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.”