It was an afternoon of mixed emotions March 7 as the Cardinal women defeated Arizona State 77-68. The victory vaulted Stanford into sole possession of the Pac-10 regular season title and gave it the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament in LA this week. It also marked the 750th win in head coach Tara VanDerveer’s storied career.
All that was ample reason for celebration, but there was more than a trace of sadness as senior forwards Jillian Harmon and Morgan Clyburn made their final appearance at Maples. Morgan, who is sitting out the season to recuperate from foot surgery, played her role as a principal team booster, cheering from the bench. Jill fulfilled her role on the court, recording seven points, 10 rebounds, four assists and one steal in 36 minutes of gritty, tenacious playing time.
The post-game Senior Day ceremony also paid tribute to Jake Kelman, the KZSU sportscaster who has made home and away games come alive for radio listeners; and to unsung hero Matt McEvoy, a practice player for three years. Male practice players bring their strength, athleticism and speed to the court, helping the team to toughen its offensive and defensive skills. Jake fills in as a practice player on the road, associate head coach Amy Tucker said.
Before the game, Tara presented flowers to ASU’s seniors, who were warmly applauded. After the game, the Stanford players showed their class by going to the ASU bench to honor one of its stars, Dymond Simon, who was felled by a knee injury early in the game.
Senior Day continued at Dallmar Court as the team and fans honored Morgan, joined by her parents, brother and grandmother; and Jill, joined by her parents and brother.
It seems that both Morgan and Jill took to basketball at an early age.
Jill’s father, Randy, said that when Jill was about 6 months old, she happened to see a basketball and was fascinated. By age 4, she was shooting the ball, and in kindergarten she decided that she wanted to go to Stanford.
Morgan’s brother, Jeff, said that when she was in third grade, she broke her hand right before team tryouts. “She was not going to miss tryouts,” so her hand was wrapped in bubble wrap. Everyone could hear it popping as she played. Morgan also went to Jeff’s team practices and filled in whenever possible, setting up some sibling confrontations.
Both sets of parents thanked the fans and team for their support. Jill’s mother, Julie, said how much she has enjoyed watching Jill and Morgan become more confident and mature, acquiring traits that will help them throughout their lives.
Teammates JJ Hones, Jayne Appel and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude then told some stories about the two seniors. “Morgan and I have such a good time sitting on the bench,” said JJ, who is recuperating from knee surgery. Jayne told of the team’s trip to last year’s Final Four, when she had to go to a TV film session. Not realizing she was to be shown reading a book, she didn’t have one, but Morgan came through. “So there I was reading a biomechanical engineering book,” Jayne said, referring to Morgan’s major. “She was a leader in studying,” setting a good example for and inspiring her teammates. “We love Morgan,” Jayne said.
Both from Oregon, JJ and Jill often played against each other in high school. At their second meeting, Jill scored 37 points. On the other hand, JJ’s team beat Jill’s on Jill’s birthday. “I’m gloating,” JJ said, but the fans are singing “Happy Birthday” to Jill.
Ros is a senior classmate of Morgan and Jill, but she’s coming back next year after red-shirting her sophomore year. She called Morgan “one of the best shot blockers I’ve ever seen” and noted that Jill’s team nickname is “Jill the thrill.”
Morgan told the fans she hopes to return to Stanford next fall to work on her master’s in engineering. Otherwise, she is applying for jobs as a stopgap. In an interview to be posted later this week, she said she’d like to develop cardiac devices. Jill has already started graduate work at Stanford and hopes to play internationally. She was a leading scorer on New Zealand’s Olympic basketball team this summer. Both of them thanked the fans for their support.
After dismissing the team, Tara talked about the game. “I’m really proud of our team,” she said, adding “Jayne had a fabulous game.” The junior center had 29 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and two blocks. The coach also praised sophomore guard Jeanette Pohlen for her 19 points, five rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal. And sophomore forward Kayla Pedersen “is so steady out there,” chipping in 8 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Some other player notes: Sophomore Hannah Donaghe will know this week when she is to have surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered in practice last month. With surgery likely for later this spring, she’ll probably be able to travel with the team, Tara said.
JJ, who is expected to return to action next season, will spend next quarter in Madrid, Spain, with a Stanford overseas program, Amy said. This will be a good travel year for her since the team is going to Italy in September.