February 28, 2016

Win over Oregon on Senior Day

The Stanford women’s basketball team honored its three seniors with a 69-42 victory over Oregon and a post-game ceremony on Feb. 28.
Stingy defense held the visiting Ducks scoreless for just under seven minutes in first quarter, while the sizzling offense had already scored 15 points. The Cardinal never trailed, leading 24-4 after the first quarter, 39-18 at the half and 54-34 after the third.
As had been true in the win over OSU two days earlier, the team was missing its leading scorer, junior guard Lili Thompson, because of a death in her family. Once again freshman center Shannon Coffee was in a boot.
Junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall duplicated her OSU career-high output with 25 points and added a career-high 18 rebounds to go with two assists, three blocks and four steals. This was Bird’s 14th double-double in the past 15 games. Her scoring included one of the team’s eight 3-pointers.
The others came from junior guards Karlie Samuelson and Briana Roberson, who had two each, while freshman forward Alanna Smith and senior guard Kiran Lakhian had one each.
Lots of assistance

The team tied its season-high with 22 assists, led by Karlie with five. Bri and freshman guard and Marta Sniezek had four each. Sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson had three. The team assisted on 75.9 percent (22-of-29) of its baskets.

The starters were Bird, Karlie, Bri, Kaylee and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee.

Just before the starting lineups were announced, head coach Tara VanDerveer presented flowers to four of Oregon’s six seniors. The other two are injured and weren’t there.

A forest of Trees

Before the game and during the first half, the 4,082 fans were treated to the spectacle of four Trees joined by a man wearing green shorts and a brown vest.
The significance of this Treesome became clear during halftime, when this year’s Tree gave her costume to that man, who is next year’s Tree. After accepting his fellow Trees’ salutes, he completed the game as a solo act.
With the game well in hand and the third quarter drawing to a close, Kiran checked in to play the point. Just after she made a fast-break layup, making the score 61-38 at 6:30 in the fourth quarter, she got a big hug from redshirt senior Alex Green during the ensuing time out.
Alex and forward/center Tess Picknell, the team’s other senior, soon got in on the action. Alex’s teammates were elated when she scored at the 1:10 mark.
Ceremony salutes seniors
After the game, the players and staff remained on the floor to honor the seniors.  
Alex, who is pursuing a double major in science, technology and society along with film and media studies, was accompanied by her mother.
Kiran, majoring in human biology, was accompanied by her roommate because her parents were out of the country.
Film and media studies major Tess was joined by her parents and sister.
Seniors’ contributions behind the scenes
Although these seniors don’t get much playing time, Tara stressed that “a lot of what they do, you don’t see.” They help their teammates prepare for the next game by running the opponents’ plays and replicating leading players' tendencies. This is in addition to the need to know Stanford’s plays.
Alex went through Senior Day last year, but because she tore her ACL during the season, she returned as a fifth-year senior.
Speaking for the team, Karlie said she was glad to have Alex back. She’s been a good friend, and “I’m going to miss her,” Karlie said.
Alex said she’s not sure what she’ll do next year. She’d like to travel, but eventually she wants to go into athletic administration. As for the biggest lesson she learned from Tara: “You must have confidence in yourself to have others believe in you,” Alex said.
Bird said she and her teammates were glad when Kiran decided to return. Kiran had played as a walk-on during her freshman year, but left the team for the next two years. “I’m super blessed to have her as a friend,” Bird said.
Kiran said she hopes to earn a master’s degree in public health or maybe sports medicine. She teared up when she said it was hard not playing basketball for two years. “I’m really happy to have a second chance,” she said.
Bri said of Tess, “She has a really great personality. She’s a great senior, and I’m sad to see her go.”
Tess eludes rattlesnake at age 12
Her father said that Tess first started watching Stanford play at the Pit, as Oregon’s former gym was known, at the age of 6. When she was 12, she faced down a rattlesnake and wasn’t bitten. Instead, her dad killed and skinned the snake before it became a meal for the family. When Tara made her home visit during the recruiting process, she took note of the snakeskin that still hangs on the wall.
Tess, a film and media studies major, hopes to have a career in film.   She said she’s pretty certain she’ll work as a production assistant on a film this summer.
Ending the ceremony, Tara thanked the seniors and took note of the upcoming Pac-12 tournament in Seattle.
As the No. 4 seed, Stanford will have a bye. It will play its first game at 8:30 p.m. March 4 against the winner of the previous day’s game between No. 12 Colorado and No. 5 Washington. 
If the Cardinal win that game, they would play again at 8:30 p.m. March 5. The championship game is at 6 p.m. March 6. All games will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

February 27, 2016

Memorable moments at Maples

It was a night to remember as the No. 13-rated Stanford women’s basketball team dismantled No. 7 Oregon State 76-54 on Feb. 26.

As if the upset victory weren’t enough, the Cardinal also notched the SWBB program’s 1,000th victory, setting off a post-game celebration that included confetti, photos and lots of smiles and hugs.

According to Stanford Athletics, “Stanford is the seventh Division I institution to reach the 1,000-win plateau, joining Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, James Madison, Old Dominion, Texas and Stephen F. Austin.

“The Cardinal's overall record since its first varsity season in 1975 is 1,000-310 (.763), and 824-172 (.827) with head coach Tara VanDerveer at the helm.”

More reasons to celebrate

Junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall led both teams with a career-high 25 points, including the first, second and third 3-point shots of her career. Each time the crowd erupted in cheers.

Playing 26 minutes, Bird added five rebounds, one block and one assist to her stat line. She scored the team’s first 2 points after a crafty no-look pass from junior guard Karlie Samuelson.

Karlie had a career night of her own. She snared 12 rebounds, twice her previous high. With 13 points, including three 3’s, she posted the first double-double of her career. On top of that, she had two assists and one steal in 38 minutes.

Sophomore guard Brittany McPhee started in place of junior guard Lili Thompson, who reportedly was attending her grandfather’s funeral. She contributed 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, along with four rebounds and a career-high four assists plus three blocks.

Defense plays a big role

Tenacious defense by Brittany and her teammates was credited with holding the Beavers to 34.4 percent shooting. For its part, the Cardinal team had its best shooting game of the season, making 57.7 percent of its shots against a team whose field goal percentage defense was a nation-leading 30.9 percent.

The starting lineup featured Bird, Karlie, Brittany, junior guard Briana Roberson and sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson. Bri added one of the team’s eight 3’s, as did freshman forward Alanna Smith.

Except for freshman forward Shannon Coffee, who was in a boot, everyone got into the game.

Seniors help to seal the victory

Already wildly enthusiastic, the crowd of 3,613 cheered loudly when the team’s three seniors –- forward/center Tess Picknell and guards Alex Green and Kiran Lakhian -- entered late in the game. The cheers continued when Kiran made the team’s final basket with just over a minute left.

After tossing the traditional victory balls, the players were joined by the coaches and staff for the 1,000-win ceremony. Photo-taking was delayed because Bird was being interviewed by Pac-12 Bay Area TV commentator Mary Murphy. A few players flapped their arms bird-like behind the two as the interview continued.

Upon entering Maples Pavilion, fans received white T-shirts with Stanford Basketball and the university logo on the front. They could avail themselves of red pompoms, too.

Stanford will complete its regular season schedule by hosting Oregon and celebrating Senior Day at 11 a.m. Feb. 28.

February 15, 2016

Heartbreak on Valentine's Day

The Stanford women’s basketball team CAMETHISCLOSE to upsetting visiting Arizona State in overtime Feb. 14, but an ASU basket at the very last second dealt the Cardinal a 63-61 loss.

Stanford trailed through the first three quarters: 19-23, 25-38 and 36-49, but rallied in the fourth to tie the game at 55-55 and send it into OT.

Part of the reason for the turnaround was that the team made a greater effort to get the ball to junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall, who wound up scoring a total of 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Playing 39 minutes, she added six rebounds, two assists, four blocks and two steals to her stat line.

3’s by Karlie, Bri come at critical times

Junior guard Karlie Samuelson logged the most minutes, 44, and contributed 14 points (4-of-8 on 3’s), four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Three-pointers by Karlie and junior guard Briana Roberson came at critical times in the game.

Junior guard Lili Thompson had what for her was an off night with only 4 points in 30 minutes. However, before fouling out at 4:03 in OT, she had added three rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Perhaps the main factors contributing to the loss were rebounds, which were 47-30 in ASU’s favor, and free throws, which were 11-5 in ASU’s favor.

On the brighter side, the Cardinal had more assists, 15-9; blocks, 7-1; and steals, 11-8; while committing fewer turnovers, 14-18.

The refs seemed to call a close game, especially in the first quarter, when Stanford got its fifth foul with the clock at 5:23 and the score locked at 8-8.  ASU then capitalized with two free throws.

Crowd gets into it with boos, cheers

At that point, the boos were long and loud from the crowd of 3,250. They continued through much of the game as Stanford partisans expressed their displeasure with some calls against Stanford and some perceived non-calls against ASU.

However, the crowd did its best to cheer the team as it rallied in the fourth quarter and kept things tight in OT.

Because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Day, the players wore pink sneakers and had pink stripes on the back of their socks. Their white warm-up T-shirts said what looked like “United in the fight” from my vantage point. Pink T-shirts were handed out to the first 250 fans to claim them at the marketing table.

More T-shirts were thrown into the crowd when the No. 13 women’s gymnastic team made a brief appearance after the first quarter.

Apparently because no senior dads were in the family section, no dad wore the pink tutu that had been handed down from one senior dad to the next starting with Jayne Appel’s father in 2010.

As the players went to the locker room after their early warmups, Bird, Bri and freshman forward Alanna Smith stayed a few minutes longer to practice their shots.

Past and present Dollies perform

When the Dollies took the floor at various times, a Dollies reunion meant that as many as 17 went through their dance routines.

Halftime entertainment featured the Sol Jumpers, a group of 13 girls and two boys who displayed their prowess at jumping rope.

Even though the loss was hard to take, it wasn’t as bad as the 31-49 shellacking that the team endured when it visited ASU on Jan. 4.

Next up are visits to Colorado at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 and Utah at 1 p.m. Feb. 21.

February 13, 2016

977 down, 23 to go

Fast and fun. That’s the best way to describe the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 82-58 victory over visiting Arizona on Feb. 12.
Judging by a trivia question posed during a timeout, it also became the SWBB program’s 977th overall win, leaving it just 23 wins short of 1,000.
The starters –- junior Briana Roberson at the point, juniors Lili Thompson and Karlie Samuelson at the other guard spots, and junior Erica “Bird” McCall and sophomore Kaylee Johnson in the post positions –- got off to a fast start, with all five scoring before 4 minutes had elapsed.
Stanford leads all the way
The Cardinal never looked back, leading 24-7 after the first quarter, 41-21 at the half and 67-36 after the third quarter. 
Kaylee was the only starter still on the floor when the fourth quarter began, but she was replaced less than 2 minutes later, leaving the game in the hands of players who don’t get much time.
All 14 players got into the game for at least 5 minutes, and no one played more than 22 minutes.
Balanced scoring
Scoring was balanced, led by Bird will 12, Lili with 11 and Kaylee with 10. They were closely followed by sophomore guard Brittany McPhee with 9; Karlie with 8; Bri, freshman forward Alanna Smith (with a career-high four blocks) and freshman guard Alexa Romano with 7 each.
Alexa’s 7 points came in only 8 minutes and included one of the team’s seven 3-pointers. The others came from Karlie and Brittany with two each, and from Lili and Bri with one each.
The speedy pair of Bri and freshman Marta Sniezek alternated at the point, zipping the ball up the court and dodging defensive players.
Marta has good game
Playing 18 minutes, Marta had one of her best games of the season, scoring 4 points by going aggressively to the basket and dishing out a leading five of the team’s 17 assists. Several times she made sharp passes to Alanna, who didn’t always score, but the connection promised good things to come. Karlie’s four assists were impressive, too.
The team’s 51.7 percent shooting average was its best this season. Indicative of a harassing defense, its 13 steals were a season high, too.
One final observation: It was fun watching the main rotation players on the bench rejoicing for their teammates’ accomplishments in the final quarter. One such moment came when redshirt senior Alex Green made her first basket of the season.
Next comes a more formidable opponent, Arizona State at 6 p.m. Feb. 14.

February 4, 2016

Slow start ends with win over Cal

No one player lit up the scoreboard as junior guard Lili Thompson had done against Washington and Washington State a few days earlier. Nevertheless, the Stanford women’s basketball team managed to top its Cal visitors 53-46 on Feb. 2.

Lili had only 2 points early in the third quarter when her team was up 32-28. She subsequently improved upon that, finishing the game with 11 points and three assists plus a rebound.

Junior guard Karlie Samuelson was the team’s high scorer with 15 points, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 4-for-4 at the free-throw line. She added six rebounds, four assists, two steals and lots of scrappy plays that don’t show up in the box score.

Also in double figures was junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall with 11 points to go with 13 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season.

Sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson helped out with a game-high 15 rebounds, thus completing the third straight game in which she had more than 10 boards.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer altered the starting lineup somewhat, going with Lili, Karlie, Kaylee, Bird and freshman guard Marta Sniezek. Marta played 7 minutes, replaced mainly by junior guard Briana Roberson at the point. Bri had one of her better scoring games, finishing with 9 points, including two 3’s, plus two assists and one steal.

With 3,268 people in the stands, operatic tenor Don Gustafson opened the game by singing the national anthem as it was written.

Cal’s fan contingent included cheerleaders, band and Oskie, the Golden Bears’ mascot. Stanford countered with its band, cheerleaders, Tree and Dollies. Both bands seemed extra heavy on the drums, making me glad for my earplugs.

Lower level seats were festooned with red Stanford rally towels, which were handed out to other fans in the upper areas.

Cal had only seven available players, while Stanford had its full contingent of 14. They included junior forward Kailee Johnson, who had missed some previous games. She joined eight other players in the rotation.

The game started slowly, with no scoring until a basket by Cal after about two minutes had elapsed. Stanford’s first score came at the 7:32 mark, thanks to a basket by Kaylee.

The first quarter ended with Stanford trailing 7-15. The Cardinal inched up to the 25-24 lead at the halftime break and had only a 35-33 lead at the end of the third quarter.

In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the video board displayed facts about the accomplishments of Stanford women’s sports teams, individual players and alumnae. For example, 22 of the 27 women’s national championships in the past 10 years were won by Stanford teams and individuals.

The Cal and Stanford women will face off again at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Cal.

February 1, 2016

Lili tops herself in WSU game

 Fresh off her 27-point performance against Washington on Jan. 29, junior guard Lili Thompson surpassed that and her own career record with a 30-point outpouring to lead the Stanford women’s basketball team to a 69-52 victory over Washington State on Jan. 31.

Thus she and her teammates overcame a slow start in which their first 9 points came from free throws. Lili finally made the team’s first basket with 27.3 seconds left in the first quarter, which ended with the Cardinal trailing 11-18.

The deficit narrowed to 25-27 at halftime. That’s when the crowd of 3,421 was entertained by the welcome return of agility dogs.

In the meantime, the team stayed in the locker room longer than usual, emerging with only about 3 minutes to go.

Lili goes 5 for 5 on 3’s in second half

Then came the third quarter, when Lili launched an early 3 to tie the score at 28-28. Shortly thereafter, she scored again to put the Cardinal up to stay at 32-30. During the second half, she scored 24 points, going 9 for 11 overall and 5 for 5 from beyond the arc.

Lest anyone think this was a one-woman show, junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall scored 11 points and snared 14 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. Junior guard Karlie Samuelson contributed 10 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Other major contributions were sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson’s 19 rebounds and sophomore Brittany McPhee’s 9 points.

Kaylee, Bird, Lili, Karlie and junior guard Briana Roberson were the starters. Junior forward Kailee Johnson was unavailable again.

Chiney, Bonnie attend game

As fans waited for the post-game Behind the Bench, they spotted Chiney Ogwumike, ’14, chatting with Bonnie Samuelson, ’15, and Bonnie’s mom (also Karlie’s mom).

Assistant coach Kate Paye started the session by hailing “a great win for our team.” “It feels good to get a win on Sunday,” she said, referring to losses to Oregon State on Jan. 17 and UCLA on Jan. 24.

She was accompanied by Bird. “Bird is having a breakout junior year,” Kate said. “Her other nickname is Double-Double.” She noted the value of Bird’s
having played in the World University Games during the summer when, as co-captain, she helped the USA team win the gold.

Bird said that the international experience was helpful and that Chiney advised her during her freshman year. “My confidence is at an all-time high,” she said.

Kate chipped in: “Bird might be the most coachable player we’ve ever had at Stanford.”

Bird credited strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil for helping her and her teammates maintain their energy during games when their opponents seem to flag after a while. As for improving, Bird said she’s working on shooting from farther out rather than just under the basket.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer then joined the session, remarking, “It’s a tough league that we’re playing in.”

Tara praises Kaylee for rebounding

She commended Kaylee’s 19 rebounds (the team had 46 to WSU’s 26). “We’re just getting better,” she said. “We worked really hard” to improve the offense against the zone defenses that have tended to vex the team in past games.

“I’m really proud of this team’s resilience,” she said.

She also commended senior forward/center Tess Picknell, redshirt senior guard Alex Green, senior guard Kiran Lakhian, freshman guard Alexa Romano and freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee.

They don’t get much playing time, but they play a valuable role as the scout team in practice, running the next opponent’s offense. As a result, “our defense has been really good,” Tara said.

One fan asked why freshman guard Marta Sniezek, who logs major minutes at the point, seems reluctant to shoot. “She’s a very unselfish player,” Tara said, but “she has to be an offensive threat.”

Noting that her mother, Rita, was there for the game, Tara said, “She’s undefeated when she watches us play.”

As for this game, “it was very physical out there.”

And for the season thus far: “It’s a fun ride. It’s a difficult ride,” she concluded.