Gonzaga women get no votes in AP preseason poll

Three weeks before the season begins, the Gonzaga women are fully motivated to prove the experts wrong.

Five days after being picked to finish second in the West Coast Conference, the Zags didn’t merit a spot or even a vote in the Associated Press preseason poll announced Tuesday.

That wasn’t a big surprise – GU (23-4 last year) lost several key players to graduation – but it still stings.

“It’s motivation for sure,” senior forward Melody Kempton said after Saturday’s FanFest.

On Thursday, the Zags had been picked second in the WCC behind rival BYU.

“But our team has that gritty spirit,” Kempton said. “We want to be the best we possibly can.”

GU will have the chance to prove it.

In addition to at least a pair of meetings with BYU, the Zags host defending national champion and preseason No. 3 Stanford on Nov. 21.

Two weeks later, they will host a much-improved Washington State program.

The AP poll is headed by South Carolina, the same team that topped the preseason balloting a year ago – and was almost toppled by the Zags in their season opener.

The Gamecocks received 14 of the 29 first-place votes from a national media panel in Tuesday’s poll. UConn was second, garnering 10 first-place ballots. It’s the 15th consecutive season that the Huskies were among the top five teams in the preseason.

Defending national champion Stanford was third, getting the other five first-place votes. Maryland and North Carolina State rounded out the top five.

GU received no votes, while BYU got 11, which left the Cougars six spots out of the rankings. Two spots back was Washington State, which received nine votes.

The Zags have seldom made the preseason poll in previous years, preferring to fight their way into the rankings.

Unranked at the start of the 2018-19 season, the Zags steadily climbed all the way to 16th and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The following year, GU was three spots out in the preseason poll, then soared into the rankings after taking No. 3 Stanford to overtime on the road. Four months later, the Zags finished 13th.

Last year’s squad broke the mold, ranking 21st at the beginning of the year and finishing 14th.

Coach Lisa Fortier said she’s spoken with the team already. Taking a philosophical approach she asked them, “Are we trying to prove other people wrong, or are we trying to do our best?”

“If you’re trying to prove people wrong, then it’s about them,” Fortier said.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve had that chip on our shoulders … we’ve been the (WCC) favorite for quite a while.”

GU has won 16 of the past 17 WCC regular-season titles.

The Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC each have five ranked teams in the AP poll.

Joining No. 4 Maryland, No. 8 Indiana, No. 9 Iowa and No. 11 Michigan is No. 17 Ohio State for the Big Ten.

In the Pac-12, No. 3 Stanford is joined by No. 10 Oregon, No. 14 Oregon State, No. 20 UCLA and No. 22 Arizona.

The ACC has No. 5 N.C. State, No. 6 Louisville, No. 16 Florida State, No. 17 Georgia Tech and No. 24 Virginia Tech.

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