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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Zag Women Face Middle Tennessee Saturday|
By Dale Goodwin
(SPOKANE, Wash.) – After winning three straight regular-season West Coast Conference championships, the Gonzaga women’s basketball was finally rewarded with its first berth into the NCAA Tournament, to face Middle Tennessee State Saturday at 5 p.m. at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
Gonzaga (24-9) enters the tournament as the No. 12 seed, against the 5th-seeded Blue Raiders from Murfreesboro, about 30 miles southwest of Nashville . Senior Katie Ridenour thinks the Bulldogs are a good match. “We have great team chemistry, on and off the court. Every player we have can step up and hit big shots.”
Middle Tennessee State is 29-3, and after going 3-3 in the early season, has won 26 straight.
“They are the 4th top scoring team in the country, and they shoot a lot of threes,” said 7th year Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves. “They play a lot of pressure defense, and average a lot of steals.
“But we have a pretty cerebral team,” Graves continued. “We play good team defense and we’ll try to take them out of their rhythm.”
Gonzaga officials are working with the NCAA’s travel agency to make plans to travel the team to Palo Alto on Thursday. The Zags will have a public practice at Maples Pavilion on Friday.
Coincidentally, Gonzaga’s men’s basketball team will be playing its first-round NCAA Tournament game on Thursday, just three hours up the road in Sacramento . The men would also be playing on Saturday if they were to defeat Indiana in their first-round game. That could be a stretch for Gonzaga President Father Robert Spitzer and Athletic Director Mike Roth, who have every intention of attending all of this weekend’s men’s and women’s tournament games, if possible. By the way, Gonzaga is one of 18 schools to have both men’s and women’s teams in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Graves and his players were joined in the McCarthey Athletic Center by more than 100 excited family members and fans for Monday’s Selection Show, as all the attention on Gonzaga basketball shifted from the men to the women for the afternoon.
Graves has taken five other teams to the NCAA Tournament, four as an assistant at Portland (1994-97) and one as head coach at Saint Mary’s (1999). He also took one Saint Mary’s team and two Zag teams to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Freshman Heather Bowman, the team’s second leading scorer and West Coast Conference Tournament MVP, said the key to this team’s success has been great team attitudes. “Everyone on this team is a hard worker.”
“We’re ready to prepare for Middle Tennessee and to work very hard,” said WCC All-Tournament selection Jami Bjorklund, a sophomore. “We’re ready to give it everything we’ve got.”
Senior Stephanie Hawk was the league’s player of the year. She said the team really came together once the younger, newer players got a better feel for their teammates and the system of play. Gonzaga went through a stretch in late November through December when the Zags lost seven of nine games. But since then they have won 17 of 18 games.
Director of men’s basketball operations Jerry Krause and several members of the Athletic Department staff attended Monday’s Selection Show get-together. Asked what advise he’d have for Coach Graves, Krause replied, “Enjoy the journey. Too many people get hung up on the destination, and don’t enjoy the journey. This is pretty special.”
A note on tickets: Gonzaga is selling tickets to the Women’s NCAA First and Second Round Tournament games. The athletic department is offering Bulldog Club Members, women’s basketball season ticket holders and Gonzaga students the opportunity to exclusively purchase tickets on Tuesday, March 13 from 9 a.m. to noon. To order tickets, call the Gonzaga Ticket Office at 323-6000. Beginning at noon on Tuesday, ticket sales will become open to the general public, if any remain. Tickets will remain on sale until sold out.
ZagNotes: Dale Goodwin will be covering the Bulldogs at the tournament in Palo Alto beginning Thursday and welcomes contacts from alumni, parents of current students and friends of the University. While he is in Palo Alto, please contact him via e-mail at email@example.com if there are alumni events or other happenings of interest to Zags fans who will be in Palo Alto for the Tournament.