November 5, 2013
Exhibition victory bodes well for 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
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.