December 30, 2015

Fine farewell to '15

The Stanford women’s basketball team completed its pre-conference schedule by defeating Chattanooga 73-30 at home on Dec. 28.

It was the team’s third consecutive rout at home, following victories of 93-38 over Cornell on Dec. 19 and 83-41 over Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 22.

This most recent win improved the Cardinal’s record to 10-2 and represented payback against a team to which it had lost 54-46 a year ago in Tennessee.

Once again stingy defense was given much credit for the victory. Chattanooga was limited to 21.1 percent shooting, while the Cardinal shot a more respectable 42.9 percent.

Everyone gets in on the fun

And once again the lopsided score gave all available players a chance to get into the game. The only missing player was sophomore guard Brittany McPhee, who was in street clothes.

As she has in several previous games, head coach Tara VanDerveer tapped the team’s 

Tara instructs the team during a timeout.
five juniors to start: guards Briana Roberson, Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson along with forwards Kailee Johnson and Erica “Bird” McCall.

Because Brittany was unavailable, the coach used eight players instead of nine for the standard rotation. Coming in quickly off the bench were sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson, freshman forward Alanna Smith and freshman guard Marta Sniezek.

Band, Dollies, Tree return

With the return of the band, Dollies and Tree –- absent for the holiday break –-the atmosphere was livelier.

Motley Q, a men’s barbershop quartet, got things going by singing the national anthem as written, the way sounds best.

Bird hit the game’s first basket at the 8:46 mark, and it was off to the races. Chattanooga didn’t make its first basket until the 7:27 mark, making the score 7-2.

The score continued to widen with the first quarter ending 21-9, the half 40-18, the third 51-25 and the final buzzer at 73-30.

The final difference would have been even greater if a Chattanooga player hadn’t sunk a desperation 3-point shot with just fractions of a second left on the clock.

Before that, the Cardinal went on a 22-0 run that started in the third and continued into the fourth, capped by the first of senior forward/center Tess Picknell’s two baskets late in the fourth.

According to Stanford Athletics, “The Cardinal has held 11 of 12 opponents this season to below 40 percent shooting, five below 30 percent and one below 20 percent. Stanford is now limiting its foes to convert at only a 30.6 percent clip, the second-best mark in the country.”

Bird has 18 points

Bird led all scoring with 18 points to go with eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals in 29 minutes.

Also playing 29 minutes, Lili had 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal.

Karlie was the only other Cardinal in double figures, recording 10 points, three rebounds,

Karlie goes for the basket.

four assists and one steal in a team-high 32 minutes.

Indicative of its defense, the team had eight blocks and 11 steals.  Kaylee was the biggest disrupter with four steals to go with 8 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.

Similarly, the team had only nine turnovers, while Chattanooga had 21. However, free-throw success was a mediocre 61.5 percent, and 3-point shooting was 22.7 percent – five of 22. Bri made all three of her 3’s. Karlie made two of her 10.

Jeanette, Mel watch the game

During the third quarter, the video board showed Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, in the stands. With her were her mother, Cindy, and Kerry Blake, ’11, who was the team’s manager for four years. She shot Kerrycam videos of some of the team’s travels.

During the class of 2011’s four years at Stanford, the team went 63-0 at Maples. Afterward Jeanette said she plans to continue playing for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and to get married in July.

Yet another 2011 grad at the game was Melanie Murphy, who was spotted upstairs during the half. She’s coaching the varsity girls basketball team at Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton. Her team has compiled a 7-1 record, with its only loss coming recently against Menlo-Atherton High, coached by Markisha Coleman, ’07.

The Cardinal will start Pac-12 play with a trip to the desert to play Arizona at 2 p.m. Jan. 2 and Arizona State at 5 p.m. Jan. 4. Both games will be televised by the Pac-12 network.

Photos by Hector Garcia-Molina, Stanford Athletics 

December 23, 2015

Second rout in a row

After coasting to a wide margin of victory over Cornell three days earlier, the Stanford women’s basketball team staged a near-repeat performance by defeating Cal State Bakersfield 83-41 at home on Dec. 22.

The unique aspect of this game was that the Roadrunners are coached by Greg McCall, father of junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Father and daughter had some moments in front of the crowd and Bird’s teammates before the game. Greg and head coach Tara VanDerveer presented her with a USA Basketball plaque honoring her performance in the World University Games in South Korea during the summer.

Bird holds the plaque presented by her father, Greg, and Tara.

Bird was co-captain of the gold-winning USA team, aiding its efforts by averaging 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

By the time the final buzzer sounded against her dad’s team, she had led her Stanford team with 15 points and 10 rebounds, her eighth double-double of the season. In 22 minutes on the court, she also had a team-high four blocks along with one steal. One noteworthy aspect of her scoring is that she made some mid-range jumpers, a relatively new addition to her repertoire.

Bench players contribute 42 points

As has been true in recent games, Bird was in the starting lineup along with the team’s other four juniors: forward Kailee Johnson and guards Lili Thompson, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson. Together they accounted for 41 points. Bench players added 42.

Coming off the bench first were the other four players in the usual rotation: guards Marta Sniezek, freshman, and Brittany McPhee, sophomore; and forwards Alanna Smith, freshman, and Kaylee Johnson, sophomore.

As a team, everyone played at least five minutes, and no one played more than Karlie’s 25.

The score was 18-12 after the first quarter, 42-18 at the half and 62-33 after the third. All of the starters were on the bench with slightly more than 3 minutes to go in the third.

Everyone except freshman guard Alexa Romano scored at least 1 point, but she had one block in her 5 minutes.

Alanna, Karlie, Kaylee in double figures with Bird

Close behind Bird in scoring was Alanna with 14 points plus three rebounds and two blocks. Also in double figures were Karlie with 13, plus five rebounds, two assists and a block; and Kaylee with 11, plus seven rebounds and an assist. This was Kaylee’s third consecutive game with at least 10 points.

Karlie made three of the team’s six 3-pointers, followed by Alanna with two and Lili with one.

Stanford dominated on the boards with 61 rebounds, compared with CSB’s 36. For the game, Stanford shot 50.8 percent, CSB 19.1 percent.

The team had 12 blocks, tying for second with three other games in Stanford single-game history. The record is 13, tallied against Arizona State in 1989.

Main rotation players cheer for bench players like Tess.

Tess has 4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks in 7 minutes

Blocking was led by Bird’s four and senior forward/center Tess Picknell’s three in her 7 minutes. Tess, who doesn’t always get much playing time, also scored 4 points and had six rebounds. When she made her first basket at the 5:17 mark of the fourth quarter, the crowd and her teammates erupted into cheers.

While Stanford dominated in nearly every statistical category, two stats were less impressive. One was the 14 turnovers, compared with CSB’s 11.

The second was free throws. CSB made 10 of 12, or 83.3 percent. Stanford made 13 of 33, or 39.4 percent. Freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee made only two of her 10 shots at the line, but she had 4 points and four rebounds in 5 minutes.

After tossing the victory balls and showering, the players were free to begin their short holiday break. They’ll be back at Maples to take on Chattanooga at 7 p.m. Dec. 28 to complete the non-conference schedule.

Photos by Stanford Athletics

December 20, 2015

Cakewalk over Cornell

With everyone playing at least nine minutes and no one playing more than 19 minutes, the Stanford women’s basketball team easily defeated visiting Cornell 93-38 on Dec. 19.

With no starters taller than 6 feet and only 10 available players, the visitors were at a disadvantage right from the opening tip. On Stanford’s first possession, junior guard Lili Thompson launched a 3-pointer that kept the Cardinal ahead for the entire game, except for an early, 41-second tie.

Lili and her four classmates –- guards Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson along with forwards Kailee Johnson and Erica “Bird” McCall –- started for the Cardinal. Less than 4 minutes into the first quarter, the starters had racked up a 12-3 lead on 100 percent shooting.

It wasn’t long before the next four players –- freshman forward Alanna Smith, sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson, sophomore guard Brittany McPhee and freshman guard Marta Sniezek -- in the usual nine-player rotation sprang into action and continued to widen the lead.

Also coming off the bench in the first quarter were red-shirt senior guard Alex Green and senior forward/center 
Tess Picknell.
Alex plays tough defense, with Tess behind her. (Bill Dally, Stanford Photo)

Still-speedy Alex plays 14 minutes

Although Alex had seen very limited action in earlier games, this game marked her first significant playing time since recuperating from injuries. Although she didn’t score, she contributed a rebound, an assist and a steal in 14 minutes. Moreover, she seemed to be as speedy as she was before her injuries.

The first half ended with Stanford up 53-13.

The starters returned to open the third quarter, but all of them were done for the afternoon about midway through that period, which ended with a 72-28 advantage.

By early in the fourth quarter, all 14 players had gotten the nod from head coach Tara VanDerveer. In the meantime, those who had gone to the bench cheered loudly for their teammates.

One of their loudest cheers came when freshman guard Alexa Romano, who has played sparingly, made her first basket. She finished with 2 points, two rebounds and one rebound in 12 minutes.

For the first time since a road win over Oregon State in February, five players finished in double figures. Bird and Alanna had 12 each, Karlie and Lili 11 each and Kaylee 10. Almost there were Bri, Brittany and senior guard Kiran Lakhian with 9 each.

Kiran makes 75 percent of her 3’s

Kiran’s 9 points in her career-high 10 minutes came from shooting 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point line. Adding to the team’s total of 10 3’s were Karlie and Lili with three each and Bri with one.

Kaylee’s 10 points and team-leading 11 rebounds represented her first double-double of the season. It was the sixth of her career and her first in the past 23 games. She also had three assists, three blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.

Stanford dominated the stat line, leading 54-28 on rebounds, 20-9 on assists, 6-0 on blocks, 7-4 on steals and 49.2 - 22.6 percent in shooting.

The advantage applied to free throws, too, with Stanford making 21 of 24, or 87.5 percent, while Cornell made four of 12, or 33.3 percent. Stanford had eight turnovers, Cornell 11.

Next up: CSU Bakersfield comes calling at 2 p.m. Dec. 22. The team then gets a short break before returning to host Chattanooga at 7 p.m. Dec. 28 to conclude 2015 and the non-conference schedule. 

December 18, 2015

Victory over the Lady Vols

“We love winning.” With those three words, associate head coach Amy Tucker summed up the feelings of Stanford women’s basketball fans following the team’s 69-55 victory over visiting Tennessee on Dec. 16.

It was a win with much to savor, such as the fact that except for the Lady Vols’ first basket and a tie early in the first quarter, Stanford led for the entire game.

The score was 17-11 after the first quarter and 35-20 at the half. The spread grew to 21 points early in the third quarter, which ended with the Cardinal ahead 48-30.

The visitors made a run in the fourth quarter, twice closing to within 7 points, but each time the Cardinal made clutch plays to widen the margin and clinch the win.

Juniors start the game

The team’s five juniors were the starters, with Lili Thompson, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson as the guards and Kailee Johnson and Erica “Bird” McCall as the forwards.

Four other players subbed in: Freshmen Marta Sniezek at guard and Alanna Smith at forward; and sophomores Brittany McPhee at guard and Kaylee Johnson at forward.

All nine players scored, led by Lili with 19, Bird with 14 and Kaylee with 10. Bird also led in rebounding, snaring 10 of the team’s 42, followed by Lili with seven and Kaylee with five. The visitors had 31.

Kailee is introduced as a starter.
This game was Kaylee’s best this season, a hopeful sign from the player who had led the team in rebounding last year. “I think she’s back for good,” Amy said after the game.

Marta also got the crowd’s attention. Playing 29 minutes, she had 9 points, three rebounds, two steals and four assists. Her assist total matched Lili’s.

The team’s other five players were available and cheering from the bench.

Among the crowd of 3,768 was a smallish band, reflective of Stanford’s holiday break, along with a palm version of the Tree. Also on hand was the Rose Bowl-bound football team, which cheered loudly from the north bleachers before parading onto the floor with its Pac-12 championship trophy at halftime.

Krista, Brooke, Jayne visit the team

Three WBB alums were there, too: Krista Rappahahn Birnie, ’06; Brooke Smith, ’07; and Jayne Appel, ’10. They visited the team in the locker room after the game. Jayne’s parents and fiancĂ© were with her.

Although Stanford outscored and outrebounded the Lady Vols, it also recorded 20 turnovers, compared with the visitors’ 14. Tennessee held the edge in free-throw percentage, 70.6-63.3.

The visitors held their hosts to a mere two 3-pointers, one by Lili and one by Karlie. Points in the paint – 40 – helped to overcome the lack of production from behind the arc.

Black panels replace white championship banners

Fans who complained about the loss of the white championship banners that had adorned Maples got to see their replacements in three corners.

Women’s basketball is in its usual spot in the southeast corner. The information appears on three wall-mounted black panels.  The words are in red, the numbers in white.

The first panel reads STANFORD WOMEN’S BASKETBALL. The second lists conference championships. The third lists national championships and Final Four appearances.

Women’s volleyball in the northeast corner and men’s basketball panels in the northwest corner have the same design.

Alanna, Alexa introduced at Behind the Bench

Amy opened the Behind the Bench session after the game by introducing Alanna and a fellow freshman, guard Alexa Romano.

Even though Alanna is a long way from her home in Melbourne, Australia, she has relatives in Ohio and will spend her holiday break with them.

Her father, whom she credited for drilling her on her hook shot, will visit next week. He and her uncle played professionally, and her uncle played in the Olympics.

Her main adjustment to playing in America was learning new terminology. Otherwise, “the fundamentals are pretty much the same,” she said.

As for academics, she graduated from high school in December, so she had eight months off before facing the rigors of college.

Unlike most of her teammates, she didn’t go to summer school because she was in Russia playing for Australia in the U19 world championship. Her team lost to Russia in the semi-finals but beat Spain for the bronze medal. She was one of five all-star players for the tournament. Overall, it was “an awesome experience,” she said.

Alexa’s relatives attend game

Alexa, who comes from New Mexico, noted that her parents, brother and a friend were at the game. She said her biggest adjustment to college playing was “the pace of the game.” She also said, “I’ve never played with such great,  smart people” before.

She’s working on “running out of my lane on offense” and being “a more disruptive defender.”

Commenting on the game, Amy said, ‘We played really well for three quarters” against a team that had pressed for nearly 40 minutes.

“We’re a work in progress,” but she said she’s pleased to see different players contributing.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer said essentially the same thing. “We’re very excited about it,” she added. “Any time you beat Tennessee and you’re Stanford, it’s a great night.”

“We (just) have to keep our focus,” she concluded.

Next up: Cornell at 2 p.m. Dec. 19 and Cal State Bakersfield at 2 p.m. Dec. 22, both at home.

Photos from Stanford Athletics