Fans of Stanford women’s basketball enjoyed a slightly belated Christmas present as the team overpowered UC Davis 84-49 on Dec. 28. It was the last game before the team was to open Pac-10 conference play, starting 2009 on the road at the two Arizona schools.
Before talking about the game and the grueling pre-Christmas road trip that preceded it, fans at the FBC’s tent had a chance to get reacquainted with sophomore guard Jeanette Pohlen. They were expecting freshman guard Lindy La Rocque, but associate head coach Amy Tucker was thinking that all of the freshmen had been introduced. One assumes Lindy will be the next guest.
In the meantime, “We are absolutely ecstatic about Jeanette’s improvement over the summer,” Amy said. Jeanette spent the summer training with her high school track coach, who worked with her on running and sprinting in what he calls his “speed burners” program. “It helped me so much,” Jeanette said. “I know now that I can play a full game without exhaustion.”
Her brothers and parents helped her work on shooting by rebounding for her. One brother works for the city, so she had access to a gym. And her mother walks 5 miles a day, so “that was an inspiration for me,” she said.
After starting point guard JJ Hones went down with a torn ACL in the Rutgers game, Jeanette was asked to help out at the point. That experience gave her a good perspective on the overall game, she said.
Amy noted that JJ was to have surgery on her knee the next morning. “Her spirits are excellent,” she said. She was with her teammates during the Davis game.
Although the players had an abbreviated holiday break after the 1-2 record on the Southeastern road trip, “we didn’t want to dwell on it” Jeanette said. Instead, they wanted to enjoy being home with their families. For Jeanette, that meant that even her pet turtle, Rocky, who’s hibernating, somehow had a chance to go shopping and buy her some gifts.
Reflecting on the Davis game, both Amy and head coach Tara VanDerveer agreed that point guards Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Melanie Murphy showed improvement but that their decision-making “is not exactly where it should be,” as Amy put it.
Tara said she was pleased that there were fewer turnovers, and she praised forward Michelle Harrison, who “came in and made some nice shots,” scoring three of the team’s nine three-pointers. Jeanette, Lindy and guard Hannah Donaghe each contributed two. In an apparent passing of the baton, freshman guard Grace Mashore rather than senior forward Morgan Clyburn did the honors in high-fiving the entire bench after each three-pointer.
One fan asked who this year’s team leader is. Jeanette and forward Kayla Pedersen lead by example, Tara said. Center Jayne Appel talks a lot to her teammates. Freshman forwards Nneka Ogwumike and Sarah Boothe have leadership potential, but they’re still learning. Forward Ashley Cimino has a good attitude. All the players “are leaders in their own way in how they handle themselves,” the coach said.
With a team like Davis, which had only eight healthy players (Hannah’s sister, Haylee, was one of the sidelined Aggies), Stanford players can make mistakes without affecting the final outcome, but that wasn’t the case on the road trip, Tara said. Teams back East are much more physical. “It hurt that Jill got hurt,” she said, referring to forward Jillian Harmon, who sprained her ankle in the Duke game. Jill, who makes things happen with her scrappy play and hustle, has since returned to action.
“We’ve seen as tough as it can be,” Tara said. Therefore, “we can get a lot of mileage out of those games and that road trip.” The experience was valuable. She was pleased that even though the players were disappointed, they didn’t let the losses get them down, and they didn’t play the blame game. Instead, each one looked inside to see how she could get better.
“We have a lot of improvement to make,” Tara said, but expressed optimism that the team would continue to make progress. “It’s gonna be fun.”