Lisa Fortier got the news Thursday afternoon, the final blow in a tough week for Gonzaga women’s basketball.
Three days after a one-point loss to Portland in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament, the coronavirus crisis dealt the Zags an even bigger hit.
“We had goals,” an emotional Gonzaga head coach said by telephone from Los Angeles during a recruiting trip. “We were coming off a loss, and that adds a little bit of motivation.
“We wanted a chance to play better.”
Practice was set for Friday afternoon – that is until the NCAA announced the cancellation of the men’s and women’s tournaments.
Now the season is over, which means no shot at redemption, no opportunity to play another game or two in the Kennel and no chance to give a proper farewell to senior guards Jessie Loera and Katie Campbell.
The last three years, those goodbyes were spoken after losses in the NCAA Tournament. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
After the news broke, Fortier spoke by phone with Loera. The senior from Moses Lake was expecting a big crowd next weekend at the Kennel, even after the NCAA announced a day earlier that only family members could watch.
That was bad enough, but Loera compared Thursday’s news to a “season-ending injury, something you don’t expect.”
Almost every program in America felt the sting of Thursday’s decision, but it fell harder on the GU women.
The Zags are ranked 11th in the nation, and their 28-3 record is the best in school history when it comes to percentage (.903). It’s as if they aced the midterm and wound up with an incomplete.
“We had worked so hard,” Fortier said.
Since late December, the Zags were settled in the top 16 in the national rankings. That meant a shot at hosting first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games, a goal that barely eluded them last year but seemed in reach even after the loss to Portland.
“We had goals to get past that first weekend,” Fortier said.
But instead of looking ahead, Fortier had no choice but to offer a virtual hug.
“That’s a wrap,” she posted on Twitter. “I love these young women and feel deeply for them right now. I’m so sad for all of the NCAA athletes, and every family and person dealing with the terrible circumstances of this virus.
“We will keep praying for all.”
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