April 3, 2009

Spirited sendoff to St. Louis

Several dozen fans as well as a dozen or so media types gathered in the plaza between Maples and Arrillaga Family Sports Center on April 2 to cheer the Stanford women’s basketball team before its departure for St. Louis – its second consecutive trip to the Final Four.

The band, cheerleaders and Dollies weren’t there because they had already left, but a recording of the band played in the background, along with a rap by sophomore guard Melanie Murphy and freshman forward Nneka Ogwumike.

Videographer Bud Anderson got the crowd warmed up while filming a commercial for the team. He said former player Heather Owen, now with the development office, had challenged him to make it in five minutes or less. He met that challenge, filming three scenes. The third one had him saying, “Go,” and the crowd responding, “Stanford” progressively louder. If Bud gets tired of videography, maybe he can take up cheerleading.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer spoke to the press. Facing several cameras and microphones, she praised assistant coach Kate Paye for her scouting report on Stanford’s semi-final opponent, unbeaten UConn. The Huskies have their big three – All Americans Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore – “so we’re going to be the big 12,” Tara said, referring to all of Stanford’s active players. “We’re going to have to play great defense, shoot well and rebound,” she said. “We have to play great transition defense.”

“This team has battled through injuries,” she said. She was referring to senior forward Morgan Clyburn’s loss for the entire season because of foot surgery, junior point guard JJ Hones’ loss in the Rutgers win when she went down with an ACL, and later sophomore guard Hannah Donaghe’s loss with an ACL in practice. Several others were limited at various times because of lesser injuries. JJ will miss the Final Four because she’s studying with a Stanford program in Spain this term, but Morgan will be there, as she has been throughout the tournament. Hannah missed the previous tournament games, and she wasn’t at the rally because of limited mobility following her knee surgery, but she’ll be with the team in St. Louis, said team spokesman Aaron Juarez.

As the players assembled outside Maples, Tara spoke to the fans. “Our team is excited to be going to St. Louis. We’re playing a great opponent, but we’ll be ready.” She congratulated the team on its achievements and thanked the fans for their support.

She said senior captain Jillian Harmon was supposed to speak, but she had to go back for her shoes, which were more important, so Morgan filled in. Like Tara, she thanked the fans for their backing. Jill did the same when she returned a few moments later – shoe box in hand.

“We’ll go take care of UConn,” Tara said. “Sometimes being undefeated is who you schedule.” Referring to her deliberate effort to play top teams like Duke, Baylor and Tennessee, all of whom defeated the Cardinal, Tara said, “We learned from our mistakes.” She concluded, “This is one of the best teams I’ve ever coached at Stanford. We want to come back national champions.”

The players then graciously mingled with the fans until they went back into Maples to get ready to board the bus waiting to take them to the airport.

More sign ideas:
Impound the Huskies
Harness the Huskies

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