The Gonzaga men kick off their 2013 campaign Friday in a showdown with one of the other two, and the preeminent, Division I programs in the state, the University of Washington. It is the first of seven non-league contests to start the season, a series that concludes September 28 at home against the other DI Washington program, Seattle University, after a set of five games on the road.
A number of Gonzaga players spent the summer playing in the Premier Development League, looking to gain experience that could pay off during the upcoming college campaign. One player showing some promise over the summer was 2013 season sophomore Conner Bevans, who came off the bench to lead FC Tucson with both goals in a 2-1 upset victory over professional third division side Phoenix FC of USL Pro in the US Open Cup First Round and helped them advance to a Third Round meeting with the Houston Dynamo by setting up the go-ahead goal in a 2-2 draw against the second division pro side San Antonio Scorpions in which they prevailed in penalties.
The Gonzaga men feature five players from the INWsoccernews coverage area. Zach and Nick Hamer along with Alec Cutter and Dustin Ferger are from the Spokane area and Graison Le hails from Coeur d'Alene. Saint Mary's is the only other program in the West Coast Conference with an INW player, sophomore defender Derek Zimmerman of Pasco, Washington.
The women's side of the WCC will have a slightly new look tonight as the University of the Pacific, a founding member of the conference in in 1952 (final year 1971), makes a return. The Tigers were 3-14-1 overall and 0-8-1 last year in the Big West, leading to them being unanimously selected to finish last in the conference's preseason poll.
Santa Clara was the overwhelming choice to finish first with nine of 10 votes for the top spot with Portland finishing second in a neck-and-neck race with BYU. Gonzaga was selected to finish ninth.
Carter continued to play a role offensively in the season opener, combining with Aliyah Miller to set up Mikayla Anderson for the lone goal in a 1-0 road victory over nearby Eastern Washington, whom they will play at home as well in a lengthy preseason slate.
Boise, Idaho native Nicole Schultz is a junior at Saint Mary's, but arguably the most high-profile player from the region is Santa Clara's Sofia Huerta. The junior forward, also from Boise, is a member of the Mexican National Team. Gonzaga's INW contingent consists of Christie Tombari (Spokane Valley, WA), Heather Johnson (Kennewick, WA), Katey Pennington (Boise) and the Spokane trio of Mikayla Anderson, Kasey Rubosky and Lexi Clark.