Bulldogs Prepare for Season

We have had the opportunity to watch a 60 point crushing of a local NAIA school, followed by a mid-day practice, and the ladies of Gonzaga are looking strong, hungry and ready to get it on.

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The basics are repeated over and over, and the fundamentals are always at the forefront of each and every practice that Kelly Graves and his staff hold in McCarthey Athletic Center... And the team is catching on fast. We had an opportunity to watch a couple practices before and after Gonzaga's 60 point drubbing of Lewis-Clark State College, and here are some imprssions we came away with:

It's no accident this team was voted by all its WCC foes to win the conference title in 04-05. The talent and chemistry has taken a noticeable stride forward from last year's runner-up squad.

Point guard Shannon Mathews is showing more poise and smart decision-making than at any other time in her career. Plus, her leadership skills are impossible to overlook. Whether it's the fast break or running set plays, her awareness is perhaps her most improved area. The senior has been impressive leading up to the first game.

Small forward Julian Laney's confidence is growing with every day. For 30 months the former GSL star and record scoring leader has had one injury after another keeping her off the court. Not anymore. With visible growing confidence and a ton of God-given athleticism, if Julian isn't all the way back in form, she's getting there at lightning speed. Watching her execute on fast breaks (she is fast!), drive aggressively to the hoop and shoot it from everywhere while exercising good judgement, is a treat that's been absent way too long.

Another senior leader is Rae Jewell, a tough wing who looks great on defense and can get on hot streaks from beyond the arc. There's not a real weakness in her game, she is just good at everything.

The most solid, stabilizing force on the team has to be Ashley Burke, a senior post player. While not boasting great athleticism, her craftiness on the low blocks and her incredibly intelligent play more than make up for any lack of flashiness. One thinks of comparisons to male counterparts like Zags Sean Mallon or Zach Gourde: crafty, smart, solid, dependable... Money! Look for another all-WCC year, perhaps WCC Player of the Year honors from Ashley.

Delphine Lecoultre brings some accurate shooting to the table and a positive attitude and enthusiasm befitting her senior status. It helps that she's 6'4" but displays more of Euro-style game than inside presence... Well, she is from France.

Junior Anne Bailey has long been a GU Nation favorite with her versatile game. She has a great basketball body, can run the floor with anybody, is a tough rebounder, a solid shooter out to 19 feet, with nice post moves, second only to Burke at this point.

Gonzaga's most athletic player is Ashley Anderson, a rematkable talent whose game is strong in the paint. Like Bailey, she has it all but needs to play hard 100% of the time to truly showcase her immense skill set and ability to affect the outcome of a game.

Stephanie Hawk is coming on fast, sharing high point honors versus LC State, and is already a nice post presence with excellent quicks up and down the court. Katy Ridenour and Katie Prichard are two athletic guards who are elevating their games and will contribute at both guard spots. Both are among the fastest players the Zags have. The future looks brighter than ever inside and outside as freshman Elaina Renius is the first true center with major skills and toughness that has been at Gonzaga (she looks great so far), and fellow frosh Dominique Harris, a superbly athletic combo guard who runs like a deer, has some eye-opening hops (great power moves to get inside) and a decent outside shot looks nearly ready for serious minutes.

Standout guard Rachel Kane is nursing a tweaked knee and newcomer Sarah Schramm injured her hand. Other than that, team health is good.

But what stands out with this group is the gritty determination that they bring to practice. The hard work and the "all for one, one for all" comeraderie. The hunger that shows on faces that want and expect a title and NCAA bid...

We've never seen a drill that calls for the women to sprint down court and dive into a stomach skid, floor burns and all, before... But somehow it seemed completely appropriate for these Zags.

GU Nation encourages everyone to get out and see these Zags for themselves, don't just take our word for it.

Game #1 is set for November 20, 7pm, at McCarthey Athletic Center, against Utah Valley State.

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