The Zags began their home schedule last weekend, going 2-1 at the Gonzaga Invitational.
They opened with a five-set win over Arizona State, Gonzaga’s first win of the year and first ever over the Sun Devils...they followed up with a strong three-set win over Nevada before losing to Portland State in three.
The win over ASU was Gonzaga’s second victory over a Pac-12 foe in as many years...last year, they downed Utah in five in Salt Lake City during opening weekend.
Redshirt junior Kaylie Loewen made her second consecutive All-Tournament team, racking up 32 kills on a .312 attack percentage, and eight blocks...she landed 12 kills against ASU while leading all players with 11 against Nevada.
HOME COOKING INDEED:
The Zags improved in nearly every facet of the game last weekend when compared to the season’s first three matches...the only category that didn’t see marked improvement was blocking, which stayed mostly the same (from 1.75 blocks to set to 1.73).
GU averaged 13.64 kills per set at home compared to 10.92 at the Bobcat Invitational...the attack percentage also climbed more than 100 points from .108 to .210...overall, the passing was improved as GU’s assists climbed from 10.25 a set to 13.36 per frame last weekend.
STARTING THEM YOUNG:
Gonzaga has seven freshmen on the roster, and five have seen the court so far this year...OH Chapin Gray has played in all 23 sets, while OH Sarah Penner has played in 18...both have started three matches as well.
DS/OH Gretchen Rudel also has started in three matches, serving as libero against Illinois and Air Force and starting in the rotation at Montana State...she’s played 18 total sets this year as well.
Between Gray, Penner, and OPP Abby Knapp, freshmen have landed 84 kills...that’s nearly 20 percent of Gonzaga’s tally.
The fifth freshman to play, S Mary Marzo, has posted nine assists and two digs in five sets.
WORKING FROM THE MIDDLE OUT:
Gonzaga’s leading two attackers come from the middle position as MB/OH Kaylie Loewen has 70 kills and MB Alyse Whitaker 50 in two weeks.
When combined with MB Payton Mack’s 18, the Zag middles have combined for 138 kills, nearly half of the team’s total (281; 49.1%)
SCOUTING THE FIELD:
The Zags and Idaho will renew a local rivalry over 1,200 miles away from either campus...the two Inland Northwest foes played each other at least once a year until 2010...the two teams have never met at a neutral site during Gonzaga’s Division I era (since 1986).
Idaho is 1-4 in 2017 and coming off that lone win, a five-set victory at Illinois-Chicago...they’ve lost to Oregon State, Kansas State, Pacific, and DePaul.
Kaela Straw leads the Vandals with 55 kills, and four more have reached the 30-kill total so far...Haylee Mathis is the team’s primary setter, having assisted 166 of Idaho’s 189 kills.
Defensively, Alycia Wodke tops the squad with 70 kills, 3.89 a set...Mathis is the only other Vandal above 2.0 digs per frame...at the net, Torrin Crawford has blocked 23 attacks.
Grand Canyon is 4-2 on the year after sweeping a tournament at Syracuse and going 1-2 during one at Arizona...most recently, the Antelopes beat Eastern Kentucky in five.
Claire Kovensky and Teagan DeFalco lead the GCU attack with 80 and 73 kills respectively...they’re the only two players averaging over 3.00 kills a frame...the Antelopes run a two-setter system with Heidi Carpenter tallying 147 assists and Kayla Redfield 105.
Emma Ahern has already made 101 digs this season, averaging 4.21 a frame...both Kovensky and DeFalco average 3.50 or more every set, too...Hannah Hicks is the squad’s top blocker with 25, although Maria Adams is just four away with 21, six of them solo.
Fordham is 6-1 on the year and has won their last two matches...the Rams are coming off a 1-1 home tournament in the Bronx, N.Y., and a 3-0 home win against Saint Peter’s.
The Rams’ offense is led by Olivia Fairchild, who’s landed 101 kills already (4.04 per set)...there’s one player with more than three kills a frame, and four more add at least one...Fordham also runs a two-setter offense with Maddy Walsh dishing out 131 assists and Sophia Plett 106.
Defensively, Morgan Williams leads the squad with 111 digs, well over four a frame...three others average more than two digs a set, and four more after that contribute one...at the net, Nicole Freeley tops the squad with 15 total blocks.