February 25, 2010

Stanford’s seniors – More than a touch of class (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

After watching the Stanford women’s basketball team defeat Oregon State 82-48 and celebrating Senior Night at Maples Pavilion on Feb. 20, fans continued their homage to the seniors at a packed Dallmar Court.

It was another chance to savor the five seniors’ last regular season game at Maples (two more games are surely in the offing for the first round of the NCAA tournament at Maples in March) and to hear more from the players, their families, their coaches and teammates.

In the spotlight were center Jayne Appel, forward Michelle Harrison and guards JJ Hones and Melanie Murphy, along with fifth-year senior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.

Joe Appel, Jayne’s father, talked about her process of choosing a college. “We traveled all around the country,” he said. At one time, both associate head coach Amy Tucker, who coordinates Cardinal recruiting, and another well-known head coach were in the stands as Jayne was playing. "Amy was watching Jayne, but the other coach was on the phone,” he said. That’s one reason why Jayne chose Stanford. Since then, “I’ve had the best fun watching you watching Jayne,” her mother, Pam, said to the fans. Two of Jayne’s three brothers also were at Senior Night.

Mel’s mother, Rochelle, thanked everyone who looked after Mel. “I really appreciated that you looked out for her when I couldn’t,” said the Brooklyn resident.

She also revealed the secret of motivating Mel. When Mel was in second grade, she didn’t want to work on multiplication tables until her teacher set up a multiplication competition in which the prize was a cookie. Mel won the cookie. “If you want Melanie to do anything, have her compete for a cookie,” Rochelle Murphy said.

Guard Jeanette Pohlen related a freshman-year experience with Mel, who was a sophomore. Because Mel had torn an ACL, she was driving a golf cart around campus and became a chauffeur for the freshmen, who can’t have cars. “We would go for an adventure every night,” Jeanette said, citing Cold Stone Creamery and Stanford Shopping Center as destinations.

One rainy night, Mel was trying to maneuver between the numerous posts along Stanford pathways as Jeanette held her bicycle on the side of the cart. With the tight fit between posts, the bike wound up very much the worse for wear, but “it was a great experience to start off my freshman year,” Jeanette said.

“I feel like I knew Ros before she was born,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said, noting that she and Ros’s mother, Pat Gold, were roommates for a while in college.

Pat Gold and Ros’s father, Austin Onwude, weren’t able to attend the game, but they were represented by Rich and Nancy Lobell, whom Ros considers her California parents. Ros credited her mother with introducing her to basketball when she was 4 years old. Over the years, she also made many personal sacrifices so that Ros could stay with basketball. It was she who brought Ros to the attention of Stanford coaches. “Basketball has been a blessing for me,” Ros said. As for her teammates, “They’re more than teammates. They’re my friends,” she said, adding that the coaches have been most helpful during her five years at Stanford.

During Michelle’s freshman year in high school, Stanford was the first school to send her a recruiting letter. Stanford wasn’t on the Utah resident’s radar screen at the time, but her mother, Judi Harrison, urged her to consider the possibility. “You guys make it worth it,” Michelle said to her teammates. “My family has been my strongest support,” she added. Michelle’s two older sisters also were at the event. One of them, Kara, was her AAU coach.

Like Mel and her classmates, JJ thanked the coaches for all they had done for her and the team. Her father, Dan, spoke of the “tremendous sense of pride” he felt to be sitting with the seniors and their families. “This sport has brought our family closer together,” he said. With him were JJ’s mother, Susan, JJ’s sister, Kelsey, who plays volleyball at the University of Oregon, and an aunt. The Hones family lives in Oregon.

Jayne credited her parents for helping her get through the recruiting process. She also credited her teammates for the hard work that has helped make the team so successful. She singled out sophomore center Sarah Boothe, who hasn’t played this season after undergoing foot surgery. Sarah has been practicing, however, and “has been working her tail off every day,” Jayne said.

Tara noted that Jayne had just joined exclusive 2,000/1,000 Stanford club after surpassing 2,000 career points in the game that night. Jayne had already snared more than 1,000 rebounds. With her in this club are Val Whiting, ’93, and Nicole Powell, ’04. “Jayne in her way makes everyone better. She is unstoppable. (And) as great a player as she is, she’s a better person,” Tara said.

She had similar praise for all of the honorees and thanked them for their dedication and hard work. It’s not easy to be both an athlete and a student, especially at Stanford, where academic standards are so high, she said.

Even though Ros and all four members of the class of 2010 were honored, Jayne and Ros are the only ones leaving the team for sure. The other three have another year of eligibility. No decisions about returning will be made until later this year, Tara said in a news conference after the Oregon State game.

In the meantime, Jayne, JJ, Mel and Michelle wanted to have this Senior Night together because they came to Stanford together. And together they and Ros have created many happy memories for themselves and everyone who follows Stanford women’s basketball.

February 23, 2010

Stanford’s seniors – More than a touch of class (Part 1)

Mixed emotions abounded Feb. 20 when the Stanford women’s basketball team celebrated Senior Night by defeating Oregon State 82-48, thereby clinching at least a share of the Pac-10 season title. With one more win, the Cardinal will stand alone in first place.

Nevertheless, Pac-10 standings took a back seat to the opportunity to honor the four members of the class of 2010 plus fifth-year senior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude. Stanford recognized Oregon State’s seniors just before the game when head coach Tara VanDerveer presented each of them with a bouquet. Stanford’s five honorees received their bouquets after the game.

In the 40 minutes of playing time that separated those two presentations, the Cardinal women put on another display of offensive and defensive prowess. Fittingly, senior center Jayne Appel scored the game’s first points with a basket just 15 seconds into the game. About 11 minutes later, with 8:48 remaining in the first half, Jayne scored her 2,000th career point, vaulting herself into Stanford’s exclusive 2,000-point/1,000-rebound club. Its only other members are Val Whiting, ’93, and Nicole Powell, ’04. Jayne finished the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and five blocks.

All of her classmates got on the scoreboard, too, with Ros scoring 8 points to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Guard Melanie Murphy added 3 points. Guard JJ Hones had 2 points and one assist, while forward Michelle Harrison posted 5 points and one steal. Near the end of the second half, all five seniors were on the court – much to the delight of their fans and teammates.

After the game, the crowd was treated to a moving video honoring the five seniors. Then they were honored in person, starting with Ros, who was escorted by Rich and Nancy Lobell, whom she considers her California parents. Her own parents, Austin Onwude and Pat Gold, were unable to make the trip from Queens, NY.

Next came her fellow New Yorker (Brooklyn), Mel, who was with her mother, Rochelle Murphy. JJ was with her parents, Susan and Dan Hones, along with her younger sister and aunt. Michelle’s mother, Judi Harrison, and two sisters accompanied her. Jayne’s entourage included her parents, Joe and Pam Appel, and two of her three brothers.

All five players thanked the fans for their support. “Thank you so much for being such encouraging fans,” Ros said. After playing in all of the conference venues, Jayne had no hesitation in saying, “We have the best crowd in the Pac-10.” Michelle talked about her feelings when she was being recruited for Stanford. “There was something bigger than me waiting for me here,” she said.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker enumerated some of that something bigger for the standing-room-only crowd that packed Dallmar Court for the Fast Break Club celebration after the game – four Pac-10 season championships, three Pac-10 tournament championships (and counting) two Elite Eights (and counting), and two Final Fours (and counting). The seniors’ win-loss record, starting with the 2006-07 season, is 122-15, or about 89 percent of their games – and still counting.

Fan Otis Watson later pointed out that this class also has one Final Two on its resume. “This has been a very, very special class for Stanford basketball,” Amy said.

(Continued in Part 2)

February 19, 2010

Tons of fun against Oregon

The award for understatement of the week goes to associate head coach Amy Tucker: “That was a fun game,” she told the Fast Break Club after the Stanford women’s basketball team had dismantled Oregon 104-60 on Feb. 18.

Yes, it was fun watching all five starters reach double figures. It was fun watching guard Jeanette Pohlen open the scoring barrage with a 3 and a 2 before going on to finish with a career-high 26 points, including six of the team’s 12 3-pointers. For good measure, she added three rebounds, seven assists, one block and two steals.

It was fun watching the highlights video on the FBC site the next day. It shows the hot shooting and crisp passing, evidence of a team that knows the true meaning of teamwork and unselfishness. In Stories of the Season on the FBC site, Marian Cortesi advises viewers to see what happens at the 0:53 point of the video. That’s where forward Kayla Pedersen makes the play of the game – inbounding the ball by deflecting it off a Duck’s back, then catching it and scoring.

Some more fun: Hearing Hookslide, a men’s quartet featuring team videographer Bud Anderson, sing the National Anthem to start the game. Seeing all the fans and players sporting some form of pink attire to promote breast cancer awareness. Center Jayne Appel’s dad showed up with a pink tutu over his trousers.

The list could go on. As head coach Tara VanDerveer pointed out, “It really started with Ros.” She was referring to guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, whose tenacious defense has consistently held opponents’ top scorers in check. Oregon’s Taylor Lilley was the latest to find that out, scoring only one 3-pointer and two free throws for a total of 5 points. “Ros is hands-down the best defensive player in the conference,” Amy said. “She’s a pit bull.”

“I liked our team’s energy,” Tara said. “I liked their focus ... I love how Jayne’s playing,” she said. Jayne, like Jeanette, scored 26 points to lead the team. Jayne’s 12 rebounds gave her another double-double to go with four assists and a steal. “It’s a really pretty stat sheet,” Amy said.

“The timing is really important for us,” Amy said. The team can clinch at least a tie for first place in the Pac-10 conference with a win against Oregon State on Feb. 20. The Pac-10 tournament is only three weeks away, and the NCAA tournament is only four weeks away.

The FBC’s guest speaker was Heather Owen, ’98, a former Stanford basketball player who has returned as director of annual giving and leadership gifts in the athletics department.

She gave an overview of some of the numbers involved in Stanford athletics, starting with the fact that the university’s fielding of 35 varsity sports teams is second only to Ohio State’s 36. The department serves about 850 student athletes with an approximately $80 million budget. Most of the budget goes to salaries and scholarships, followed by facilities, maintenance and travel.

Women’s basketball has its full allotment of 15 scholarships, but only 340 scholarships are offered campuswide, leaving some teams with fewer scholarships than players.

The revenue comes primarily from the endowment fund – “We’re still doing fairly well” despite the economic downturn, Heather said – along with ticket sales and annual giving. The department’s annual giving goal is $7.125 million, she said. All of it goes to the Buck/Cardinal Club and is doled out by the administration.

The five sports that bring in the most revenue are led by football, followed by men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and women’s volleyball.

In looking to increase endowments, her department is hoping to find people to back more scholarships and coaches’ positions. To endow an assistant coach, for example, would require a pledge of $1 million. Endowing a head coach would take a $3 million pledge, but any pledge could start at $250,000, she said.

She pointed out that women’s basketball “is fully budgeted and gets whatever it needs.” Its donors most recently gave about $800,000 earmarked for the team.

One fan asked Heather how she likes being back at Stanford. “I’m thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it,” she said.

Her comment also could have applied to what the Cardinal players were feeling that night. As Tara put it, “They had fun.” So did the fans.

February 8, 2010

Super team saluted on Super Bowl Sunday

Members of the 1989-90 team that won the first of Stanford’s two NCAA championships returned to Maples Pavilion on Feb. 7 to be honored and to watch the present team defeat USC 77-39. The ceremony took place right after the 1 p.m. game to allow fans to watch the Super Bowl.

“This was our Super Sunday,” head coach Tara VanDerveer told the crowd during the ceremony. “I’m proud of this year’s team,” she said, but the 1990 team showed the way with its “commitment to excellence. …It set the standards for the school.”

“This is a tremendous reunion for me. …We had a wonderful dinner last night” with both the past and present teams, she said. In the post-game press conference center Jayne Apple and forwards Nneka Ogwumike and Kayla Pedersen all said that they were inspired by and learned from that 32-1 team during the dinner.

Shooting guard Jennifer Azzi, named NCAA player of the year and winner of numerous other honors, spoke for the 1990 team. “You guys are awesome,” she said to today’s players, who were seated on the bench. It’s great “to see the legacy continue,” she said. She also paid tribute to Tara, calling her “one of the greatest coaches who has ever coached the game of basketball.” Several other players praised Tara and associate head coach Amy Tucker, who was one of their coaches.

Joining Jennifer at the reunion were Andy Geiger, the athletic director who hired Tara; trainer Patty Wilson; graduate assistant Leslie Crandell; assistant coach Renee Brown; Molly Goodenbour; Dr. Chris MacMurdo; Stacy Parson; Katy Steding; Trisha Stevens; and Angela Taylor. Val Whiting was planning to attend but couldn’t get out of Washington, D.C., because of the megasnowstorm that struck the East Coast. Also unable to attend were Sonja Henning, Martha Richards, Julie Zeilstra and assistant coach Julie Plank.

Angela, who is vice president and general manager of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, spoke of Stanford as a “truly magical place. We learned how to dream and dream big,” she said to Tara. And to today’s team she said, “Great things are ahead.”

Others also spoke fondly of their Stanford experience and advised today’s team to “enjoy every minute that you have.”

Besides honoring that championship team, the game featured a major milestone when Jayne surpassed the rebounding record of 1,143 set by Nicole Powell, ’04. Jayne’s 1,144th rebound came with 7:34 to go in the first half. She finished the game with 13 rebounds for a career total of 1,153 – and counting. Jayne also chipped in 15 points, two assists and one block.

Fans were pleased to see guard Hannah Donaghe get her first playing time since tearing her ACL in practice more than a year ago. They also applauded USC’s Jacki Gemelos, an academic senior and red shirt junior who was playing in only the second game of her collegiate career (the first was three days earlier at Cal) after a series of four torn ACLs and five surgeries that started when she was in high school. She and Jayne were AAU teammates before going to college. She led USC’s scoring with 13.

Stanford’s scoring was led by Kayla with 18, Nneka with 16, Jayne with 15 and guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude with 11. Kayla also led the rebounding with 14, while Jayne and Nneka had 13 each.

The defense limited USC to 10 points – its lowest ever -- in the first half, when Stanford had 29. With 3:15 to go in the first half, USC had the same number of fouls as points – 10. USC finished the game with 18 fouls to Stanford’s 12.

February 6, 2010

10 down, 8 to go in Pac-10 quest

The Stanford women’s basketball team moved a step closer to a perfect Pac-10 season by defeating UCLA 74-53 at home Feb. 4. The Cardinal are now 10-0 in the conference and 20-1 overall.

Even though various health issues had been reported in the days before the game, everyone was dressed except for forward Sarah Boothe, who has not played all season after foot surgery. Everyone wore red T-shirts to honor the game’s sponsors, Go Red for Women and the American Heart Association, and to highlight the threat of cardiovascular disease to women.

Fans had wondered about the status of center Jayne Appel, who had a foot infection. However, Jayne not only played, she recorded her highest point total of the season – 23. She also snared 13 rebounds, giving her a double-double to go with three blocks and two assists.

Jayne’s performance, which seemed to mark a return to her All-American form, was marred with just under eight minutes to go in the second half when she was ejected for what was called a flagrant foul on UCLA’s Jasmine Dixon. It wasn’t intentional, Jayne said at the post-game press conference. Both Dixon and UCLA head coach Nikki Caldwell reportedly concurred.

Immediately after the game, there was some question about whether Jayne would be allowed to play in the Feb. 7 game against USC. After reviewing the situation later in the evening, Pac-10 officials ruled that she could play.

The Maples crowd was not happy about seeing Jayne go to the locker room, but guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude rallied the team to continue playing well, head coach Tara VanDerveer said. Ros also contributed 14 points, two rebounds, and three assists in 39 minutes of playing time.

Other major contributions came from forward Nneka Ogwumike with 15 points and seven rebounds; forward Kayla Pedersen with seven points, 15 rebounds, two assists and a block; and guard Jeanette Pohlen with 10 points, two rebounds, a team-high eight assists and two steals.

The stat sheet reveals some other facets of the game: Stanford had 10 fouls compared with UCLA’s 26. Thus Stanford outscored UCLA 27-7 at the free-throw line – thereby accounting for a 20-point free-throw advantage in its 21-point victory. Stanford also had the advantage in rebounds, 46-38; assists, 16-9; blocks, 6-2; and 3-pointers, 3-2. UCLA had a 7-2 edge in steals, but had 16 turnovers to Stanford’s 15.

“That was an extremely physical game,” Tara said. “That’s what it is in the NCAA tournament. … This is a great win for us.”

The post –game speaker was Paul Ratcliffe, head coach of the Stanford women’s soccer team. Ratcliffe’s team amassed a 25-0 record going into the championship game of the NCAA tournament, but it fell 1-0 to North Carolina. “It was a tough game,” he said.

He said the women’s basketball team is helpful in his recruiting because potential players are fully aware of its success. “There’s such a tradition of excellence” at Stanford, he said. “Only the best want to come here.”

February 1, 2010

Forging ahead at 40

Stanford’s 83-62 victory over Arizona on Jan. 30 was big in several ways:

  1. It was another win, giving the women’s basketball team a perfect 9-0 record in the first half of Pac-10 play and 19-1 overall.

  2. It was the team’s 40th consecutive win in Maples.

  3. Even though the team was down 42-40 at the half, it stormed back to outscore Arizona 43-20 in the second half.

  4. The bigs came up big. Together they contributed 74 points with 27 each from Kayla Pedersen and Nneka Ogwumike, eight from Jayne Appel, 10 from Joslyn Tinkle and two from Ashley Cimino. With Mikaela Ruef in the mix, they also pulled down 37 of the team’s 52 rebounds (to Arizona’s 22). Kayla and Jayne led the rebounding with 13 and 12, respectively.

The bigs also had the edge in the team’s eight 3-pointers, with four for Kayla and two for Joslyn. Guards Jeanette Pohlen and Lindy La Rocque had one each.

There were some other factors of note. For example, rather than the usual home white uniforms, the team was wearing its road red uniforms to call attention to the earthquake disaster in Haiti. Jayne and Joslyn, who could be mistaken for sisters, went a step further with red ribbons in their hair, while Lindy sprayed red on one side of her hair.

Following the game, the team joined the Fast Break Club at Dallmar Court for Fan Appreciation Day. Guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude spoke for the team in thanking the fans for their loyalty. “I definitely take notice of the same people coming in at the same time” in their own pregame routines, she said. The team appreciates the fans’ noise, the stomping and everything they do in support of the Cardinal, she said.

WBB is unique among all Stanford sports because of its active boosters, said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations. The FBC has grown to 753 members, an increase of 173 from last season, she said. Their support extends beyond merely rooting for the team to raising money. The wine tasting raised more than $1,700 while the auction pulled in more than $30,000, she said.

Some of the players answered fans’ questions. Guard JJ Hones said the team came back from the halftime deficit because “We took our time and got stops.”

Center Sarah Boothe, who has not played after foot surgery at the end of last season, said, “I’m doing quite well.” She practices with the team, playing the role of the opponent Jayne is likely to face. Asked about Sarah’s purported reputation for physical play, Jayne shrugged, “I’m pretty used to it from Boothe,” she said.

“She’s full go,” associate head coach Amy Tucker said of Sarah. “We’re very excited about her for next year.” “We’re not pushing Sarah to come back,” Tara said later. “She’s very talented. She’s a fabulous player.”

Guard Melanie Murphy, who has missed several games because of varied injuries said, “I’m trying my best to stay healthy and get better.” Guard Hannah Donaghe hasn’t yet played this season following knee surgery, but she has been dressed for recent games. “My knee is feeling great,” she said. The problem this time is blisters, Amy said.

The team then honored the FBC executive board and committees, handing out T-shirts to committee chairs and autographed team posters to committee members. “We have a great board,” head coach Tara VanDerveer said, adding that Stanford leads the Pac-10 in both victories and attendance. “Every game is Fan Appreciation Day,” she said.

The annual Fan Spirit Award went to Douglas Lee and Kelly Noonan, who have been loyal boosters for many years. Their names will be added to a silver trophy honoring the late Margie Santillan, an avid fan.

Tara then dismissed the players, but their day wasn’t over. They were headed for lifting and conditioning in the weight room at the new Arrillaga practice facility next to Maples. They’re in there at least twice a week, but they don’t lift before a game. Those who don’t play many minutes do extra conditioning to stay in shape. “So much goes on behind the scenes,” Tara said. “Our team is totally committed” to getting better. “It’s really fun to see the improvement.”

“You saw some really good play today,” the coach said, citing defense and rebounding in the second half.

Because Stanford is so dominant in the Pac-10 and in national rankings (No. 2 to UConn), all of its opponents “bring it for us,” she said. Every team has talented players, and “it’s good for us to play against really good players.” Still, “we’re able to wear them down.” Nevertheless, “We have to be aggressive.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming home stand against the LA teams, Tara said, “Next weekend is huge.” She also noted that after the USC game on Sunday, Stanford’s 1990 NCAA championship team will be honored in Maples. Besides players from that team, other alumnae will attend.