WCC Women’s Basketball Preview


With the opening of the season upon us, let’s a look at how the WCC looks over in women’s basketball. Some major changes both in player and coaching personnel among the powers have opened things up, and it could be a wild race this year.

If you’re new to women’s basketball in the WCC, on thing will get you up to speed very quickly. Gonzaga rules over with the women just like they do with the men. The Bulldogs won their sixth WCC Championship in the past seven years last season, and they were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Another thing that will get you caught up quickly is BYU. Again like the men, BYU towers above most of the conference as Gonzaga’s chief rival. Last year they fell short again in conference play, but they went on a very impressive run in the NCAA Tournament before falling in the Sweet Sixteen to eventual national champion Connecticut.

Normally 2014-15 would be business as usual. BYU and Gonzaga battling for the title and everyone else playing catchup. But some major changes with these two contenders may open the door for the competition. And the WCC is not just a two-horse race in women’s basketball. There are some legitimate teams that could step in and challenge the Bulldogs and Cougars.

The biggest losses come on the player side. Gonzaga loses All-American Haiden Palmer to graduation, while BYU loses All-American and WCC Player of the Year Jennifer Hamson to volleyball. Despite still being enrolled at BYU and being a 2nd round WNBA draft pick of the Los Angeles Sparks, Hamson is currently focusing on volleyball and leading the Cougars to a WCC Championship over in that sport.

Nov. 16, 2012; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Kelly Graves looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the first half at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Palmer and Hamson were far and away the best two players in the conference, so each contender will have to adjust. Things are a lot tougher however for the Bulldogs as they will also be replacing their head coach. Kelly Graves built the Bulldogs into a powerhouse that rivaled their men’s team, but he has departed for the top position at Oregon. It will be very interesting to see if Gonzaga can continue to be so dominant after losing the 8-time WCC Coach of the Year.

Gonzaga will try to continue what Graves started after hiring from within and promoting Lisa Fortier to the head position. Fortier has spent almost a decade at Gonzaga including the past seven years as an assistant.

In fact the whole WCC could be shaken up as there are multiple new head coaches. Portland and Santa Clara also brought in new coaches tied to their programs. Portland also promoted an assistant after the retirement of their head coach, and Santa Clara brought in Southern Utah Head Coach JR Payne who is a former Saint Mary’s player and spent time on the Broncos staff.

So who else is in position to emerge after all the changes in the WCC after last season? Let’s take a look at the state of the WCC in women’s basketball heading into the 2014-15 season. Much could be the same, but the door is wide open.


So after all that talk of the WCC being wide open, the usual favorites are still the favorites. Like any good programs, they can handle changes and keep on rolling. Gonzaga is the favorite again picking up 7 of a possible 10 first place votes in the preseason poll. Palmer may be gone, but she will be replaced as team leader by Preseason All-WCC selection Sunny Greinacher. After finishing 21st in scoring and being an All-WCC selection last year, she should see her numbers rise and again be one of the best in the WCC.

March 11, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Sunny Greinacher (14) shoots against Brigham Young Cougars forward Morgan Bailey (41) and center Jennifer Hamson (5) during the first half in the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Greinacher is one of a large group of seniors that will look to keep things rolling in Spokane even without Palmer. Lindsay Sherbert finished 26th in scoring last season, and her numbers should rise as well. The real issue will be who will step up and replace the role players. The only Bulldogs among the WCC leaders in categories like assists, rebounds, and steals last season were either Palmer or fellow departed senior Jazmine Redmon.

Keani Albanez is another senior who could be a breakout star. She started every game last year but her numbers were lost behind the stars. Now she could see her numbers blow up, and she will be relied on for leading the backcourt and creating opportunities for Greinacher and others.

BYU cannot replace the impact of Hamson in the frontcourt, so they will build around forward Morgan Bailey and guard Lexi Eaton. Both Preseason All-WCC selections, they could form a deadly 1-2 punch that knocks off the rebuilding Bulldogs. Bailey finished in the top 30 in scoring and top 10 in rebounding last season in the WCC, and with Hamson gone her workload should increase dramatically. Bailey could go a long way to making up for the loss of Hamson.

Eaton meanwhile finished 6th in the WCC in scoring and has a dangerous stroke from long range. She was among the leaders in three pointers last season, and that ability will go a long way to replacing the departed Kim Beeston who was the best three point shooter in the WCC last year. Combined with fast rising stars like Kylie Maeda, this could be a very complete team who could knock off the Bulldogs and make another NCAA Tournament run.


Not the names you were expecting? That’s right, after the top two things get a little different in women’s basketball when compared to the men. San Diego has been a near-elite team for a while and nearly had a breakout season last year, while Pacific has been immediately competitive after moving up to the West Coast Conference.

San Diego is the best of the rest as they have been for a number of years. They just haven’t been able to do quite enough to knock off the elite teams ahead of them yet, but they will hope that this is finally the year. They are coming off one of their best seasons ever after starting 2013-14 at a perfect 15-0 and becoming nationally ranked for the first time in program history.

They cooled off in the second half and settled for another bid in the NIT Tournament, a tournament they have appeared in a lot in recent years. They also lost star Amy Kame to graduation but they are fully reloaded and will be very dangerous as always. They have a combination of some great freshmen and developing players as well as some former key players they lost and are now returning. This year they were picked to finish third and received a first place vote, so nobody will be surprised if they take the next step.

Malina Hood emerged as a star in the making with her scoring ability, and she enters the season a Preseason All-WCC selection. The Toreros also get back 2012-13 WCC Newcomer of the Year Maya Hood, the twin sister of Malina. They missed her presence when she missed the season last year, and she’s an ideal replacement for Kame. Also returning is Katelyn McDaniel, one of the best forwards in the WCC. She suffered a season ending injury at a critical time midway through last season, and she is another returner that will give San Diego a ton of talent and depth.

The Toreros also have another set of twins in Sophie and Sophia Ederaine. Sophie has turned into a quality role player, while Sophia is one of the best bigs in the WCC and could average a double-double this season. She finished 5th in rebounding and averaged just under 10 points per game last season. With so many quality players, the Toreros could easily overcome their losses and be dominant this year.

Pacific meanwhile burst onto the scene finishing third in the WCC. They were just 18-13 overall, but their 12-6 record in WCC play was an eye opener. They gave teams fits even in their losses, and they come back this year with a dangerous senior-heavy team. Like the Toreros, they made the NIT Tournament and are a team on the rise.

Kendall Kenyon will lead the Tigers as a Preseason All-WCC selection. She finished 8th in the WCC in scoring and third in rebounding last year. She loses running mate Kiki Moore who was the other Tiger among the WCC leaders, so they will rely on some others to step up. A lot of the weight will fall to Madison Parrish who averaged double-digit points while finishing 8th in the WCC in assists last year. Hallie Eackles and Erin Butler both finished among the leaders in three pointers, so they should form a lethal long-range combo once again. With a lot of returning talent, the Tigers are for real.


It’s hard to find a dark horse as there’s a pretty big drop off after the top four teams. Unlike the depth on the men’s side where as many as 6-8 teams are legitimate contenders, things get pretty weak after the top women’s squads. Last year Saint Mary’s went 11-7 in WCC play for a fifth place finish, and nobody else finished above .500 on the year. Plus, the Gaels will be without stars Jackie Nared and Danielle Mauldin. Nared led the WCC in scoring and Mauldin led the WCC in rebounds and finished 4th in scoring, so those are big losses.

The reason they are still a contender though is their talent and depth. Like the men’s side, Saint Mary’s is a team with an established reputation and they can reload. They lost three huge seniors with the above two and Kate Gaze graduating, but that’s still only three seniors lost which isn’t too bad. It’s hard to say who will step up as those three dominated the stats for the Gaels last year, but the polls clearly think they can be decent again.

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Role players like Hayley Hendricksen will have to step up as they will be given more minutes, and the talent is there. But it could be a slow start with all the adjustments. The trio of Nared, Mauldin, and Gaze absolutely dominated the WCC last year as individuals, but their record painted them as a very average team despite that. Maybe some more team play among emerging players will develop some chemistry and actually make the Gaels better this year than they were before.

It’s gonna be a good season with a good core of talented teams at the top. And it will fun to see if anything shuffling of the standings is in order with all the changes. Could be a very unpredictable season in the WCC for women’s basketball.