April 17, 2009

They’re the most – Awards Banquet, Part One

Junior center Jayne Appel has been named most outstanding player for the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 2008-09 season. Jayne was honored at the team’s annual awards banquet April 15 at the Stanford Faculty Club.

At the event, attended by more than 200 people, head coach Tara VanDerveer also announced that senior forward Jillian Harmon was named most outstanding defensive player and that sophomore guard Jeanette Pohlen was named most improved player.

On a lighter note, the team chose freshman forward Sarah Boothe as winner of the Lizard Lung Award. This award goes to the freshman deemed most gullible, said Jeanette, who was the presenter because she won it last year. Although Sarah is generally a quiet person, sometimes her teammates shake their heads in wonder, asking, “Did she really just say that?” Jeanette said. She also recalled the time that Sarah wore two entirely different shoes to practice. She returned to the locker room to change them after her teammates told her.

According to associate head coach Amy Tucker, the story behind the Lizard Lung Award is that a player who was being treated for a blister asked what the trainer was using. It’s “called Lizard Lung because it has a soft, jelly-like texture. When the player asked where it came from, the trainer said lungs of a lizard, and the player believed it. There you go,” Amy said in an e-mail the next day. “Other people were in the running” for the award this year, Tara said at the banquet.

Besides honoring Jayne, Jill and Jeanette, the banquet was an occasion to honor the entire team and its accomplishments, culminating in its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Final Four tournament in St. Louis in April. “The joy of coaching is not just winning,” Tara said. “It’s more about how we do things. I’ve never seen a team come any farther than this one did.

“Good things came out of our losses” to Tennessee, Duke, Baylor and Cal during the season. None of them made it to the Final Four. This team decided to “choose maturity in the face of adversity,” she said. Humor played a big part, too.

Tara related that just before the team began to practice for its first game in the NCAA Tournament, she asked, “How many teams are still practicing?” The answer was 64. After the team won that game and began its next practice, she again asked, “How many teams are still practicing?” The answer was 32. The ritual continued with the numbers dwindling -- 16, then eight. Finally, as the team prepared for its first practice against UConn in the Final Four, Tara asked the same question. “Five,” said junior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude. She explained that the fifth team was Tennessee, the defending national champion that was knocked out in the first round by underdog Ball State University of Indiana. After that loss, coach Pat Summitt ordered her team to continue practicing.

Stanford’s journey to the Final Four has been documented in a new video created by Bud Anderson, director of videography. Premiering at the dinner, it amusingly and movingly shows season highlights both on and off the court, starting with the first practice on Sept. 15. “It brings back a lot of tremendous memories,” Tara said. Photographs by Don Anderson also were shown before and during the dinner.

Following a social hour, office manager DeeDee Zawaydeh started the festivities with a list of pet peeves. One of them was that people sometimes call Stanford an elite team, meaning the term to be derogatory. “We hold to a higher standard.” That’s why Stanford is elite, she said, adding, “What’s not to love about this team?”

After dinner, Tara began ticking off some of the team’s accomplishments. “This was our best rebounding season ever,” topping last year’s record by 60 and tallying an average 13.3 more rebounds per game than its opponents. With a total of 716 assists, the team ranked second in Stanford annals. And this was the first time in school history that the team had back-to-back 30-win seasons.

Tomorrow: Meet the team

Note: The photos of Jayne, Jillian and Jeanette were taken by Mitch Takahashi. You can find photos of all the players in the next post.

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