February 25, 2009

Grace, Lindy, Kayla – Stanford’s sharpest shooters

Freshman guards Grace Mashore and Lindy La Rocque along with sophomore forward Kayla Pedersen topped their teammates at the annual Cardinal Nation Shoot-a-thon at Maples on Feb. 23.

Grace won the general competition with a total of 269 points out of a possible 300. Lindy was the top 3-point shooter, knocking in 15 within 30 seconds. Kayla was the first to make a half-court shot.

It was an informal event with fans standing along the sidelines during the fund-raiser. Fans pledged monetary amounts for each point scored by their chosen player or players. Proceeds will go toward the team’s trip to Italy in September.

During the general competition, the players paired off at baskets around the court and took turns taking 100 outside shots (worth 2 points each) and 100 layups (worth 1 point each).

Don, Bob and Peter tally the scores

Next they split into two groups, with each player given 30 seconds to shoot 3-pointers. Then the top two players from that round, Lindy and sophomore guard Melanie Murphy, shot for top honors. Lindy’s 15 bested Mel’s 13.

To complete the evening, the entire team took turns at shooting from the half-court. It took several rounds, but Kayla finally sank her shot, earning cheers all around.

Grace tries a half-court shot

One pleasing surprise was that senior forward Morgan Clyburn participated. Still recovering from extensive foot surgery last year, Morgan is out for the season. However, she had just been cleared to jump, allowing her to join the team for this event. Paired with freshman forward Sarah Boothe during the general competition, Morgan showed she hadn’t lost her shooting touch. She tied for third with 262 points and made 10 3-pointers.

Sophomore guards JJ Hones, recovering from ACL surgery, and Hannah Donaghe, awaiting knee surgery, stayed on the sidelines. The barefoot JJ had fun scooting around in an office chair, and then pushed the crutch-using Hannah to center court for team pictures. Junior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude was absent because she was tending to family business, said assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey. She’ll shoot for her points later.

Here are the point totals from the general competition:
Grace, 269
Sarah, 266
Morgan, senior Jillian Harmon, sophomore Ashley Cimino, 262 each
Kayla, 260
Lindy, junior Michelle Harrison, 259 each
Freshman Nneka Ogwumike, 250
Sophomore Jeanette Pohlen, 246
Junior Jayne Appel, 234
Mel, 217

Altogether, they amassed 3,046 points. The total amount raised will be tallied later.

Harriet won the "Guess who'll sink the half-court shot" contest

February 24, 2009

FBC’s most spirited fan

Don Anderson, whose Photo Journal graces the FBC Web site, has been honored as the winner of the Fast Break Club’s Fan Spirit Award for 2008-09. He received the award Feb. 21 after the Oregon game.

According to the biographical information that accompanies his emotion-capturing photos of games, he is a retired health care consultant. Besides shooting for the FBC, he photographs for Bootleg, creates photo documentaries of theatrical presentations at Gunn High School in Palo Alto and does photographic projects for Momentum for Mental Health, a South Bay nonprofit.

The entire team attended the tent to help honor the FBC executive board, committee members and locker sponsors for Fan Appreciation Day. There even was a belated birthday gift for Scout, the older of coach Tara VanDerveer’s two golden retrievers.

FBC membership totals 584, said Eileen Roche, director of women’s basketball operations, adding that the FBC Web site is the envy of teams across the country. Besides cheering the team at games, FBC raises money for its activities. Proceeds from the wine tasting last fall, the auction earlier this winter and the shoot-a-thon on Feb. 23 will go toward the team’s trip to Italy, which starts Sept. 14, said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

Amy also gave an update on the condition of sophomore guard Hannah Donaghe, who tore not only her left ACL, as previously announced, but also her MCL. She sustained the injury during a practice when she caught the ball and landed wrong when trying to maneuver with it. There was no contact with anyone else. “It’s just one of those strange things,” Amy said. Hannah will have surgery after the swelling subsides. In the meantime, she’s getting lots of advice from teammates who also have had ACL injuries. “Hannah has a great attitude,” Amy said. Whether she’ll be able to travel to tournaments with the team will depend on what her doctors say, Tara said later.

After the fan appreciation festivities, Tara allowed the team to leave, then said to the audience, “You had to be a great fan to stay (for the game) today.” Even though Stanford won 68-49, “today was a challenge,” she said. When the Ducks pulled ahead to 12-6 about 7 minutes into the game, Tara pulled the entire starting five and sent in the top five bench players. Led by freshmen Nneka Ogwumike and Sarah Boothe, those players went on a 25-2 run, greatly pleasing the coach. She gradually returned the first five to the game and started the second half with them. “We started better in the second half,” she said.

“We didn’t have that kind of depth last year,” she said. Still, “we need all 12 healthy players. We don’t have a big margin for error,” she said, noting how young the team is with only one active senior – Jillian Harmon – on the roster. Still, “I have great confidence in our team,” she said. “They’re a great bunch of young women.”

Asked about the team’s struggles with 3-pointers, she said such shots are “almost like the cream. We’re a skim milk team.” The shot “will be there when we need it.”

Although the coach praised several players, she singled out junior center Jayne Appel, who had an uncharacteristically low 4 points. “I think Jayne is an All-American,” she said. Jayne has the stats to back that contention. Tara also praised freshman guard Lindy La Rocque, who will probably be remembered throughout her career for the dive she made to retrieve the ball and, still on her stomach, pass it to Jill for an easy layup in the Cal game Feb. 14. “Her ticket is being scrappy,” Tara said. “We call her Little General. She’s gaining confidence, and she’s a terrific team player.”

Fans have appreciated that everyone on the team is a team player. Sophomore forward Kayla Pedersen summed up that attitude in response to a question about her favorite part of the game of basketball. Her answer: “Playing with my teammates and spending every day with them.”

February 21, 2009

Fast Break Feud

In his first year as videographer for the women’s basketball team, Bud Anderson has become known for clever, creative videos. FBC saw another side of him Feb. 19 when he played game show host after the team’s 72-43 win over Oregon State.

After associate head coach Amy Tucker divided the room into cardinal and white halves, Bud explained the rules to the first two contestants.

One rule was that each contestant had to kiss Bud's cheek. The contestants responded with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

The contestants answered trivia questions about the Cardinal. The questions ranged from the easy – what’s the name of the group that dances at games (the Dollies) – to the more difficult – what two players are tied for most points in a game and how many points (Candice Wiggins and Kate Starbird, 44 points).

“Our team plays ‘Family Feud.’ too,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said. It gets very competitive before each game. Amy expanded on that in an e-mail: “The questions are based on the information in the scouting report, statistics and video from our opponent,” she wrote.

Besides showing his emcee skills, Bud talked about his work and praised his associate, intern Sarah Boruta, who films all practices and coordinates game films. “She works 60-70 hours a week,” he said.

Although Bud sometimes hires other people to help with filming, he challenged FBC members to count how many cameras were used in a video with five angles of Tara playing her grand piano at home while her two golden retrievers lounged on the hardwood floor next to her. The correct answer was one, thanks to his ingenuity and his editing program, Final Cut Pro, which he demonstrated.

Bud has musical talents, too. He’s a member of Hookslide, a men’s quartet that sings professionally and that has sung at Stanford events. (One of his videos on the Stanford You Tube site shows forward Michelle Harrison singing the National Anthem with the group at a men’s basketball game.)

He composes the music for the women’s videos and sings all six parts himself, mixing them at home in the morning. As for his ideas, “A lot of it comes off what the girls do,” he said. For example, guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude volunteered that she can say the “Peter Piper” tongue-twister at supersonic speeds, contributing to one of the popular “Totally Useless Talents” videos shown at games. He previewed two more, one showing guard Jeanette Pohlen juggling three balls and the other showing guard JJ Hones pretending to spray her hair.

Switching to somewhat more serious, but still fun, topic, Tara assessed the Cardinal’s 26th consecutive home victory: “This was a really important game for us,” she said, adding that Oregon State is “a very physical team,” but “we ran really well.”

“How about Jayne (Appel, center) running the floor, and Nneka (Ogwumike, forward)? Our kids love to play that way,” she said. She also credited Jeanette, who has taken over at the point after JJ suffered an ACL injury early in the season, for pushing the ball well. She added, “JJ’s doing very well.” She can start riding the exercise bike, and she made some good observations to the team during halftime.

Even though the team was coming off an impressive win over rival Cal last week, “We never try to get too high or too low,” the coach said. Instead, the team focused on its next game in this week’s practices. The one big downside was that sophomore guard Hannah Donaghe tore her left ACL in the Jan. 18 practice. She used crutches at the game or sat on the bench with her leg elevated, still cheering the team. She’ll have surgery in four to six weeks, Tara said.

Also on the health front, Tara was pleased that Jeanette could play so well despite sustaining a Mercedes logo-shaped cut on her forehead that required nine stitches near the end of the Cal game. Wearing a wide sweat band over her forehead, she started the Oregon State game and played a team-high 26 minutes. Tara also said that Nneka hopes to stop wearing her mask next week. It protects her broken nose, an injury sustained in practice.

As the Cardinal pulled ahead of Oregon State, Tara rested the starters and called on all of the bench players. They responded by increasing the lead, a good sign for the team. They have a good feel for where they’re supposed to be and where everyone else is, Tara said. Solid bench play means that the starters can play even harder knowing there are capable subs, she said.

February 17, 2009

Cardinal rain on Cal’s parade

The rains held off as hundred of fans lined up outside Maples Pavilion a half-hour before the gates opened on Valentine’s night. They continued to hold off as Fast Break Club members left the post-game tent in Kissick. But inside Maples, the Stanford women’s basketball team rained – and rained hard – on Cal’s parade to the Pac-10 season title.

The Cardinal used a second-half surge, along with gritty defense and some sparkplug plays, to knock off Cal 58-41 to share first place with six games to go before the Pac-10 tournament. “It was a great win for our team,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “Cal is an excellent team, much better than last year,” but “our conditioning paid off for us” in the second half when the Bears seemed to run out of gas while the Cardinal were rejuvenated.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker was the first to head over from the locker room. One of the first questions she fielded concerned the status of sophomore guard Jeanette Pohlen, who collided head-on with Cal’s Natasha Vital late in the second half. Jeanette suffered a cut on her forehead and had to be helped off the court. “She’s getting stitches right now,” Amy said, adding that Jeanette’s mother was with her.

The team’s emotional leaders, junior center Jayne Appel and senior forward Jillian Harmon, pitched in 22 and 18 points, respectively. “Jill’s a rock,” Amy said. “We count on her for her gritty, hard play.” Tara added, “Jayne really stepped it up.”

But what had the fans buzzing was the spark provided by freshman guard Lindy La Rocque, who “gave us a tremendous lift,” Amy said. “I’ve never seen a dive quite like that,” she said, referring to Lindy’s diving under a Cal player to go after a loose ball and then – still on her stomach – pitching it to Jillian, who went in for the layup. “It really turned the game around,” Tara said, noting that Lindy also made an important 3-pointer during her 18 minutes of play. To top it off, she led the team in steals with three.

Besides Lindy’s dive, fans were abuzz about junior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude’s defense against Alexis Gray-Lawson, limiting her to just 4 points. That’s the same Alexis Gray-Lawson who rattled off 37 points when the Bears beat Stanford 57-54 at Cal last month. “Ros really D’d it up on her,” Tara said. “I guess she doesn’t own us anymore.” Ros “was really fired up,” Amy said.

Another factor in the Cardinal victory was that assistant coach Kate Paye “scouted their plays really well,” Tara said. Consequently, Stanford was well prepared, she said, crediting the bench players for their invaluable role in the week’s practices. “This was a great win for our program,” she concluded.

February 3, 2009

Out of the spotlight, but still smiling

Junior center Jayne Appel has become a fixture at post-game press conferences, joining a teammate alongside head coach Tara VanDerveer. She’s almost always there because she’s the Stanford women’s basketball team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

That wasn’t the case Feb. 1, when UCLA’s hounding held her to 6 points, well below her average of 14.9 per game. Therefore, while forwards Jillian Harmon (17 points) and Kayla Pedersen (13 points) joined Tara in the media spotlight, associate head coach Amy Tucker brought Jayne to the FBC tent. “She was available today,” Amy said.

On the court, Jayne is as tough as they come, battling under the boards and intimidating opponents with her 6’4” height and her quickness. Off the court, she seems modest, almost shy, with a sweet smile. She saw limited playing time in the first half because she was tagged with two quick fouls. “You keep playing through them” and try to avoid them, she told an FBC fan.

Just like the teams, the referees have a half-time meeting with a referee coordinator to assess how they’re doing, Amy said. Sometimes they make adjustments as a result.

“It’s mentally more difficult” to be an upperclassman, Jayne said, because “there are more eyes on you.” She also knows she has a responsibility to help younger teammates improve their game. For example, when freshman guard Lindy La Rocque wasn’t exactly where she should have been during one play, Jayne spoke to her about it on the court. (During her freshman year, 2006-07, Jayne was tutored by Brooke Smith and Kristin Newlin, the team’s senior post duo.)

Although recent games have been physical, “these games aren’t as physical as the games in the pre-season” and in the NCAA tournament, she said, citing the team’s hard-fought victory over Pittsburgh last year.

Something else that was different about Jayne’s game against UCLA is that she was wearing a black sleeve on one knee. “It’s just a little sleeve to keep it warm,” she said.

Something that wasn’t different was her unselfish play. She and guard Jeanette Pohlen led the team in assists with six each. Jayne also hauled in five rebounds and recorded one block and one steal. “Jayne’s having an absolutely fabulous season for us,” Amy said.

After such a physical game, Tara said she was glad the team would have Monday off. She also was pleased that the team took such good care of the ball (only 13 turnovers to UCLA’s 19) and rebounded well (46 to UCLA’s 34). She credited good conditioning for the team’s fast pace. “Our pace is our offense and our defense,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine that Stanford could win when both Jayne and Jeanette (10 total points, but 0-7 on three-pointers) had off days, but other players stepped up, she said, citing Kayla and freshman forwards Nneka Ogwumike and Sarah Boothe. “Lindy had a big 3 for us,” she said. Nevertheless, “I hope some people shoot free throws tomorrow,” she said, after the team made only 10 of 22. The team’s goal is to make at least 75 percent of its free throws.

The nationally televised game was not “our best game of the season,” but NCAA officials responsible for tournament seeding “saw us win,” Tara said. “We missed open shots, but we did a lot of good things.”

Point guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude’s “shooting percentage is not what it needs to be, but her defense really helps us,” the coach said. “We need everyone to feel a sense of urgency like Jill. She’s being a great leader of our team. She’s all Pac-10 right now.” She added, “I’m enjoying how Jill’s playing her senior year. What a great kid she is. I expect her to keep doing what she’s doing.”

For the team overall, “I see big improvements since we played Cal” and lost, Tara said. Nevertheless, “we don’t have a big margin for error. There are no gimmes.”