Rematch with BYU comes early in WCC schedule for Gonzaga women’s basketball

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The Gonzaga women won’t have to wait long for a chance at payback against BYU.

The West Coast Conference schedule which was announced Tuesday morning, has the Bulldogs playing at BYU on Jan 2.

That’s only the second game of the 18-game WCC schedule for GU, which opens at home against Portland on Dec. 29.

GU will open the conference season at home for the first time in four years.

For now, those dates mean little to the Zags, who are in the middle of a European tour that ends on Aug. 22. However, the two games against BYU will be circled soon enough.

The return match is set for Feb. 1 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, where the Zags would have hosted a pair of NCAA Tournament games were it not for a trio of losses to BYU.

The last one came in the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, sending GU to a 5 seed in the NCAAs and a trip to Corvallis, Oregon.

There they beat Arkansas Little Rock in the first round before falling to Oregon State in the second round to cap a 29-5 season that was one of the best in school history.

Along the way they went 16-2 in the WCC, one game ahead of BYU to claim their 14th regular-season title in the last 15 years and fourth in five years under coach Lisa Fortier.

The nonconference portion of the schedule has yet to be revealed, which is the case at many schools.

GU travels to Stanford on Nov. 17, and opens with Dayton on Nov. 29 in the first round of the three-game Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida.

Also on the schedule are road games at Montana on Dec. 5 and Washington State on Dec. 8.

Apart from the WCC opener, which falls on a Sunday, the Zags’ schedule follows the traditional Thursday-Saturday format.

After traveling to BYU and San Diego on Jan. 2 and 4, the Zags are back in Spokane for games against Saint Mary’s and Pacific on Jan 9 and Jan. 11, respectively.

GU heads to the Bay Area on Jan. 16 and 18 for games at Santa Clara and San Francisco. A four-game homestand follows, beginning with Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount on Jan. 23 and 25.

Gonzaga opens the second half of conference play versus San Diego on Jan. 30, before facing BYU two days later. The Zags’ final regular-season home games are Feb. 13 against San Francisco and two days later against Santa Clara.

The Zags lose three starters from last year but return six experienced players in guards Katie Campbell, Jessie Loera and Jill Townsend, and forwards LeeAnne and Jenn Wirth and Melody Kempton.

BYU returns three starters, but got a shock last month when sophomore guard Shaylee Gonzalez, the Cougars’ leading scorer last year with 17 points per game, tore an ACL during practice.

Gonzalez will miss the entire season, she announced on social media.

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