December 20, 2009
Home sweet victory
Even though only seven actually got into the mix, “Every player on our team was part of this success,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said Dec. 19 after the Stanford women’s basketball team downed rival Tennessee 67-52. The Lady Vols arrived with a 9-0 record and a No. 3 national ranking, while Stanford was 8-0 and No. 2, so one undefeated team had to fall – and it wasn’t the Cardinal.
“We have a great team,” Tara told the Fast Break Club. She talked about how hard everyone works in practice, thus making everyone better. “They are mature. We create (opportunities) for each other. This team is a very unselfish team,” she said. “They’re really happy for each other when they do well.” That unselfish nature showed up on the stat sheet, which credited Stanford with 14 assists while Tennessee had only four.
“It was pretty hard to nitpick today,” Tara said, citing the team’s rebounding advantage of 44-34 over Tennessee. That was an improvement from the Duke game earlier in the week, when Duke became the only team to outrebound Stanford so far this season.
Associate head coach Amy Tucker said that after that game, Tara installed a new drill. “Tara is known for making up drills,” she said. It involved Tara and Amy shooting the ball for a player, who then had to go up for the rebound while battling assistant coaches Kate Paye and Bobbie Kelsey, both wielding heavy pads. Once the player had made the rebound, she had to go up against the pads again to try for a layup. “It was brutal,” Amy said.
Amy brought guard Jeanette Pohlen with her and opened the floor for questions. The first one asked if the gathering of both teams in a circle after the game was planned. “It was a spur of the moment thing,” Jeanette said, adding that one of the Tennessee players said a short prayer. After that, the Stanford players walked around the court to wave at the cheering crowd.
As for the game itself, “they played what we expected them to play,” Jeanette said. Amy credited Kate for her scouting job. The Stanford players understood their opponents’ favorite moves and tried to take them away. “We knew their plays” so well that the bench players were calling them out as they unfolded, Amy said.
Several fans lauded the Cardinal defense, which led to a 30-18 score in Stanford’s favor at the half. Another fan asked Jeanette what differences she saw between this year’s Tennessee team and last year’s, which defeated Stanford in Knoxville. “I saw a different team in us,” she said.
Amy then recognized Jeanette’s parents, John and Cindy Pohlen. They not only attend every game, they accompanied Jeanette and forward Kayla Pedersen to Serbia, where their USA team won a gold medal during the summer. The Pohlens also were among the parents who went on the Stanford team’s trip to Italy in September.
The Tennessee game drew the largest attendance so far this season – 6,809 – close to a full house. “The crowd and the excitement were just great,” Tara said. “Today was our day. We are very excited about our team.”
The Cardinal women will face UConn on its home court, where the crowd will be heavily pro-Husky. “We’ll be challenged (to show our poise) on the road,” Tara said.
With undefeated No.1 UConn, the reigning NCAA champion, looming only four days away, “I got work to do this afternoon,” Tara said, referring to preparing for that much-awaited clash.
Looking ahead even more, Jenny Claypool, Stanford director of championships, led off the tent by talking about the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament March 20 and 22 at Stanford. Thus Stanford will play at home, but season ticket holders can’t be sure that they’ll have their usual seats because 100 tickets have to be reserved for each of the three other teams. Tickets for those who have already bought them will be mailed after Feb. 1, she said.
Where Stanford would go for the regional, assuming it wins the first two games, won’t be known until after the brackets are announced in mid-March. Stanford fans are hoping to go to the closest regional venue, Arco Arena in Sacramento.