December 23, 2013

Holiday cheer prevails as team beats Tennessee

There were plenty of presents under the Tree for the Stanford women’s basketball team and its fans when the Tennessee Lady Vols came to Maples Pavilion on Dec. 21.

First – Stanford, ranked No. 6 at the time, upset No. 3 Tennessee 76-70.

Second – Senior forward Chiney Ogwumike had a dominating game, playing all 40 minutes, scoring 32 points and snaring 20 rebounds to go with one assist, three blocks and one steal. When she scored her 14th point with about 6:38 to go in the first half, she surpassed Jeanne Ruark Hoff, ’83, to rank seventh on Stanford’s all-time scoring list. Two days later, on Dec. 23, Chiney was unanimously named espnW's National Player of the Week.

Third – All 15 players were in uniform for the first time this season. Because the Lady Vols remained within striking distance throughout the game, however, only nine players had any playing time.

Fourth – Wearing “Fear the Tree” sweatshirts, Stanford football players were in the northeast bleachers to cheer their fellow nerds and to show their moves for the Dance Cam. The men paraded onto the court during halftime with their Pac-12 Conference championship trophy and the Axe trophy, which goes to the winner of the annual Big Game against Cal.

Fifth – A reported 6,044 fans were on hand despite competition from shopping and other holiday activities. Only a smattering of them wore Tennessee orange.

The list could go on from there, but suffice it to say that this was indeed a gift-wrapped victory.

Fans get rally towels with slogan

Upon entering Maples, many fans received red rally towels with “WHOSE HOUSE? C-HOUSE” in prominent white letters.

This slogan comes from a football team tradition. As senior free safety Ed Reynolds explained at halftime, the team chants this question and response at every game, starting softly and building to a roar. He then led his teammates and fans in the chant.

C-House also is the name given to a Stanford football video series that began just before the 2013 season. C-House stands for Cardinal-House.

The gridders’ halftime appearance included comments from senior running back Tyler Gaffney, the team’s MVP. He noted that some 30,000 Stanford fans are going to Pasadena on New Year’s Day for the team’s second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. It’s also the 100th anniversary of the game.

Head coach David Shaw thanked Tyler for deciding to return to Stanford after a year away to play professional baseball.

Starters carry the scoring load

When the game began, head coach Tara VanDerveer used a familiar starting lineup of Chiney, redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef, senior guard Sara James, freshman guard Lili Thompson and junior point guard Amber Orrange. They accounted for 65 of the team’s 76 points.

The only bench player to score was junior forward Taylor Greenfield, who played 30 minutes. She had 11 points, 9 of them from three 3-pointers. The third of those 3’s came just 3 seconds before the halftime buzzer to put the Cardinal up 37-29.

Also seeing action were redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green and freshman forwards Erica McCall and Kailee Johnson. Kailee was wearing a face mask after suffering a nose injury in the New Mexico game on Dec. 16.

Stanford’s total of seven 3’s included three from Lili, who had a career high 14 points in her 35 minutes. Amber, who had 9 points in 34 minutes, made the other 3.

Stanford never trails after opening minutes

After Tennessee had scored the game’s first 4 points, the Cardinal went to work, pulled ahead and never trailed.

Even though Tennessee had 18 fouls to Stanford’s 16, the Lady Vols were more successful at the free-throw line, making 18 of 25, or 72 percent. Stanford cashed in on only 13 of 21 free throws for 61.9 percent.

On the other hand, Stanford out-rebounded Tennessee 43-40 and had five blocks to the opponent’s two.

Stanford maintained an edge of around 8 or 9 points for most of the game, but the Lady Vols made the score uncomfortably close, 70-68, with just over a minute left.

That’s when Amber made one of her signature drives to the basket, scored and was fouled. Her successful free throw, followed by two from Mikaela and one from Chiney put the game on ice for the Cardinal.

Now the team has a short break before returning right after Christmas to prepare for its game at Fresno State on Dec. 28. That will be its last non-conference game before Pac-12 competition starts Jan. 3 with a visit from Oregon.

December 18, 2013

Chiney joins exclusive group of Stanford greats

Barely a minute and a half had elapsed when Chiney Ogwumike scored her fifth point of the New Mexico game on a free throw. Thus the senior forward became only the fifth Stanford women’s basketball player in history to score at least 2,000 points and make at least 1,000 rebounds in her career.

By the time the Dec. 16 home game was over, she had scored a total of 32 points and led the Cardinal to a 75-41 victory. Playing only 23 minutes, she also had seven rebounds and four blocks.

Besides Chiney, the 2,000/1,000 club includes Chiney’s sister Nneka, ’12; Jayne Appel, ’10; Nicole Powell,’04; and Val Whiting, ’93.

During her time in the game, Chiney scored almost at will as her teammates repeatedly passed the ball to her near the basket. The Lobos couldn’t stop her.

No other double figures

No one else managed to score in double figures. The closest were junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Bonnie Samuelson, who had 8 points each off the bench

Two consecutive 3’s in the second half boosted Taylor’s total. Playing in only her second game this season after recovering from an injury, Taylor looked more confident than she had in some games in the latter part of the 2012-13 season.

Bonnie’s point total included one 3. Also scoring once each from behind the arc were redshirt sophomore guards Alex Green and Jasmine Camp. Alex finished with 6 points, while Jasmine had 3.

Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef had a team-high 10 rebounds plus 2 points.

Blocking, stealing help with defense

One statistic of note is that the team blocked 12 shots. Chiney led the way with four, followed by Mikaela with three and freshman forward Erica McCall with two. Junior guard Amber Orrange, freshman guard Lili Thompson and freshman forward Kailee Johnson had one each.

The team also had six steals, with one each by Mikaela, Lili, Amber, Alex, Kailee and junior forward Erica Payne, also playing in only her second game this season.

For the game, the team shot 50.8 percent with 29.4 percent on 3’s and 75 percent on free throws. Offensive rebounding proved to be somewhat problematic with Stanford snaring 12 and New Mexico 20.

The three of the five starters – Chiney, Mikaela and Amber – combined for 40 points, and the bench contributed 35. Starters Lili and senior guard Sara James had no points.

From the start, the game was never in doubt thanks to Chiney, a stout defense and an injury-depleted opponent. The halftime score was 40-21.

With victory assured about halfway through the second half, head coach Tara VanDerveer had the luxury of leaving Chiney on the bench. Thus the coach gave the team’s best player a chance to rest and avoid injury while other post players got more playing time.

These factors are important because the Cardinal, ranked No. 6 in the latest AP poll, will face a far more formidable opponent, No. 3 Tennessee, at home at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 21.

December 16, 2013

Tribute to Tara: 902 and counting

After a long road trip followed by 16 days off for finals, the Stanford women’s basketball team returned home to Maples Pavilion and defeated Gonzaga 73-45 on Dec. 14.

In the process, the team handed head coach Tara VanDerveer her 902nd career victory.

Because win No. 900 came against Florida Gulf Coast while the team was in Mexico for a tournament, the major celebration was saved for home court. It started when fans entered Maples and received signs and eyeglasses commemorating 900 wins.

At the request of their head coach, Kelly Graves, the Zags remained in their seats after the game while the video board flashed highlights of Tara’s career. In the meantime, the Stanford players donned red T-shirts emblazoned with “900.”

Tara gets her own jersey

As the Stanford players and staff looked on, Stanford president John Hennessy and athletic director Bernard Muir unveiled a framed white Stanford jersey with Tara’s last name and the number 900.

Taking the microphone, Tara introduced her mother, Rita, who had surprised her with a visit the night before. Tara then thanked the president and athletic director for their support and added, “I just want to keep it going.”

She said that the framed jersey would hang in her office, and she joked that it was the only way she would get a Stanford jersey.

After acknowledging her staff, she said, “It’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around 900.”

“Let’s get some more,” she concluded.

On behalf of her teammates, senior forward Chiney Ogwumike echoed the sentiment. “Here’s to 900 more.”

Win No. 800 was three years ago

Chiney and her two classmates – guards Sara James and Toni Kokenis (recently medically retired) – plus red shirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef were all on the team for Tara’s 800th win, which came on Dec. 22, 2010, when Stanford traveled to the University of San Francisco and won 100-45.

Those on hand who had contributed to the 800 wins included USF head coach Jennifer Azzi and associate head coach Katy Steding (now at Cal). They were in the first class that Tara recruited to Stanford after she arrived on the Farm in 1985. They went on to help Stanford win its first national championship in 1990 and played for Tara on the undefeated U.S. Olympics team that won the gold in 1996.

Contributors included Tara’s two assistant coaches, Stanford graduates Bobbie Kelsey (now head coach at Wisconsin) and Kate Paye.

Then there was the woman who has been associated with Tara the longest time – associate head coach Amy Tucker. She played at Ohio State for two of Tara’s five years as head coach there, was a graduate assistant coach for her for a year and an assistant coach there for another year. When Tara left Ohio State for Stanford in 1985, Amy joined her as an assistant coach.

Chiney didn’t play in that USF game because she had tweaked her ankle in the morning, but she high-fived the bench for each 3-pointer. She made that trip 11 times, thanks to four 3’s by Sara and one each by Toni and Mikaela, among others.

Balanced scoring by starters, bench

Fast-forward 102 victories to the Gonzaga game: Chiney, Sara and Mikaela all started, joined by junior guard Amber Orrange and freshman guard Lili Thompson.

The five of them scored a total of 42 points, while bench players contributed 31.

This time there were eight 3’s, with two each by Sara, redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Camp and freshman forward Kailee Johnson. Amber and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson had one each.

Chiney led the team in scoring with 19 points. Also in double figures were Kailee with a career high 11 and Amber with 10.

Two juniors see first action

In addition to the victory, fans had two more reasons to celebrate. Junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne returned to action for the first time this season. Taylor played a total of 11 minutes, scored 4 points and made two rebounds. After making her first basket on an inbound pass with 10:47 to go in the second half, she ran up the court with a big smile.

Erica, who had just been cleared to play earlier in the week, entered the game with slightly less than two minutes to go. She and sophomore forward/center Tess Picknell, who played about four minutes, were the only two Cardinal players who didn’t score.

All told, 14 of 15 players were in uniform. Freshman guard Briana Roberson, still rehabbing from an injury, was suited up but didn’t play. Freshman guard Karlie Samuelson was in street clothes. It’s hoped that she’ll return for the Tennessee game at home on Dec. 21, Amy told the Fast Break Club after the game.

A fan at the gathering commented on the fine play of Kailee and fellow freshman forward Erica McCall, who had 5 points and seven rebounds. Amy responded that when the freshmen arrived for summer school, Bonnie, Sara, Taylor and Erica Payne weren’t able to play. Since those four often play the 3 position, Kailee and Erica M. got a lot of time in that spot.

Still, “we’re excited to have them back,” Amy said of the four upperclassmen.

Video salutes Nicole Powell

Yet another woman who contributed to Tara’s 900 wins was Nicole Powell, ’04, who’s in her first year as an assistant coach at Gonzaga after playing professionally for the WNBA and overseas.

“Fans, today we welcome back one of Stanford’s all-time greats,” announcer Betty Ann Boeving said shortly before tipoff. With that, the video board showed highlights of Nicole’s Stanford accomplishments, followed by a prolonged ovation.

An earlier video honored the Stanford football team for winning the Pac-12 conference and the right to play in its second consecutive Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1. “See you in Pasadena,” it concluded.

A subsequent video featured women’s basketball highlights. It ended, “Tradition never graduates.”

November 19, 2013

Tara enthusiastic about freshmen

Head coach Tara VanDerveer is apparently more than just pleased with the five freshmen on the Stanford women’s basketball team.

“All of our freshmen are spectacular,” Tara told fans after the team’s 66-48 home victory over UC Davis on Nov. 17. “They’re really fabulous young players.”

Nevertheless, they’re still adapting to collegiate basketball, especially as it’s played at Stanford. “We’re not running a lot of plays” because there are so many young players. “They have to learn the system and study scouting reports,” Tara said.

Even as the team evolves, at least two of the newcomers are happy to be at Stanford. Freshman forwards Erica McCall and Kailee Johnson both had a chance to speak to fans at the Behind the Bench session, and both were enthusiastic.

“I love it here so far,” said Kailee, who comes from Portland, Ore. Although it’s too early to decide on a major, she said she’s interested in business and might major in science, technology and society.

“All the freshmen have bonded,” said Erica, who hails from Bakersfield, where her father, Greg, is coach of the CSU Bakersfield women’s basketball team. He was at the game. Her older sister, DeWanna Bonner, is on the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and is playing in Russia during the offseason.

Both freshmen mentioned how much they value the mentoring of the older players.

Unlike past overseas trips, this year the freshmen could join the team on its summer trip to Italy. “The food was amazing,” and the team got “to play with the best players in the world,” said Erica, who is leaning toward psychology or sociology as a major.

Two freshmen start

Erica was part of the starting lineup for the first time, joining freshman guard Lili Thompson along with senior forward Chiney Ogwumike, redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef and junior point guard Amber Orrange.

Playing for 17 minutes, Erica had 5 points and six rebounds. Lili had 2 points and a rebound in 18 minutes. Kailee came off the bench for 13 minutes and had two rebounds.

Also coming off the bench was freshman guard Karlie Samuelson, who played 33 minutes, tying with Chiney for the second-most minutes. During her time on the court, she scored 8 points and had four rebounds.

The other freshman, Briana Roberson, was in street clothes, along with junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne.

“We’re really excited about how our young players are doing,” Tara said after the game, adding that “our older players are getting healthy.”

She had extra praise for Lili, who “is having an outstanding beginning to her career,” and for Karlie, who “played like a senior out there today.”

Chiney records another double-double

As usual, Chiney led all players with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Amber was next in scoring with 10 points and four rebounds in a team-high 38 minutes.

Playing 22 minutes, Mikaela contributed 8 points and eight rebounds. Less than five minutes into the game, though, she hobbled off the court. She went to the locker room and returned to action several minutes later with her ankle taped.

One apparent concern overall is that the team made only 13 of 24 free throws, or 54.2 percent. “I’m really disappointed with our free-throw percentage,” Tara said. She added that the team is working on rebounding missed free throws.

Three-point shooting was deficient, too, only three of 17, or 17.6 percent. Karlie had two and her older sister, junior forward Bonnie Samuelson, had one.

On the other hand, 3-pointers helped to keep UC Davis in the game. The Aggies’ eight 3’s accounted for half of their final score.

“Kudos to Davis,” Tara said, saying that the team does a good job and that it runs the Princeton offense well.

Team to take to the road

It will be nearly a month before the Cardinal return to Maples. At 6 a.m. Nov. 22 the team will depart for its game against Texas on Nov. 23, said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations.

After that game, the team will fly to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for the Hardwood Tournament of Hope and successive games against Purdue, Florida Gulf Coast and South Dakota State from Nov. 26-28.

Then it’s back to campus and preparations for the end of the term before facing Gonzaga at home on Dec. 14.

In the meantime, Eileen is trying to gauge interest in a booster bus to the Cal game on Feb. 2. She has reserved a bus and wants fans to e-mail her at by the end of November. Otherwise, she’ll release it, she said.

November 17, 2013

It’s home sweet home for the Cardinal

Even though it might have looked that way on paper, the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 86-51 home victory over Cal Poly on Nov. 15 was more than just the Chiney Ogwumike show.

The senior forward scored a career-high 36 points in 30 minutes, plus 11 rebounds for her 61st career double-double. However, she had plenty of help along the way with 10 of the 12 available players adding to the total.

After returning to the bench for good with 6:28 to go in the second half, Chiney still wasn’t quite done. As redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green stood in front of the bench to inbound the ball, Chiney gave her some last-minute instructions.

Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef was second in points scored with 9. However, her biggest contributions came from other stats, such as her career-high and team-high 14 rebounds. She was a regular rebounding machine. She added a team-high seven assists, most of them on nifty passes to Chiney. She also had one of the team’s five steals in her 27 minutes.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer reconfigured the starting lineup slightly, inserting freshman guard Lili Thompson in place of Alex, who had started the two previous games.

Otherwise, Tara stuck with the rest of her starters: Chiney, Mikaela, junior point guard Amber Orrange and freshman forward Kailee Johnson. Chiney, Mikaela and senior guard Sara James were the captains.

Junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne along with freshman guard Briana Roberson were on the bench in street clothes.

Also unavailable were the band, Tree, cheerleaders and Dollies. Perhaps they were at the soccer field to support the women’s soccer team, which had the same start time for its first round of the NCAA tournament. The Cardinal won the match 1-0.

The WBB game started slowly and sloppily with an unusual number of Cardinal turnovers, some of them caused by Cal Poly’s alert defense. The home team had 11 turnovers in the first half but only four in the second.

The visitors outscored their hosts for about the first five minutes of the game. During that time, Chiney did most of the Stanford scoring. For example, at the 10:30 mark, when Stanford trailed 13-11, she had 9 points.

After that, though, the Cardinal began showing more cohesion and amassed a 23-15 lead with 7:39 to go in the half. The lead was 41-25 at halftime. By then, all available players had seen action.

During the first half, the women’s swimming and diving team was introduced. The team won the 2013 Pac 12 championship and ranks No. 4 nationally. In return for the crowd’s recognition, the women tossed mini-balls into the stands.

It was victory balls flying into the stands at the end of the game as the WBB team celebrated success in its first home game of the season and upped its record to 2-1.

Excluding the slow start, it was an all-around win for the team as it outrebounded Cal Poly 47-36 and scored more points in the paint, 46-22.

Bench players added 22 points to the final score, led by freshman forward Erica McCall with 8 for third on the team. Freshman forward/guard Karlie Samuelson chipped in with 6 thanks to two 3-pointers.

Threes also came from Kailee, Lili and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson, all with one each, for a team total of five.

In her post-game comments to the press, Tara said she’s still shopping “for players who are going to step up and make plays.”

She probably hasn’t hit on the perfect combination yet, especially with Taylor and Erica P. still out. However, she does have a good selection, especially as the five freshmen mesh more completely and as the team develops its on-court chemistry.

There were signs of both in this game with some nicely executed plays and fast breaks that had the crowd cheering.

November 5, 2013

Exhibition victory bodes well for season

Even though it had only 10 players for its 79-47 exhibition victory over Vanguard on Nov. 3, the Stanford women’s basketball team offered some tantalizing hints at what might lie ahead for the 2013-14 season.

The team lacked the services of freshman guard Briana Roberson and four upperclassmen – senior guard Sara James along with junior forwards Taylor Greenfield, Erica Payne and Bonnie Samuelson.

Sara was a starter toward the end of last season. In her place, head coach Tara VanDerveer inserted redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green into the starting lineup along with the other three returning starters: senior forward Chiney Ogwumike, fifth-year senior forward Mikaela Ruef and junior point guard Amber Orrange. They were joined by freshman forward Kailee Johnson. Chiney and Mikaela are this year’s co-captains.

Freshman guard Karlie Samuelson was first off the bench, followed by freshman forward Erica McCall, freshman guard Lili Thompson, redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Camp and sophomore forward/center Tess Picknell.

Everyone scored and rebounded, but Chiney led the way with 27 points and 15 rebounds in 21 minutes. Her contributions were nearly equaled by Kailee and Erica M., who teamed up to score 27 points (13 and 14, respectively) and to snare 13 rebounds (nine and four, respectively).

No one else scored in double figures, but Mikaela had nine rebounds and two assists, including a nif play when a streaking Chiney passed the ball to her, and she in turn tipped it directly back to Chiney for the score. Amber had a team-high six assists.

Starters get to relax

At the half, the score was 41-21 in the Cardinal’s favor.

Therefore, Chiney returned to the bench for good with 14:57 to go in the second half. The other starters soon followed, leaving the game in the able hands of Erica M., Lili, Tess, Jasmine and Karlie.

An exhibition game doesn’t count toward season records. Nevertheless, I would guess that more than 1,000 fans were on hand at Maples on a lovely fall afternoon, the first day of Standard Time. They got to see the new signs adorning the hallways.

Somewhat unusual for an exhibition is that the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree were there to support the team. That often doesn’t occur until season games start.

Defense takes advantage of new rule

Statistically, one encouraging sign was that the team committed only three turnovers, while Vanguard had 14. Some of Vanguard’s turnovers were the result of a pesky Stanford defense that led to shot clock violations and failures to cross the center line in the required 10 seconds. The latter rule is new this year.

Stanford started the game with intense pressure in the back court when Vanguard had the ball, forcing it to take time out at the 19:03 point. The pressure later led to a turnover, but Stanford didn’t apply much full-court pressure thereafter.

Still, the defense was stalwart with both Kailee and Tess recording a block. The team had five steals, including two by Lili and one each by Chiney, Amber and Jasmine.

Karlie showed that she shares older sister Bonnie’s penchant for shooting 3-pointers. Only one of her nine attempts was successful, coming at 9:26 in the second half, but many came close. One assumes that more will find their mark once she becomes more comfortable with the pace of college play. Kailee hit on one of her 3-point tries.

Talking with fans during the Behind the Bench after the game, Tara said, “We’re really excited about our team, and I think you see why.”

Tara introduces players

She then introduced the entire team, starting with the five freshmen:

Kailee: “She’s going to be great addition.”
Karlie: “She does a lot for us.”
Lili: “She has shown us some great things.” Tara added her parents, who were at the game, had recently moved to California from Texas.
Erica M.: “She really helps us inside. She’s a warrior.”
Briana: “She’s really close to playing” the 1 or 2 spot.

Tara praised the team’s “great upperclassmen who are great leaders,” starting with the seniors:

Chiney: “What a tremendous player Chiney is.”
Sara: She has been rehabbing.
Mikaela: She’s getting her master’s degree in engineering. She’s also “much more of an offensive weapon this year.”

Tara also introduced senior Toni Kokenis, the guard who took medical retirement because of concussions but who remains with the team. “Toni helps our young players,” the coach said.

She called Tess “one of our most improved players. She’s making really nice plays.”

Amber “plays really hard” and is a great defender, but she’s able to get more rest thanks to the emergence of strong backups at the point.

One of those backups is Jasmine, who’s “playing great defense.”

Bonnie is close to returning to action. Erica P. is a “vocal leader, a real high energy player.” Although she hasn’t been cleared to play, she has been working on her shot and helping the freshmen.

Taylor, who was wearing a boot, “had a little bit of a setback.” When she does practice, “she does a great job of getting the ball inside.”

Alex, who missed all of her freshman year and part of her sophomore year with injuries, has “worked really, really hard,” thus adding “more depth and athleticism” to the corps of guards.

Coaches get a nod

Tara also introduced the returning coaches – associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coach Kate Paye – along with new assistant coach Tempie Brown, who was formerly at Michigan State University. She “adds a lot to our program.”

Tempie replaces Trina Patterson, who left the Farm after two years to coach at Old Dominion University in Virginia, her home state, where she has an ill parent.

Also new to the staff is strength and conditioning coach, Brittany Keil. “She picks up where Susan left off,” Tara said, referring to Susan Borchardt, now working for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

“This is going to be a great season,” Tara said. “This has been a great team to work with,” but “there are things we can do better.”

“We’re playing a tremendous schedule. We are looking forward to a fabulous season.”

After the relative ease of this home exhibition game, things get tough right away. The team travels east to face Boston College at 10 a.m. Saturday followed by defending national champion and perennial powerhouse UConn at 4 p.m. Monday. The latter game will be televised on ESPN2.

October 21, 2013

First taste of what’s to come

Fans of Stanford women’s basketball got a preview of the team at an open practice Oct. 19, Homecoming Day.

The event was advertised for 9:30-11:30 a.m., but practice was already under way when I arrived at 9:15. Joined by three male practice players, the team was involved in half-court scrimmages. During that time, junior guard Amber Orrange had several nice assists to senior forward Chiney Ogwumike.

R/s sophomore guard Alex Green scored several times, as did Amber and r/s sophomore guard Jasmine Camp. Senior guard Sara James had at least two 3’s, while freshman guard/forward Karlie Samuelson had one.

While their teammates practiced, four players were on the north end of the court working out with strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil. They were junior forwards Bonnie Samuelson and Erica Payne along with freshman guards Briana Roberson and Lili Thompson.

Senior Toni Kokenis sat on the bench, encouraging her teammates. The guard recently took medical retirement after several concussions, but she remains with the team.

In the meantime, Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, passed out rosters that included a pronunciation guide for some of the names.

Practice gets into game mode

After the half-court scrimmages, practice became a full-court, 40-minute, two-half game with three referees. Assistant coach Tempie Brown coached the red team, which included the three men along with Alex, junior forward Taylor Greenfield and sophomore forward/center Tess Picknell.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer, associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coach Kate Paye coached the white team. Starters for that team were fifth-year senior forward Mikaela Ruef, Chiney, Jasmine, Amber and Karlie, but there was liberal substitution throughout the game. In addition, some of the women were switched to the opposing team during the game.

My very unofficial scorekeeping shows Chiney leading the scoring with 32 or 33 points. She didn’t seem to be the primary offensive focus during the first half, but the ball wound up in her hands and into the basket a lot more in the second half.

Freshman forward Kailee Johnson had 12 points, followed by freshman forward Erica McCall with 11. Taylor and Sara each had 10. Tess had 8, Amber 7, Karlie 6, Alex 6 Mikaela 5 and Jasmine 3.

Three-pointers – again unofficial -- came from Sara with three, from Alex and Taylor with two each and from Jasmine, Kailee and Amber with one each.

The new rule allowing only 10 seconds to get the ball across the center line didn’t seem to be a problem thanks to speedy point play by Amber, Alex and Jasmine. The two teams also had some nifty fast breaks.

Alumnae observe practice

While the players were practicing, several alumnae watched from the sidelines. They included Nneka Ogwumike, ’12; Ashley Cimino, Hannah Donaghe and Jeanette Pohlen, all ’11; Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10; and Morgan Clyburn, ’09. Also with these more recent grads was Kerry Blake, ’11, who was the team manager for four years.

Thanks to Marian Cortesi, who took a magnifying glass to her photos to read name tags, alums from earlier years included Mary McCready,’75; Meg Metzger, ’83; Emily Wagner Gallagher,’89, Jeanne Osmera Lowell, ’89; Ann Adkins Enthoven, ’92; and Bethany Donaphin, ’02. And of course Kate is a Stanford grad, class of 1995.

The alums joined the team and staff at a post-game circle. Tara asked the grads to introduce themselves. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be heard in the stands.

After that, it was photo time.

Although it’s far too early to make any definitive judgments, especially since two veteran players and two of the five freshmen were sidelined, it does appear that the team has good depth.

Chiney is the undisputed leader, and the other three returning starters – Mikaela, Sara and Amber – look to be in fine form.

Fans will have a better chance to become acquainted with the team at 2 p.m. Nov. 3 when Vanguard visits for an exhibition game. The game will be followed by a behind-the-bench session.

Homecoming festivities

While the team was practicing in Maples Pavilion, band music was sounding from an adjacent playing field. That’s where several hundred alums of the Stanford band were rehearsing their halftime show paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of the band as we know it today. Also on hand were dozens of present and past Dollies and even some past Trees.

After practice, areas near the stadium were abuzz with tailgates and other gatherings prior to the marquee weekend event: the football game against UCLA, which the Cardinal won 24-10 on a picture-perfect autumn day.

July 19, 2013

Players prepare for Italy, new season

As if preparing for the upcoming season and getting some needed classes under their belts weren’t enough, players for the Stanford women’s basketball team have some additional incentives to attend summer school.

The biggest and best is that the team is taking a 10-day trip – Aug. 27-Sept. 5 – to Italy. Visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, the players will combine sightseeing and competing as they face three Italian teams. “Italy is a good carrot,” said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

Women’s basketball in Italy is somewhat different from the setup in the United States. The Italians play on club teams, which are rated A1 and A2, according to ability. The Stanford women will play one or two A1 teams plus one or two A2 teams, Amy said.

With professional players who are usually older than collegiate players, A1 teams provide “excellent competition,” Amy said, adding that these players also have full-time jobs.

Because the team is going overseas, it is allowed to practice for two hours each during the 10 days before leaving, Amy said.

When the team took its last overseas trip, also to Italy, four years ago, freshmen weren’t allowed to go. That meant that Joslyn Tinkle and Mikaela Ruef had to stay behind. Joslyn graduated in June, but Mikaela is still with the team because she red-shirted one year, so she gets to go this time.

Thanks to a rule change, so do the five incoming freshmen.

In addition, this is “the first summer that coaches are allowed to work with players” for two hours a week, Amy said.

Everyone’s in the area

Therefore, the entire team is in the area and is available for practice. The freshmen and some of the others are taking classes, and some returning players have lent a hand at hoops camps run by head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Junior forward Erica Payne has an internship, as does senior guard Toni Kokenis, who is working in physical therapy.

Amy had no comment about whether Toni would play in the upcoming season. Because of an undisclosed medical condition last season, Toni did not play after the Feb. 3 game at Oregon State.

Likewise, Amy had no comment about redshirt freshman forward Aly Beebe. Recovering from a knee injury, Aly didn’t play last season. It has been hoped that she would be ready to play this season.

Freshmen please the coaches

The coaches are pleased with the five freshmen. On the roster they’re listed as forward Kailee Johnson, forward Erica McCall, guard Briana Roberson, forward Karlie Samuelson (sister of junior forward Bonnie Samuelson) and guard Lili Thompson.

Amy classifies them as three guard-wings and two power forwards.

“They’re doing awesome. They’re going to help us tremendously,” Amy said. She expects some of them to be in the top rotation when the season starts. For now, they’re helping to make practices more competitive, she said.

Going to summer school also “is a great opportunity to get a couple classes under their belts” and to adjust to the campus, college life and college-level playing, Amy said. “It’s a big change for them.”

As for the returning players, “Everyone has improved from the spring,” Amy said.

New faces on staff

The staff has undergone some changes, too. Tempie Brown has replaced assistant coach Trina Patterson, who left to become an assistant coach at Old Dominion University in her home state of Virginia. “Tempie is doing great,” Amy said. She’s still getting settled, but she has been working with the team and recruiting.

Tempie has had 14 years of coaching experience and comes to Stanford after four years at Michigan State.

Also new to the staff is performance coach Brittany Keil, who comes to Stanford after five years at Holy Cross, where she had played basketball for four years.

“We’re really pleased with Brittany,” Amy said. She has been working with the players on strength and conditioning.

Coaches keep extra busy

While the players have been going through their academic and athletic paces, the coaches have had duties beyond coaching. They’ve helped at Tara’s hoops camps, and they’re been on the road recruiting.

“We’re getting good recruits,” Amy said.

When Amy and I talked July 17, recruiting nationwide was in the midst of a 10-day dead period, but it was to resume July 22 when Amy, Tempie and assistant coach Kate Paye would set off on the recruiting trail. Tara would stay behind to oversee practices and the third and final hoops camp.

July 17 was also when Stanford announced that Hall of Famer Tara had signed a contract extension beyond her current contract, which runs through the 2014-15 season. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

The coaches and players will get some time off between the end of the summer quarter and the start of their Italian trip. They’ll get some more time off between the end of the trip and the start of the fall quarter. New undergraduates report to campus Sept. 17. Classes start Sept. 23.

Optimism for 2013-14

Amy said she wasn’t sure when the team’s 2013-14 schedule will be released. However, the coaches are optimistic about the upcoming season, which starts in November.

In the meantime, the summer “is all bonus time. Ten extra practices (for Italy) can only be helpful,” Amy said. “We feel like we’re ahead.”

The trip itself will give the players a chance to compete against someone other than themselves. It also gives them more opportunities to bond as a team, an intangible that’s important to a team’s success.

April 26, 2013

Thanks for the memories, Part 3 of 3

Having won the Pac-12 season title, the Stanford women’s basketball team flew to Seattle for the conference tournament.

Although Cal and Stanford shared the season title with 17-1 records, Stanford got the top seed because, thanks to the three-game tournament in Hawaii in November, it had played and won one more game than Cal.

The tournament began easily enough as Stanford coasted to a 79-60 win over Washington State on March 8.

The game was notable for 10 3-pointers by the Cardinal, led by junior guard Sara James with five. Sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson added three, while sophomore guard Amber Orrange contributed two.

The day had started with a sendoff by the band, Dollies, cheerleaders, family members and a handful of fans at the team’s Westin Hotel. The family contingent included head coach Tara VanDerveer’s mother, who had flown there from her home in Colorado. Some other fans were at the Spectator, a downtown Seattle sports bar.

Although WSU head coach June Daugherty had had an emergency appendectomy the previous day, she was at the game. Assistant coach Mike Daugherty, her husband, was the coach of record that night, but she often left her seat behind the bench to join the huddle during timeouts.

One highlight of the game came within the first minute of the second half when redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef stole the ball, gave it to Sara, who passed it to junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who passed it behind her back to senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, who scored.

Chiney finished the game with 23 points, followed by Sara with 17 and Joslyn with 10. It was later reported that Joslyn had been fighting the flu since earlier that week. Chiney also had 21 rebounds, thus recording the first 20-20 game in the tournament’s 12-year history.

On to the semi-finals

In the first semi-final game March 9, UCLA upset Cal 70-58, thus ending talk of a Cal-Stanford meeting in the championship game.

In the second game, Stanford advanced to the championship game by defeating Colorado 61-47. Sara had her team’s only 3-pointer. Chiney finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds, while Amber had 13 points and Mikaela had 11.

Although the score seemed somewhat lopsided, it was an extremely physical contest, especially for Chiney, who endured more than her share of being pushed grabbed and shoved.

Amber comes through for championship

Apparently all of that physicality the night before, combined with UCLA’s rugged defense, took its toll on Chiney, who scored a career-low 3 points in the championship game March 10. It was the first day of daylight-saving time, so everyone presumably had lost an hour of sleep.

Chiney made the team’s first basket, followed shortly thereafter by a free throw, and that was that. After sitting out with two fouls for about 12 minutes in the first half, she returned for the second half. She had no more fouls, but she didn’t score. Still, she contributed 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the game.

Amber picked up the scoring slack and finished with a team-high and career-high 20 points. She also made the game-winning basket, slicing through the UCLA defense with 8.3 seconds to go.

UCLA got the ball and shot but missed as the buzzer sounded. It was assumed the game had ended, but the joyous Stanford bench players had to return to the sidelines while the referees checked to see if time had actually expired. It hadn’t.

Tess helps seal the win

The officials added .2 second to the clock, so UCLA had a chance to inbound the ball, but could score only if the player receiving the ball tipped it in. A basket wouldn’t count if she caught and shot.

While the referees looked at the game monitor, Tara inserted freshman forward/center Tess Picknell into the game. Her job was to stand in front of the inbounding UCLA player. She didn’t just stand there, though. The 6’5” Tess waved her arms and jumped up and down, presenting a formidable obstacle and sight-blocker for the inbounder

Tess succeeded, and the Stanford players hugged and screamed in celebration.

Thus the Cardinal won its seventh consecutive conference championship trophy and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Chiney received a trophy as the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Amber got one as a member of the all-tournament team.

Stanford hosts first two rounds of NCAA tournament

When NCAA tournament brackets were announced March 18, Stanford got the No. 1 seed in the Spokane regional. Because Stanford had already been scheduled to host first- and second-round games, the Cardinal got to play at home.

Action began March 24 when Stanford faced No.16 seed Tulsa. The Cardinal started slowly and allowed the first half to end 24-24. After that, the Cardinal took over and finished with a 72-56 victory.

Sara helped her team get going in the second half by scoring a quick 3-pointer, the first of two for her. Later, Bonnie and Amber each scored from beyond the arc.

Tulsa’s pesky defenders stole the ball several times and often kept Stanford from shooting until late in the shot clock, especially in the first half. Tulsa couldn’t contain Chiney, though. She finished with 29 points and eight rebounds.

Amber was the only other player in double figures, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds. Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield came close with 9 points plus three rebounds in 37 minutes.

In part she was filling in for Mikaela, who had started but played only 10 minutes, contributing eight rebounds. Tara later said that she hadn’t practiced for two weeks because of an undisclosed injury.

Joslyn’s time to shine

Playing in her last-ever game at Maples on March 26, Joslyn led her team to a 73-40 victory over Michigan in the NCAA’s Round 2.

She did so on 7-for-10 shooting, including a career-high 5-of-5 on 3-pointers, resulting in a team-high 21 points. She also had six rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

Chiney had 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Amber pitched in with 11 points and two rebounds. The other two starters, Mikaela and Sara, each had 9 points. Mikaela also had six rebounds. Coming off the bench, Bonnie had 9 points and one rebound.

Together, the team made a season-high 12 3’s, including Joslyn’s five, three each from Bonnie and Sara, and one from Amber.

Every Cardinal played tough defense, but Sara gets kudos for limiting Michigan’s leading scorer, Kate Thompson, to just 7 points, 5 of them from free throws. When Sara got some breathers on the bench, Taylor took over with equally good results.

The score was 41-16 at the half. In the second half, the more than 4,700 fans were in a celebratory mood as the team made one impressive play after another. When the video board showed a close-up of much-missed junior guard Toni Kokenis, the crowd roared while she blushed.

There was a standing ovation and prolonged cheering as the starters left the game to be replaced by the bench with just over 2 minutes to go.

As the team headed for the locker room after the game, Joslyn blew kisses to the crowd. The players then returned for a victory lap around the court, waving to their cheering fans.

Season ends in Spokane

It appeared that the team would pick up where it left off when it faced Georgia in a Sweet 16 game on March 30 at the Spokane regional, but Georgia prevailed 61-59.

The game started well with the Cardinal jumping out to a 9-0 lead at the 15:26 mark. The Bulldogs didn’t get on the scoreboard until nearly 6 minutes had elapsed.

Just over a minute later, however, Stanford lost one of its key backups when Taylor was hit in the left hand by a kicked ball that jammed three fingers. A preliminary X-ray showed no broken bones, but she sat out the rest of the game. (It was revealed at the spring banquet that one finger was broken.)

Stanford was ahead 34-27 at the half and maintained a lead until the 6:31 mark in the second half. That’s went Georgia pulled ahead 46-44. The score seesawed thereafter.

With slightly more than a minute to go, Stanford was behind 56-55. A free throw by Mikaela and a 3-pointer by Joslyn gave Stanford 59 points, but Georgia managed 5 points to gain the win.

Chiney had done all that she could, recording 26 points and 12 rebounds. Amber had 17 points and eight rebounds. The rest of the team contributed 16 points, with only 2 of them coming from the bench.

Still, it was only fitting that the last score would come from Joslyn, who was playing her last game as a Cardinal before graduating. Everyone else has at least a year of eligibility left.

Thus Stanford ended its season with a 33-3 record.  And once again, a showdown game between Stanford and Cal had been averted. Cal beat Louisiana State in the March 30 nightcap and defeated Georgia in overtime on April 1.

Besides Georgia, the only other teams to defeat the Cardinal were UConn and Cal, both of which went to the Final Four in New Orleans where UConn won the national championship.

Banquet pays final tribute to team

Fans had a chance to say farewell and thank you to the team at the annual spring banquet April 11.

For the first time, the banquet was held in McCaw Hall of the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center rather than the Faculty Club. The new venue was an improvement because it’s so much larger.

The dinner was served buffet style rather than sit-down, giving the 230 guests a greater choice of items and serving sizes.

The event gave the players a chance to dress up rather than appear in uniform. They also had a chance to mingle and chat with the fans.

After some introductory remarks by administrative assistant DeeDee Zawaydeh, who had taken care of the arrangements, Tara came to the podium.

She ticked off some of the team’s accomplishments during the year, starting with the upset of Baylor in November and continuing with the team’s Pac-12 season and tournament championships as well as its 20th trip to the Sweet 16. It set a defensive record, allowing only 51.9 points per game. (Marian Cortesi recaps all of the team’s records in Stories of the Season.)

Tara thanked the dozens of behind-the-scenes people who contribute to the success of the women’s basketball program.

Praise for each player

Tara also introduced and praised each player, starting with the freshmen and ending with the academic seniors, Mikaela and Joslyn. This process was punctuated with something new -- interviews with four players: Amber, Sara, Chiney and Joslyn.

When she introduced Chiney, Tara said that she had led the team in scoring at 22.4 points per game and in rebounding at 12.9 per game without fouling out. Her many honors included being named a WBCA All-American for the second year. She, along with sophomore forward Erica Payne, Toni, Bonnie and Mikaela, received honorable mention on the Pac-12 all-academic team.

Mikaela, who missed much of her junior year with an injury, will return next year while working on a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering.

Joslyn has already completed a double major in communications and sociology. During her four years on the Farm, the team compiled an 81-1 record in conference play, a 137-10 record, or 92.3 percent, overall, and went to three Final Fours. She was named to the all Pac-12 team, joined Stanford’s 1,000 point club and had 66 blocks.

Sitting in front of a framed red jersey with her number, 44, on it, Joslyn said she plans to continue playing basketball, probably overseas, and hopes to return to the Bay Area eventually.

A video showing highlights of the 2012-13 season climaxed the evening. Click here to view it.

With so many players returning next season and the arrival of five promising freshmen, Tara challenged the returnees to step up and lead the way. “The hungry lion hunts best,” she said, thanking everyone for coming and concluding, “Go, Stanford."

April 24, 2013

Thanks for the memories, Part 2 of 3

After compiling an 11-1 record in games against non-conference opponents in 2012, the Stanford women’s basketball team was ready for Pac-12 competition as 2013 began.

Colorado was first on the schedule Jan. 4 as Stanford traveled to Boulder and left with a 57-40 victory. As had been the case in the latter part of 2012, the starters were redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, junior guard Toni Kokenis and sophomore guard Amber Orrange.

All of them played at least 27 minutes and got into the scoring column except for Toni, who played 10 minutes and had no points.

With 20 points and 11 rebounds, Chiney logged her 10th consecutive double-double. The team recorded its 79th conference win.

It extended that streak to 80 on Jan. 6 when it visited Utah and left with a 70-56 victory. Even though she had a team-high 20 points, Chiney had only six rebounds, ending her double-double streak.

The starting lineup featured Mikaela, Chiney, Amber and Joslyn. Sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield started in place of Toni, who wasn’t feeling well, head coach Tara VanDerveer reported later. Coming off the bench, junior guard Sara James was second on the team with a career-high 18 points.

Battle of the Bay, Round 1

Still on the road, the Stanford women crossed the bay to meet traditional rival Cal on Jan. 8. Ranked No. 5 nationally after the Dec. 29 loss to UConn, the Cardinal pulled out a 62-53 win in a seesaw contest.

The first half ended with Cal ahead 31-29 on a fast-break basket at the buzzer. The score continued to go back and forth through about half of the second half when the Cardinal began to pull away for good. For the game, the score was tied 13 times and the lead changed eight times.

Chiney had a game-high 26 points plus six rebounds, while Amber contributed 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds. The other three starters – Joslyn, Toni and Mikaela – also scored. On the other hand, the bench added only 1 point, and there were no 3-pointers.

Battle of the Bay, Round 2

In a quirk of scheduling, Stanford and Cal met again on Jan. 13, this time at Stanford and this time with a different result: Cal won 67-55. Thus Cal ended Stanford’s 81-game conference winning streak.

Stanford had an 8-point lead at the 14:38 mark, but Cal began inching up to build a 39-31 advantage at the half.

Playing 39 minutes, Chiney had 18 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Toni was the only other Cardinal in double figures, tallying 12 points plus six rebounds in her 37 minutes.

The only other players to score were the other three starters – Amber, Joslyn and Mikaela – plus Taylor, Sara and sophomore forward Erica Payne off the bench.

At the half, fans saluted the Stanford football team for its Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin on New Year’s Day, its defeat of Cal in the traditional Big Game and its Pac-12 conference championship.

The post-game Behind the Bench featured a visit by Jayne Appel, ’10, who had recently returned to her East Bay home after playing professionally in China. Jayne will return to her American team, the San Antonio Silver Stars, for the WNBA season, which starts in May.

Commenting on the game, associate head coach Amy Tucker cited the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the first half and noted that “the game was very physical. …This was a tough wake-up call,” she said, but several issues are correctable.

Back on the victory trail

Shooting 52.9 percent, the Cardinal rebounded from the Cal loss by giving the visiting UCLA a 75-49 shellacking Jan. 18.

Tara tweaked the starting lineup, inserting Sara in place of Mikaela at the small forward spot. Sara played 17 minutes and contributed 7 points and three rebounds. Coming off the bench, Mikaela played 28 minutes and added 3 points and seven rebounds.

The biggest numbers came from Chiney, who led both teams with 25 points and 13 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. Unlike some other games, she often faced only single coverage, which she outmaneuvered. Other times, her teammates saw her alone under the basket and passed her the ball for an easy score.

Joslyn added 16 points and six rebounds. She made a 3-pointer early in the game, then sent the crowd aroar with three in succession during its final minutes. Amber had 15 points and one rebound.

After a relative dearth of 3’s, the team scored on six of seven attempts for an 85.7 percent average. Besides Joslyn’s four, Toni and sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson each had one.

As the team warmed up before the game, redshirt freshman guard Alex Green was in uniform for the first time. She had missed much of the previous season with an Achilles injury.

A week later, USC came calling and left with a 75-66 defeat. Fans already were in a good mood because the San Francisco 49ers had secured a Super Bowl berth with a 28-24 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Once again, Tara went with a starting lineup of Chiney, Joslyn, Sara, Toni and Amber. All except Toni, who had 5 points, scored in double figures.

The Cardinal had more or less cruised to a 33-20 lead over USC at the half and led by as much as 19 points, 43-24, at the 17:10 mark in the second half. The Women of Troy tried to come back and pulled to within 5 points twice, but Stanford prevailed.

Chiney was the standout again with 29 points and 16 rebounds. Joslyn made all three of her 3’s and finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Also scoring 3’s were Sara, Toni and Amber, all with one each.

Prior to this game, Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA were all atop the Pac-12 with 4-1 records. However, Cal had beaten UCLA earlier in the day, so the Golden Bears and Cardinal moved to the top with 5-1 records as the first third of the conference season wrapped up.

Utah, Colorado visit Maples

Chiney and Joslyn led their team to a 65-44 home victory over Utah on Jan. 25. Chiney tallied 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Joslyn had 16 points and eight rebounds. She had scored the team’s first 7 points, all unanswered, and later knocked in two 3’s.

Joslyn also displayed sportsmanship about halfway through the first half when a Utah player crumpled to the floor under the Utah basket while everyone else ran the other way. When play stopped, Joslyn ran back to her and began helping her off the court until others from Utah arrived.

The evening had begun on a somber note with a moment of silence to honor John Pohlen, father of Jeanette Pohlen,’11. His memorial service had taken place earlier in the day. He died Dec. 23 at the age of 54. John and Jeanette’s mother, Cindy, attended nearly all of her games and endeared themselves to everyone. During the moment of silence, the video board showed a photo of Jeanette and her parents during the 2011 Senior Day.

The Colorado game on Jan. 27 ended with a 69-56 win for Stanford, but not before the host Cardinal overcame two scares.

Just as it seemed the fans could relax and soon see bench players take over, the then-No. 20 Buffaloes began chipping away at Stanford’s comfy 21-point lead about 5 minutes into the second half. Colorado narrowed the margin to 7 points with slightly more than 7 minutes to go, but the Cardinal began to get the upper hand and emerged with the win.

The second scare came at about the 8-minute mark in the second half when Chiney fell and stayed on the floor for a few moments. However, she got up to shoot her foul shots before going to the bench. With her ankle taped, she returned to action.

She finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Joslyn added 16 points and five rebounds, while Toni had 15 points and two rebounds, and Amber had 10 points and two rebounds.

For the first time this season, Amber didn’t start, but she played 36 minutes. Instead, Mikaela returned to the starting lineup, adding 2 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.

As they did in the Utah game, Mikaela and Joslyn got the crowd cheering with a slick in-bounds play. With about 2 seconds left on the shot clock, Joslyn inbounded the ball to Mikaela, who in turn passed it to Joslyn for an easy bucket.

“Mikaela and Joslyn invented that out-of-bounds play,” Tara said during the Behind the Bench.

Since it was Women in Sports day, the afternoon began with players from other women’s sports overseeing skills sessions in the west concourse before the game. Just a few steps away, fans could admire three women’s basketball trophies: the 2012 Pac-12 championship, the 2012 NCAA regional championship and Tara’s Hall of Fame trophy.

At the half, it was announced that over the years, Stanford women’s teams have amassed 42 NCAA championships and 52 national championships altogether.

Then new athletic director Bernard Muir presented the school’s second consecutive Capital One Cup for best overall women’s record to seniors from the golf, soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse, volleyball, track and field, softball and field hockey teams.

The guest speaker for Behind the Bench was TV commentator Mary Murphy, who had just covered the game for the new Pac-12 Network. “This is a crew that’s committed to women’s basketball,” she said.

Tara praised the team’s unselfishness and improvement. She also pointed out an interesting Pac-12 fact: “We are the team that has won more road games than anyone else,” she said.

Road warriors

The team improved its road record with an 86-62 victory over Oregon on Feb. 1 and a 65-45 victory over Oregon State two days later. The Oregon game marked Tara’s 400th conference win.

Chiney added to her double-double record with 22 points and 13 rebounds against Oregon. The only other players in double figures were Joslyn with 16 and Sara with 11. The three of them had started, along with Amber and Toni.

Chiney scored a career-high 32 points against Oregon State and added 18 rebounds for yet another double-double. As a result of her play in the two Oregon games, she was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the fifth time this season, tying a record.

Also in double figures were Amber and Bonnie, each with 12. Bonnie’s points came on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Toni played 27 minutes without scoring in what would prove to be her last game of the season because of an undisclosed medical condition.

A weekend for milestones

Back at Maples the following week, Stanford defeated Arizona 73-43 on Feb. 8 as Chiney registered her seventh consecutive double-double and her 18th of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

This time, though, she had lots of help from her teammates, as Mikaela recorded the first double-double of her career with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Joslyn added 15 points and four rebounds.

Once again, the starting lineup was tweaked. This time, Chiney, Joslyn, Amber, Sara and Mikaela got the nod. It turned out that this lineup would continue for the rest of the season.

After Mikaela’s first double-double in the Arizona game, more milestones were reached in the 69-45 victory over Arizona State on Feb. 10, Breast Cancer Awareness Day. In addition to the pink seen on players, cheerleaders, Dollies, Tree and even the referees’ whistles, Sara’s father, Mike, wore the pink tutu that had been handed down by several dads before him, starting with Jayne’s dad in 2010.

It didn’t take long for Stanford to establish its dominance. With about 6 minutes to go in the first half, the score was 22-16, and Chiney had already racked up 10 points. She finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds for her eighth straight double-double, her 19th of the season. Her point total included 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

Another game milestone came from Bonnie, who scored a career-high 19 points. She made 15 of those points from beyond the arc, her highest number this season.

Yet another milestone was reached when Alex got her first playing time in 15 months. Playing 3 minutes, she had one rebound and took one shot, which she missed. As the ball left her hands, her teammates jumped from the bench, waiting to cheer for her. It didn’t happen this time, but when the final buzzer sounded, several of them gave her a big hug.

And the final milestone – Joslyn had her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

At the Behind the Bench, Tara commented, “We’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of different people. They’re like an orchestra. Different nights there are different solos.”

Off to Los Angeles

Visiting Los Angeles, Stanford added a 79-55 victory over USC and a 68-57 win over UCLA to its resume.

The USC game on Feb. 15 saw Chiney earn the 50th double-double of her career and her 20th of the season, a record, as she amassed 26 points and 15 rebounds. Joslyn also had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Mikaela scored a career-high 12 points and contributed eight rebounds. Her scoring included her first 3-pointer this season.

The players were wearing their new black uniforms with CARDINAL instead of their names on the back.

Against UCLA, Chiney had 26 points and seven rebounds, but Mikaela had 10 of each, while Joslyn was close with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Easy win over Oregon State

With 6:39 to go and the score 78-39, the five starters relaxed on their home bench while their teammates closed out the game to help defeat Oregon State 90-53 on Feb. 22.

None of the starting five played more than 31 minutes, yet during that time, several more milestones were achieved.

For example, less than 2 minutes had expired in the second half when Joslyn became the 34th member of Stanford women’s basketball’s 1,000-point club. She finished the game with 11 points and four rebounds.

Chiney tied a Stanford record with her 51st career double-double by scoring 19 points to go with 12 rebounds. She scored 11 of her points by hitting a career-high 11 free throws (of 13 attempts).

She also made a play that could become the stuff of legend. While falling toward a photographer under the basket in the second half, she tossed the ball up in a wild shot that somehow went through the hoop.

She didn’t realize she had scored until her teammates pulled her up and told her. Her joy became even greater when she realized she would get a free throw, which she made. In the meantime, the team and crowd went wild as the video board ran several replays of those moments.

Taylor came off the bench to have the team’s second-highest point total with 18, matching her career high. Also in double figures was Amber with 15.

The Cardinal made 10 of 22 3-point attempts, led by Taylor’s four, plus two each from Sara and Joslyn and one each from Amber and Bonnie.

Mikaela, Joslyn honored at Senior Day

It was the last home game of the regular season, so it was time to honor Mikaela and Joslyn for Senior Day. Having been accepted in a Stanford graduate engineering program, Mikaela will play another season after red-shirting her junior year. However, she and Joslyn were both honored because they arrived at the Farm together in 2009.

The celebration followed the team’s 74-50 victory over Oregon on Feb. 24.

That game saw Chiney shatter two Stanford records held by her older sister, Nneka, who graduated in 2012. Chiney recorded her 52nd career double-double with 27 points and 24 rebounds. Her rebound total set the team’s single-game record.

She also became the sixth player to snare at least 1,000 career rebounds (1,010 to that date) and 1,000 points (1,600 to that date). Others who have achieved that milestone are Nneka; Jayne; Kayla Pedersen, ’11; Nicole Powell, ’04; and Val Whiting, ’93.

Amber was the only other player in double figures with 12 points plus one rebound.

Senior Day festivities followed the game as the video board showed highlights from Joslyn’s and Mikaela’s careers set to “Thank You for Being a Friend,” TV’s “Golden Girls” theme song.

Their teammates formed a reception line as Joslyn with her parents and Mikaela with her parents and grandparents walked to center court to receive flowers and hugs from Tara.

As of that game, Mikaela had played in 88 games and started 21. She had missed all but three games the previous season because of a foot injury. The game was Joslyn’s 134th.

Speaking for the team, Sara said she had become good friends with Mikaela and then Joslyn during her freshman year. “I’m really excited that she (Mikaela) is coming back next year,” Sara said.

Mikaela’s father, Mike, speaking for himself and her mother, Katie, said, “To raise a daughter like Mikaela is, in a word, challenging,” noting he had once lost an argument with her when she was 3 years old.

Tara praised Joslyn’s basketball instincts, energy and enthusiasm. Chiney, speaking for the team, said Joslyn is “such a special person.” Chiney said she wanted to frame Joslyn’s trademark red hair ribbon.

Washington trip completes conference season

Stanford wrapped up its Pac-12 season in fine style by going on the road to defeat Washington 71-36 on Feb. 28 and Washington State 72-50 on March 2.

Washington was missing two starters and one bench player who had been suspended for one game for violating team rules. Hence, only seven players were available.

Stanford fielded 10 players, led by Chiney with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Amber and Joslyn each had 12 points. Coming off the bench, Bonnie was second in scoring with 15 points, all from 3’s.

Against Washington State, 12 players got onto the court, led by Chiney with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Joslyn was the only other player in double figures, scoring 13 points plus three rebounds.

This game brought Chiney’s season total of rebounds to 381 to date, surpassing Nneka’s record of 376 in the 2009-10 season.

The win also left Stanford atop the Pac-12 conference with Cal. Each finished 17-1 in the conference, but Stanford secured the top seed for the upcoming conference tournament because it had one more season victory than Cal, thanks to the three-game tournament in Hawaii.

Next: the tournaments

April 23, 2013

Thanks for the memories, Part 1 of 3

Last year, coaches and fans didn’t have super-high expectations when they looked at the upcoming Stanford women’s basketball season. After the graduation of record-setting forward Nneka Ogwumike, there were some questions about how to fill the void.

Therefore, could anyone have guessed that the team would finish with a 33-3 record and yet another Pac-12 conference championship? Here’s how it all unfolded.

The team officially began its season Sept. 15 with the first meeting and limited practices until Oct. 1. After that, the team could practice 30 days until the official start of the season on Nov. 9.

Fans got their first preview during the team’s first-ever Friday Frenzy on Oct. 19. This free event involved both the women’s and men’s teams.

It began with a red-white scrimmage by the women, followed by a 3-point shooting contest that came down to a showdown between sophomore forwards Taylor Greenfield and Bonnie Samuelson, who emerged the winner by firing off nine 3’s in a row. Other contests involving both men and women followed before the women were done for the day.

In previous years, fans who made the trek to Kezar in San Francisco during the summer could expect to see the incoming freshmen and perhaps some returning players in the city recreation department’s Pro-Am games. However, no Stanford woman elected to play, so Friday Frenzy was indeed the first chance to see the class of 2016 – forwards Tess Picknell and Aly Beebe and guards Kiran Lakhian and Denia Ebersole.

Aly missed action in that event and the entire season as she recuperated from knee surgery. Redshirt freshman guard Alex Green and redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, both of whom had missed most of the previous season with injuries, were dressed but didn’t play. The same was true of junior guard Toni Kokenis.

Easy exhibition wins

Corban University, a Division II Christian school in Salem, Ore., got the first taste of Cardinal prowess when Stanford won 117-33 on Nov. 1 in Maples Pavilion.

The Cardinal captains were Mikaela, senior forward Joslyn Tinkle and junior forward Chiney Ogwumike. Returning to the starting lineup from the 2011-12 season were Joslyn, Chiney and sophomore guard Amber Orrange. They were joined by Taylor and junior guard Sara James. Toni, the other returning starter, was in uniform and took part in warmups but sat at the end of the bench throughout the game.

With about 15 minutes to go in the first half, head coach Tara VanDerveer began liberally subbing, giving everyone a chance to contribute, including redshirt freshman Jasmine Camp, who – like Mikaela and Alex – had missed much of the past season with an injury.

Vanguard was the next Division II team to visit Maples and emerge with a lopsided loss – 82-47. The starters were Joslyn, Chiney, Amber, Bonnie and Jasmine. Once again, Tara subbed freely, but once again, Toni was in uniform but stayed at the end of the bench.

Now the games count

The season officially began Nov. 9 when Fresno State came calling and left with a 72-61 loss. Besides extending the nation’s best home winning streak to 80, the game was an occasion to honor military veterans on Veterans Day and to salute the San Francisco Giants for its World Series championship.

The starters this time were Joslyn, Chiney, Taylor, Sara and Amber. Among those coming off the bench was Toni, who was seeing her first action of the season. Chiney led the way with 23 points and 17 rebounds, the first of her many double-doubles.

During a Behind the Bench session after the game, fans had a chance to learn more about 6’5” Tess and to hear Joslyn’s goals for the season. Tess, who hails from Medford, Ore., said “Stanford’s always been my dream school.”

Joslyn, who divided her summer between practicing at home in Missoula, Mont., and working at Tara’s summer hoops camp, said she was working on rebounding and being more aggressive in an effort to fill some of the void left by Nneka’s graduation.

First road trip is short

The team’s first road trip took it close to home as it visited Santa Clara University and left with a 92-57 win on Nov. 11.

Once again, there was a slight change to the lineup as sophomore forward Erica Payne got her first career start. She joined Chiney, Joslyn, Jasmine and Amber. During the course of the game, all 13 available players saw action.

Chiney led her team with 22 points and scored her 1,000th career point midway through the first half. She played 25 minutes and ended with 1,010 points on her resume.

Making history in Hawaii

The Stanford women shocked the basketball world by defeating Baylor 71-69 on Nov. 16 during the Jack in the Box Wahine Classic at the University of Hawaii. Thus the Cardinal ended the defending national champion’s 42-game winning streak and avenged a 59-47 loss to the Lady Bears in the semi-final game of the 2012 Final Four in Denver.

Mikaela got the first start of her career and was assigned to guard 6’8” Brittney Griner, holding her to a relatively low 22 points and six rebounds. Joining Mikaela in the starting lineup were Joslyn, Chiney, Toni and Amber. Chiney led the team with 18 points, followed by Taylor with 16, thanks in part to four 3-pointers.

This victory would vault Stanford to No. 1 in the national polls for the next six weeks.

Stanford followed up its Baylor victory by defeating host Hawaii 69-42 on Nov. 17, when all 13 available players got in on the action. The Cardinal wrapped up the tournament with a 92-68 win over Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 18.

Following that game, Chiney was named the tournament’s most valuable player, and Joslyn was named to the all-tournament team. Moreover, Chiney was named ESPNW player of the week for the first time. She had recorded 18 points and eight rebounds against Baylor, 15-17 against Hawaii and 25-10 against Tennessee-Martin.

Back to Maples

Back home, Tara said she could “this could be something special” after her team defeated Long Beach State 77-41 on Nov. 25, boosting its season record to 6-0 and its home winning streak to 81 games.

Tara stayed with the same starting lineup that had been so successful in Hawaii. Joslyn led the team in scoring with 18 points plus seven rebounds, followed by Chiney with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Amber flirted with a triple-double by recording 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds (all defensive).

The post-game session featured Chiney, who said that before the Baylor game, she told her teammates, “Fear no one.”

On the road again

The next road trip was relatively short, just up Interstate 80 to UC Davis on Nov. 30. It was another easy win for the Cardinal, ending 87-38. Even if Chiney hadn’t scored a career-tying 27 points, the team still would have won.

At the half, the score was 46-19, and Chiney had equaled the Aggies’ output with 19 points of her own, plus 11 rebounds. She finished the game with 13 rebounds.

Once again, Tara used all 13 available players. With about 7 minutes to go in the game, the starters were done for the night. The only player who didn’t show up in any statistic was Bonnie, who played only 3 minutes in the first half before heading to the locker room with what appeared to be an ankle injury. She returned to the gym early in the second half but didn’t play.

Right before the game ended, word spread among Stanford fans that their football team had defeated UCLA 27-24, thus winning the Pac-12 championship and securing a berth in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Visiting Gonzaga in Spokane on Dec. 2, the Cardinal notched a 69-41 victory, led again by Chiney with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor came off the bench to go 6-for-8 in 3-pointers, giving her 18 points, both career highs.

The game was special for Joslyn because her younger sister, Elle, plays for the Zags. Elle had 2 points and three rebounds, while Joslyn had 16 points and eight rebounds. On hand to cheer for both were their parents and younger brother, who wore T-shirts reading Stan-zaga or Gonz-ford.

At home on the Farm

The Cardinal returned home to defeat University of the Pacific 78-43 on Dec. 15.

Chiney played a major role in the victory with yet another double-double – a career-high 31 points plus 13 rebounds despite being double-teamed most of the time. Mikaela added career-highs of 13 rebounds and five assists.

Taylor was injured as she was fouled under the Stanford basket with 14:19 to go in the second half. She was helped to the locker room and didn’t return.

Another somber moment came at the beginning of the game when announcer Betty Ann Boeving asked the crowd to stand for a moment of silence to honor the 20 children and six adults who were shot to death by a lone gunman (who then killed himself) at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

On the lighter side, it was Dog Lovers Day with dog videos, film clips of movie dogs and photos of dogs belonging to fans, coaches and players. Bonnie was shown with her dog, which sported nerd glasses, complete with tape across the bridge. Agility dogs provided the halftime entertainment.

Success in the South

Stanford eked out a 53-49 win at South Carolina on Dec. 19 in a tight game. A basket by Mikaela tied the score with 53 seconds to go, and Toni clinched the win by making six free throws after that.

Chiney had 21 points and 15 rebounds, followed by Toni with 15 points. Taylor, who had been injured in the University of the Pacific game, played for 11 minutes but didn’t score.

The victory gave the Cardinal a 10-0 record to match its best start in school history.

The team upped that record to 11-0 on Dec. 22 by defeating Tennessee 73-60 – only the second time that Stanford had won at Tennessee.

The entire Ogwumike family, including Nneka, who was there to surprise Chiney, were part of the crowd of 13,016 and saw her score 21 points and snare a career-high 19 rebounds. Nneka was taking a holiday break from playing in Poland.

UConn gets revenge

Two seasons ago, on Dec. 30, 2010, UConn visited Maples with a record 90-game winning streak that Stanford snapped by a score of 71-59.

The tables were turned on Dec. 29, 2012, when the Huskies again came calling, but this time the Huskies snapped the Cardinal’s record home winning streak at 82 in a 61-35 blowout.

A much closer game had been expected because Stanford was still ranked No. 1 in national polls, while UConn was No. 2. UConn would go on to win the NCAA national championship.

While the Huskies shot only 37.5 percent, Stanford was even worse at 19.3 percent in the face of UConn’s smothering defense.

Chiney did her part, scoring 18 points and 13 rebounds, but only four other Cardinal players got into the scoring column.

Next: Conference play begins

April 14, 2013

Banquet pays final tribute to team

Fans had a final chance to say farewell and thank you to the 2012-13 Stanford women’s basketball team during the annual spring banquet April 11.

For the first time, the banquet was held in McCaw Hall of the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center rather than the Faculty Club. The new venue proved to be an improvement because it’s roomier. So many people attended last year’s banquet that some of the staff had to sit outside on the patio.

Another difference this year was that the dinner was served buffet style rather than sit-down, allowing the 230 guests a greater choice of items and serving sizes. Thanks to Jimmy V and his crew, the main course choices of filet of beef, filet of salmon, chicken Madeira and stuffed Portobellini mushrooms were well received. The social hour featured tasty appetizers like giant prawns.

Still another difference was that wine and soft drinks were included gratis throughout the event.

As she has in the past, administrative assistant DeeDee Zawaydeh took care of the arrangements and served as emcee before handing the microphone over to head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Tara commented that when she arrived for the dinner, she saw some familiar faces but couldn’t quite place them at first because the players were so dressed up. “This is a group that cleans up really well,” she said.

“Some incredible highs” this year

This event celebrates “a great year (with) some incredible highs,” she said. Although many fans had a modest outlook for the season after the graduation of the great Nneka Ogwumike last year, “Jos and her teammates did not get that memo,” Tara said, referring to senior forward Joslyn Tinkle.

She cited some of the team’s accomplishments, starting with the defeat of defending national champion Baylor in November and doing so without fouling its star, Brittney Griner.

She continued with the team’s Pac-12 season and tournament championships and its 20th trip to the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen. It set a defensive record, allowing only 51.9 points per game, she said, as she ticked off additional records. (Marian Cortesi recaps all of them in Stories of the Season on this website.)

Many people to thank

Tara began thanking all the behind-the-scenes people who were responsible for making the season a success, starting with first-year athletic director Bernard Muir, other administrators and scholarship donors. One of Bernard’s two daughters was a ball girl for the team. She and her sister arrived later after their mom had picked them up.

In keeping with tradition, Tara introduced each player, starting with the freshmen, including managers Megan Ferowich and Tiarra Little.

She praised walk-on guard Denia Ebersole as “a very hard worker” and guard Kiran Lakhian as a Texan who made “a great decision to come to Stanford.”

Forward Aly Beebe didn’t play this season because she suffered a second torn ACL last spring and underwent reconstructive surgery. She has been cleared for limited workouts. It is hoped that she’ll be ready to play next season.

Forward Tess Picknell came to understand the difference between high school and elite college play. Unlike everyone else on the team, she was able to practice every day. She’s expected to have a great sophomore year, Tara said.

Sophomores in the spotlight

After more thank-you’s, it was time to introduce the sophomores, starting with guard Jasmine Camp, who missed most of her freshman year with an injury. “It’s great to have Jas back and healthy,” Tara said, adding that she brings great energy to the team.

Guard Alex Green also missed much of her freshman year and part of this season because of an injury, but she was cleared to play during the winter. She was a great defensive player in high school, Tara said.

Forward Erica Payne is a “high-energy” player and an “excellent student.” who earned an honorable mention for the Pac-12 all-academic team.

Forward Bonnie Samuelson, a great 3-point shooter, earned the same honor. Forward Taylor Greenfield, who had a taped finger that was broken in the Georgia game, “had some spectacular games,” including Gonzaga and Baylor, Tara said.

Point guard Amber Orrange was “one of our most improved players” and was named to the All Pac-12 team.

Amber speaks up

In a new twist for the banquet, Amber was given a microphone so that Tara could interview her. Tara noted that when the team huddles during timeouts, she looks at Amber to see what she thinks about suggested plays.

When Tara asked what she did to improve last summer, Amber said, “It was just getting in the gym every day.” Her coaches and teammates encouraged her, too.

More thank-you’s followed, including interns Katie Schlein and Abby Ganzon, who spent much of their time assisting video coordinator Lauren Greif. Along with her team duties, Lauren has been going to graduate school and will complete her degree this year, Tara said.

Next in line for introductions were the juniors, starting with guard Toni Kokenis, who missed part of the season with an undisclosed medical condition. “It became much tougher (for the team) without Toni,” Tara said, but “we all hope to see her back on the court next year.” Toni was another player who earned an honorable mention for the Pac-12 all-academic team.

Sara has a story to tell

Guard Sara James became a starter and a leader during the season. Handing her a microphone, Tara asked her to repeat a story she had told Tara over the phone two summers ago.

It seems that when Sara was working on her ball handling skills in the garage of her family’s Sierra foothills home, she found a rattlesnake. Her father, Mike, took care of the problem.

“She’s very dedicated,” Tara said, adding that during the offseason, Sara refined her 3-point shot, which she works on every day. “Sara has great discipline and a great work ethic,” Tara concluded.

As for forward Chiney Ogwumike, last year she was Nneka’s younger sister. This year Nneka is her older sister, Tara said.

Chiney leads the way

After Nneka graduated, “I was a little nervous,” Tara said, but Chiney came on to lead the team in scoring at 22.4 points per game and in rebounding at 12.9 per game, among many other accomplishments (see Stories of the Season), while never fouling out.

Her honors included being named a WBCA All-American for the second year. She was among the five Stanford players who earned honorable mention on the Pac-12 all-academic team

“I have wonderful teammates who support me,” Chiney said when Tara interviewed her. An international studies major, Chiney will spend this spring quarter as an intern for the minister of petroleum in Nigeria. She also is fund-raising for a charity that wants to build basketball courts in Nigeria, her parents’ native land.

“I love being around the basket,” she said, but during the summer, she plans to work on her footwork and her outside shots.

The coaches will be allowed to spend some time with the players for the first time this summer, so everyone will be in summer school, Tara said.

Tara thanks coaches

Speaking of the coaches, she began thanking her staff, starting with second-year assistant coach Trina Patterson, who was there with her husband, Carl.

“This year she really took over in a different way,” Tara said. She “did a great job scouting, recruiting” and working with the posts, especially Tess. “Our team is really fortunate to have you as a coach,” Tara told her.

Assistant coach Kate Paye was born in Stanford Hospital and graduated from Stanford, where she played basketball. “It’s great to have Kate on our staff,” Tara said, noting that she’s very creative in devising plays.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker “has the best record at Stanford,” going undefeated the year that Tara took a leave of absence to coach the USA team to a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. She coordinates recruiting and works with the admissions office. Although she doesn’t scout per se, she watches all of the tapes and is a great tactician, Tara said.

Kudos for seniors

Finally it was time for the seniors, starting with forward Mikaela Ruef. Because Mikaela red-shirted during her junior year, she has another year of eligibility and will return next season.

“Mikaela Ruef is the main reason why our team is 33-3,” Tara said, noting that Mikaela, who wears 3 on her jersey, “is crazy about the number 3.” She played in every game this season and averaged 6.6 points per game (a multiple of 3).

When Mikaela was working out last summer, then-strength and conditioning coach Susan Borchardt, ’05, raved about how hard she worked. “The light bulb went on,” Tara said.

Mikaela started for the first time in the Baylor game and was assigned to guard Griner because Chiney and Joslyn couldn’t get in foul trouble. She stayed in the starting lineup for the rest of the season.

She’s working on her master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. In keeping with tradition, the printed program includes notes from all of the players to the seniors. Nearly every player mentioned how smart and helpful Mikaela is. She was among the Stanford players who earned an honorable mention on the all Pac-12 academic team.

Joslyn completes double major

Joslyn came last. She has already completed a double major in communications and sociology. During her four years on the Farm, the team compiled an 81-1 record in conference play, a 137-10 record (92.3 percent) overall and went to three Final Fours. She was named to the all Pac-12 team and joined Stanford’s 1,000-point club this season. A versatile player, she had 66 blocks.

“She has great basketball instincts,” Tara said. “She brought great energy and enthusiasm every day” – traits stressed by her teammates in their tributes. Her “graduation creates a big void,” Tara said.

Sitting in front of a framed red jersey with her number, 44, Joslyn said, “I’m eternally grateful to have worn this jersey for four years. This jersey represents four wonderful years here.”

She plans to continue playing basketball, probably overseas, and hopes to return to this area eventually.

Video encapsulates the season

A video created by Lauren and video producer Bud Anderson climaxed the evening. It started by showing Nneka going No. 1 to the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA draft last April, then featured game clips of each player. Next came game highlights from throughout the season, followed by a listing of the team’s impressive records.

“We have outstanding accomplishments,” Tara said after the lights went on. Discussing the just-concluded collegiate season, she noted “more parity, which I believe is a good thing except when it comes to us.”

The team handled adversity well. “We never had excuses” or blamed anyone. The NCAA tournament saw some teams come apart at the seams, but this team is mature, one that strives for excellence. “We want a team of givers,” she said.

With so many players returning next season and the arrival of five promising freshmen, “stick around for our second half,” Tara said. She challenged the returning players to step up and lead the way. “The hungry lion hunts best,” she said, thanking everyone for coming and concluding, “Go, Stanford.”

After the formal program had ended, the team gathered at the podium to pose for pictures. Besides being dressed up, the players had graciously chatted with fans throughout the evening.

Now it’s time to wait until early November, when exhibition games begin, followed by the real thing.