Several dozen Cardinal fans who couldn’t make the trip east and who wanted to share watching the UConn game with others had a new place to do so. They had the upstairs room at the Old Pro in downtown Palo Alto to themselves on Nov. 21 as they alternately cheered and groaned as the Stanford women’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, 58-68, to one of its most respected rivals.
Fans began to gather at 4 p.m. and helped themselves to water from a large cooler while a waitress took orders for food or beverages. Most of the fans sat on comfortable chairs at long wooden tables where they could watch the game on five large screens around the room. More fans watched the game in the main room downstairs while other people focused on screens showing Monday Night Football.
The first big cheer went up about 4:30 p.m. when the broadcast showed the team and senior forward Nneka Ogwumike. At the tipoff, Stanford went with a familiar starting lineup featuring Nneka, sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike, freshman forward Taylor Greenfield, senior guard Lindy La Rocque and sophomore guard Toni Kokenis.
Freshman guard Alex Green didn’t make the trip because she had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during practice last week. Junior forward Mikaela Ruef was sidelined with what was reported to be a quadriceps injury.
All of the coaches wore orange lapel ribbons, and players on both teams wore something orange, such as hair ribbons for several Stanford women. They were honoring Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna, who were killed in a plane crash in Arkansas Nov. 17. Scenes from the Stillwater, Okla., memorial for the two were shown during halftime.
The game started slowly, with neither team scoring until Chiney broke the drought with a free throw at 16:42. The score stayed fairly close throughout the first half, which ended 26-32 in UConn’s favor. Nneka had spent much of the half on the bench with two fouls, but she returned for the second half and helped to put the Cardinal in front for a bit. However, turnovers, fouls, limited rebounds and difficulty with UConn’s press proved to be Stanford’s undoing.
The Old Pro is the third venue in as many years that has hosted WBB fans for viewing parties. First and Main in Los Altos was the first and perhaps the most comfortable, although seating was somewhat limited and the screens were smaller. Its menu was the most varied with entrees available. Parking was free but crowded in a city lot behind the building.
Next came Mike’s in Menlo Park. Its somewhat sterile atmosphere didn’t lead to as much conviviality as the other two places. Its screens were small and its food, which included entrees, OK. The parking lot was cramped.
The Old Pro features a moderately priced menu of mostly appetizers, salads, burgers and other sandwiches, and pizza. Fans in the upstairs room received a 10 percent discount on their bills. Portions were generous, and most fans seemed satisfied with their orders. Free underground parking is just a few steps away.
The main drawback, which is true of most such venues, is that it was hard to hear the commentary. That’s why I was glad to go home and watch the recorded game in the quiet comfort of my family room.
Back to the game – it’s never fun to watch the team lose, but there were more than a few glimmers of hope for this young team. Best of all, these are smart players who will learn valuable lessons from playing an elite team this early in the season.