scoring leader at 20.4 ppg, was named Player of the Year.
Pacific’s Valerie Higgins was the Defensive Player of the Year and BYU freshman Shaylee Gonzales was named Newcomer of the Year.