April 20, 2016

Season reflections --- Part 3 of 3

The Stanford women’s basketball team entered the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle as the 4 seed.

Stanford and UCLA had identical 14-4 conference records for third in the conference, but the Bruins’ defeat of the Cardinal during the season led to the 4 seed.

Therefore, the Cardinal faced 5 seed Washington on March 4. Suffering a 73-65 loss to the Huskies, the team went home early and empty-handed.

Junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall scored 22 points to lead the team, followed by junior guards Karlie Samuelson and Lili Thompson with 14 each. Freshman guard Marta Sniezek didn’t score, but she set a tournament record with 13 assists and no turnovers.

Easy win over USF opens NCAA play

With a 4 seed, the Cardinal fared far better in the NCAA tournament, hosting the first two rounds on March 19 and 21.

In the first round, Stanford easily defeated the 13th-seeded University of San Francisco, 85-58.

Before the game started, photographers clustered around head coach Tara VanDerveer as she chatted with USF head coach Jennifer Azzi, ’90, one of Stanford’s first great WBB players.

Starters featured four juniors –- Bird, Lili, Karlie and guard Briana Roberson –- plus sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson. Lili led the scoring with 17 points, followed by Bird with 14, Kaylee with 13 and Karlie with 11.

Marta, who had been known mainly for assists, showed more assertiveness in shooting, scoring 8 points, including a 3. Her 3 was one of the team’s eight. The others came from Karlie and Lili with two each and from Bird, Bri and freshman forward Alanna Smith with one each.

Stanford dominated USF in every statistical category, especially rebounds, with a 49-22 advantage. Bird had 10, while Kaylee had nine.

Everyone got to play except for freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee, who was in a boot, as she had been in recent games.

Squeaker for Tara’s 1,000th game at Stanford

Tara issues instructions in her 1,000 game on  The Farm. (Stanford Athletics)
The next game, against South Dakota State on March 21, was Tara’s 1,000th at Stanford. Beyond the number itself, it will be memorable for the score –- 66-65.

It took a mighty effort in just under 5 minutes to erase an 8-point deficit against the 12th-seeded Jackrabbits, and victory wasn’t assured until the very last second.

The final heroics came from Lili and Bird. Lili made a driving layup to tie the game 65-65 with 8.2 seconds left. She was fouled in the process and made the free throw to put the Cardinal ahead. SD State got off one last shot, but Bird blocked it.

It wasn’t a pretty game. Poor free-throw shooting, 10 of 22, or 45.5 percent, nearly sabotaged the team. SD State was more successful at the line, making 7 of 13, or 53.8 percent.

The starting lineup remained the same as against USF, and it did most of the heavy lifting, scoring 61 points. Four bench players got into the game but made only 5 points.

Lili, Karlie and Bri celebrate the squeaker win. (Stanford Athletics)
Lili played all 40 minutes and scored 19 points. Bird had foul trouble and played 32 minutes, but scored 20 points.

Cardinal upsets Notre Dame in Sweet Sixteen

The win earned the team a Sweet Sixteen berth against 1-seeded Notre Dame in Lexington, Ky., on March 25.

The result was a huge upset win for Stanford, 90-84, led by Bird with 27 points, Karlie with 20, Kaylee with 17, and Lili and Marta with 11 each.

Bird and Karlie rejoice after the Notre Dame upset.
Success beyond the arc helped a lot with a total of 11 3’s. Karlie had five, Lili three, and Bird, Bri and Marta one each.

Washington plays spoiler again

Washington again proved to have the knockout punch, downing Stanford 85-76 in an Elite Eight game on March 27.

The Cardinal couldn’t overcome a slow start, ending the first quarter with a 22-7 deficit. During the rest of the game, Stanford bested Washington by 4 in the second quarter, while Washington had only 1 more in the third quarter, and Stanford had 3 more in the final quarter.

With the outcome clear, Tara made sure that the three seniors –- forward/center Tess Picknell and guards Alex Green and Kiran Lakhian –- had their final chance to play.

Lili had 19 points, Bird 17, Karlie 12 and Marta 10.

Washington went on to the Final Four, losing to Syracuse in the semi-final game in Indianapolis.

Although it had been an up-and-down season, the team rewrote parts of the record book. Its 211 blocks broke the Stanford record of 196 in 2001-02, and its 13 blocks against USC on Jan. 22 matched the record set in 1989 against ASU.

Despite winning neither the Pac-12 season nor tournament, it extended its Pac-12 record for most 20-win seasons with 27 and advanced to the Elite Eight for the 18th time.

Lili and Bird were named to the All-Pac-12 team, while Karlie received honorable mention. Bird was named to the All-Defensive team. Honorable mention went to Kaylee and Lili.

Banquet honors team one last time

The team and fans had one last chance to celebrate at the annual banquet April 10 in Dallmar Court.

It gave Tara a chance to thank everyone who contributed to the team’s success in some way and to praise each player individually. Lili did not attend the banquet.

Shannon was on crutches following recent foot surgery.

The seniors came in for special praise for their big contributions as practice players. They also had a chance to speak to the crowd and give their thanks.

Kiran, Alex and Tess each received her framed jersey with her photo and team accomplishments.

Tara expressed her hope that the returning players would dedicate themselves to improvement before next season, starting the next day.

April 18, 2016

Season reflections --- Part 2 of 3

After wrapping up its pre-conference schedule with a 10-2 record, the Stanford women’s basketball team began Pac-12 competition with two games in the desert.

The team defeated Arizona 59-34 on Jan. 2. This game gave all 14 players a chance to get in on the action, and no one played longer than the 26 minutes logged by junior guard Lili Thompson and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer went with an all-junior starting lineup featuring Lili along with forwards Erica “Bird’ McCall and Kailee Johnson and guards Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson. Brittany led the team with 21 points, followed by freshman forward Alanna Smith with 16.

Loss to ASU represents a program low

Moving on to Arizona State on Jan. 4, the team suffered a 49-31 loss, scoring the fewest points in its history. The previous low was 32 points against Missouri in 1984, before Tara’s arrival on The Farm. No one was in double figures. Lili led the team with 7 points.

The team returned home to better results Jan. 10, defeating Colorado 71-56. It was a good time for sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson to post two career highs.

Bri (10) and Kaylee go for a rebound. (Stanford Athletics)
With the score 0-7 in favor of Colorado, she came off the bench with the clock at 6:36 in the first quarter. Just seconds later, she gave the team its first basket. She went on to score all six of the team’s points until Karlie and Brittany hit successive 3’s.

Logging 32 minutes, Kaylee recorded team and career highs of 17 points plus 11 rebounds. Also in double figures were Bird with 16, Lili with 12 and Karlie with 11.

With Bird adding 11 rebounds to her stat line, she and Kaylee became the first SWBB duo with double-doubles since Chiney Ogwumike (29/15) and Mikaela Ruef (11/13), both ’14, in the 82-57 Sweet Sixteen victory over Penn Sate on March 30, 2014.

Lili joins 1,000 point club

Not be overshadowed, Lili logged the 1,000th point of her career at 3:08 in the second quarter, becoming the 36th SWBB player to do so.

Lili was featured in the post-game Behind the Bench. Among other things, she said she was honored to be in the company of the other members of the 1,000 point club.

Alanna also was featured. “She will have a great future here,” said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

About 350 fans were treated to an open practice and a locker room tour on Jan. 13. The redecorated lounge in the locker room is adorned with action shots of past SWBB greats, photos of Tara and Amy cutting the net after championships and lists of the team’s accomplishments over the years

Squeaker and loss in Oregon

It was again time to hit the road as the team traveled to Oregon for a tight 64-62 win over the Ducks on Jan. 15. Bird didn’t play because she wasn’t feeling well. Lili made two baskets in the final 35 seconds to tie and then win the game. She finished with 16 points, as did Kaylee. Karlie led the way with 18 points. Freshman guard Marta Sniezek got the nod to start at the point.

Oregon State handed the team a 58-50 loss in Corvallis on Jan. 17. Kailee with 14 and Bird with 12 were the only Stanford players in double figures. The team had been ahead until the fourth quarter, when its shooting went cold and Oregon scored 28 points to Stanford’s 10.

Travel continued on Jan. 22 when the team downed USC 57-47. Its 13 blocks, led by Bird’s five, tied a school record. Bird and Karlie each had 14 points to lead the scoring, while Lili had 11. The team was shorthanded with Bri and senior guard Kiran Lakhian in street clothes and freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee feeling ill and staying in the hotel.

Next up, UCLA dominated the visiting Cardinal 56-36 on Jan. 24. The second quarter was particularly painful as Stanford was outscored 16-4. Only Bird with 11 was in double figures. Kailee and Kiran were unavailable.

First quarter surge leads to win over Washington

After those two weekends on the road, the team returned to Maples to rack up a satisfying 69-53 win over Washington on Jan. 29.

Abandoning its penchant for slow starts, the team surged to a 26-13 first-quarter lead. Lili led the way, scoring the team’s first 8 points and finishing the quarter with five 3-pointers and another basket for 17 points. The crowd gave her a standing ovation when she left the game for good near the end of the fourth quarter. By then, she had amassed 27 points, just 1 point shy of her career high 28 on Nov. 20, 2014, against Texas.

It was more than a one-woman show, though. Bird and Brittany pitched in with 12 points each, while Karlie had 10. Kaylee did her part with a game-high and season-best 14 rebounds and matched her career high with four assists.

Lili scores 30 in win over WSU

As if her performance against Washington weren’t enough, Lili topped that game and her previous career high with 30 points, leading her team to a 69-52 victory over Washington State at home on Jan. 31.

Lili, with Amy, at a Behind the Bench. (Dave Cortesi)
The team overcame a slow start in which its first 9 points came from free throws. Lili finally made the first basket with 27.3 seconds to go in the first quarter, which ended with the Cardinal trailing 11-18. The deficit narrowed to 25-27 at halftime.

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

Bird scored 11 points and snared 14 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season. Other major contributions were Karlie’s 10 points and Kaylee’s 19 rebounds.

Bird was featured at the Behind the Bench. “Bird is having a breakout junior year,” assistant coach Kate Paye said. “Her other nickname is Double-Double.”

Cal falls in both Big Games

The first round of the WBB Big Game came Feb. 2 when the visiting Cal team fell 53-46.

Lili had a relatively quiet game but finished with 11 points. Karlie had a team-high 15 points, going 3 for 4 from beyond the arc. Bird had 11 points and 13 rebounds. Kaylee had 15 rebounds for the third consecutive game in which she had more than 10 boards.

The second round, this one at Cal, again led to a win, 60-55 on Feb. 5. Stanford started slowly, trailing 34-27 at the half, but the third quarter clinched the victory, when the Cardinal held the Bears to 4 points while scoring 15.

When the final buzzer sounded, five were in double figures: Bird, 14; Brittany, 12; Kaylee, 11; Lili and Kailee, 10 each. In a rare night for her, Karlie didn’t score.

Balanced scoring in win over Arizona

Arizona came calling on Feb. 12 and left with an 82-58 loss. This time the team got off to a fast start with all five starters –- Bri, Lili, Karlie, Bird and Kaylee –- scoring within the first 4 minutes. Stanford then dominated the rest of the way.

All 14 players got in, and no one played more than 22 minutes.

Scoring was balanced with Bird adding 12 points, Lili 11 and Kaylee 10. Alanna had a career-high four blocks. Freshman guard Alexa Romano, who plays sparingly, had 7 points, including a 3.

Marta played 18 minutes and had one of her best games of the season, scoring 4 points by going aggressively to the basket and dishing out five assists. Redshirt senor guard Alex Green made her first basket of the season after rehabbing from ACL surgery.

Valentine’s Day not so sweet

Valentine’s Day found the team nearly upsetting visiting Arizona State in overtime, but an ASU basket at the very last second dealt the Cardinal a 63-61 loss.

Stanford had trailed in the first three quarters but rallied in the fourth to tie the game at 55-55, resulting in OT.

Three-pointers by Karlie, who had 14 points, and Bri came at critical times. Rebounds hurt the most, going 47-30 in ASU’s favor. Free throws also hurt, with ASU making 11 to Stanford’s five.

Road games came next, with Stanford prevailing 80-49 over Colorado on Feb. 19 and 72-54 over Utah on Feb. 21.

Team upsets Oregon State for 1,000th program victory

Returning home and ranking #13 nationally, Stanford upset #7 Oregon State 76-54 on Feb. 26.

The team and staff celebrate SWBB's 1,000th win. (Stanford Athletics)
Moreover, the game represented the SWBB’s 1,000th victory, setting off a joyous post-game celebration. The only other Division 1 schools to reach that milestone are 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)” under Tara, Stanford Athletics reported.

Bird led both teams with a career-high 25 points, including the first, second and third 3-pointers of her career.

Karlie had a career night of her own, snaring 12 rebounds, twice her previous high. With 13 points, including three 3’s, she posted the first double-double of her career.

Brittany started in place of Lili, who missed the game because of the death of her paternal grandfather. The sophomore guard contributed 15 points and 6 for 7 shooting.

Seniors honored after defeat of Oregon

The Pac-12 schedule wrapped up Feb. 28 with a 69-42 Senior Day victory over Oregon.

Stingy defense held the Ducks scoreless for just under 7 minutes in the first quarter, while the offense poured in 15 points.

Lili missed this game, too, and Shannon was in a boot for the second straight game.

Bird matched her career high of 25 points, including another 3, and added a career-high 18 rebounds. This was her 14th double-double in the past 15 games. The team tied its season high with 22 assists, led by Karlie with five.

Tess, Kiran and Alex are saluted on Senior Day. (Stanford Athletics)
A post-game ceremony honored Alex, Kiran and forward/center Tess Picknell. Although they don’t get much playing time, Tara stressed their importance to the team by serving as the scout team. During practice, they run the next opponent’s plays, and they still have to know Stanford’s plays.

Thus Stanford ended conference play with a 14-4 Pac-12 record (24-6 overall) for a third-place tie with UCLA and the No 4 seed in the conference tournament in Seattle because of its season loss to UCLA.

Next: The Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments

April 16, 2016

Season reflections --- Part 1 of 3

When the Stanford women’s basketball team ended its 2015-16 season with an 85-76 loss to Washington in the Elite Eight on March 27 in Lexington, Ky.,  fans were left with a slew of memories, some quite pleasant, others not.

Here’s a look back at how the up-and-down, 27-8 season evolved.

It unofficially started in June when the three incoming American freshmen and five returning players took part in San Francisco Pro-Am games at Kezar Pavilion.

Freshman guard Marta Sniezek and freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee were Bay City teammates, joined by Stanford alum Markisha Coleman, ’07. Freshman guard Alexa Romano and senior center/forward Tess Picknell were on the San Francisco team.

Also competing were two sophomores, guard Brittany McPhee and forward Kaylee Johnson, on the Mission Rec Center team. Junior guards Lili Thompson and Briana Roberson were on the Palo Alto TnT team.

These players were among the Stanford women attending summer school while spending two hours a week with the coaches and six hours a week with strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil.

Alanna, Bird get international experience

Freshman forward Alanna Smith of Australia hadn’t arrived yet because she was representing her country in U19 international competition in Russia.

Likewise, junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall was co-captain of the USA team that won the gold medal at the World University Games in South Korea.

Fans got their first look at the new edition of the team during an open practice Oct. 17. Besides the freshmen and returning players, the roster added senior guard Kiran Lakhian, who had been with the team her freshman year.

After the scrimmages, head coach Tara VanDerveer introduced the team and her staff. The latter included new trainer Katelin Knox; video coordinator Hana Potter, who was an intern last year; and intern Mary Merg.

Easy win in exhibition game

Unofficial play began with an 81-48 home exhibition win over Academy of Art University on Nov. 7.

Alanna had 12 points off the bench. (Stanford Athletics)

By the end of the game, all 12 available players had played and scored. Bird led the way with 19 points and 16 rebounds, followed by junior guard Karlie Samuelson with 17 points and eight rebounds. Alanna came off the bench to add 12 points and nine rebounds.

Redshirt senior guard Alex Green was still recovering from an ACL injury, and Lili, wearing a boot on her right foot, was held out as a precaution.

This was the first game played under new rules. The most significant is that games are divided into four quarters rather than two halves.

Another is that two shots replace one-and-one free-throw shooting. Free throws are still allowed on shooting fouls. Otherwise, there are no free throws until a team has accrued five fouls in a quarter.

Davis falls in first official game

The team went on the road for its first official game, a 74-45 defeat of UC Davis on Nov. 13. All 13 available players got into the game. Alex was still rehabbing and didn’t make the trip.

Starters were Marta at the point, Bri and Karlie at the other guard spots, and Bird and Kaylee at the forwards. Bri had 15 points, followed by Alanna with 13, and Bird and Lili with 10 each.

Foreshadowing a problem that sometimes cropped up during the season, the team made only 13 of 21 free throws, 61.9 percent.

The road trip continued with a 65-48 win over Gonzaga in Spokane on Nov. 15. Bird topped the team with 23 points, 13 rebounds and four steals, a career high. The only other player in double figures was Lili with 21 points.

Back on its home turf, the team breezed past George Washington 84-63 on Nov. 21. The Cardinal was behind 15-19 at the end of the first quarter but took off after that.

The starting lineup changed as Lili got the nod over Marta. Lili immediately opened Stanford’s scoring with a 3-pointer, the first of nine for the team. She went on to make two more 3’s to finish with a team-high 21 points and 33 minutes. Bird was right behind with 18 points, as were Karlie with 17 and Alanna with 10.

Alex was in uniform for the first time but didn’t play. Junior forward Kailee Johnson wasn’t in uniform.

Santa Clara hands team its first loss

Two days later, 26 turnovers contributed to the team’s first defeat, 61-58, at the hands of Santa Clara on Nov. 23. Santa Clara scored 24 points off those turnovers, while the Cardinal managed only 8 points on the visitors’ 13 turnovers.

Lili had a game-high 21. Her only teammate in double figures was Bird with 12. She also had 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season.

Thanksgiving week found the team in Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament.

It was a successful venture with an 82-65 win over Missouri State on Nov. 27, a 74-66, come-from-behind win over Dayton on Nov. 28 and a 71-65 overtime win over Purdue on Nov. 29 for the tournament championship.

In that Purdue game, free-throw shooting saved the day with the Cardinal cashing in on 25 of 26 attempts, or 96.2 percent. Purdue made 8 of 12 shots, or 66.7 percent.

Bri posted a career-high 26 points in that game, while Lili was named tournament MVP.

Loss to Texas follows tournament success

Road games continued on Dec. 13 when the Cardinal fell to Texas 77-69. Kailee was named a starter in place of Kaylee, while Alex saw her first action, albeit only for a minute. Lili led the team with 21 points, followed by Bird with 14 and Brittany with 12.

Returning home, the Cardinal prevailed 69-55 over Tennessee on Dec. 16. Except for the Lady Vols’ first basket and a tie early in the first quarter, Stanford led for the entire game, which was followed by a Behind the Bench.

Lili again led the scoring with 19. Bird had 14, and Kaylee had 10. This was Kaylee’s best game so far this season.

Marta got the crowd’s attention with 9 points, three rebounds, two steals and four assists in 29 minutes.

This game gave fans their first look at the panels that have replaced championship banners in the four corners of Maples. Women’s basketball is in its usual spot in the southeast corner.

Three routs in a row

The Cardinal wrapped up 2015 and its pre-conference schedule with three easy wins.

The first came Dec. 19. With everyone playing at least 9 minutes and no one playing more than 19 minutes, the team easily defeated visiting Cornell 93-38.

The five juniors started. Less than 4 minutes into the first quarter, they had racked up a 12-3 lead on 100 percent shooting.

Alex gets her first significant playing time. (Stanford Photo)
Alanna, Kaylee, Brittany and Marta came off the bench and continued to widen the lead. Also coming off the bench in the first quarter were Tess and Alex, giving Alex her first significant playing time. She didn’t score, but she had a rebound, assist and steal in 14 minutes. Moreover, she seemed to be as speedy as she was before her injury.

Some other milestones included Alexa’s first basket and Kiran’s 9 points in her career-high 10 minutes as she shot 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.

The next team to fall was CSU Bakersfield, 83-41 at home Dec. 22. The Roadrunners are coached by Greg McCall, Bird’s father.

Before the game started, he and Tara presented Bird with a USA Basketball plaque honoring her performance in the World University Games in South Korea during the summer. As co-captain, she averaged 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

In this game, she led her team with 15 points and 10 rebounds, her eighth double-double of the season. Some of those points came from mid-range jumpers, a relatively new addition to her repertoire.

The five junior starters accounted for 41 points, while bench players added 42.

Bird’s four blocks led the team, followed by Tess with three in her 7 minutes. Tess, who doesn’t get much playing time, scored 4 points and had six rebounds. When she made her first basket about halfway through the fourth quarter, the crowd and her teammates erupted in cheers.

Chattanooga game wraps up year

The third rout came after the Christmas break when Chattanooga fell 73-30 in Maples on Dec. 28.

As had been true in previous games, stingy defense was given much credit for the victory. Chattanooga was limited to 21.1 percent shooting, while Stanford shot a more respectable 42.9 percent.

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

Thus the team ended the first part of its season with a 10-2 record.

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.”

Next: The Pac-12 season

April 14, 2016

Banquet salutes 2015-16 team

Tara and players with retiring bus driver Don Van Zandt 

More than 150 fans of Stanford women’s basketball got their last look at this year’s team during the annual banquet April 10 in Dallmar Court.

This time, though, the players were not in uniform. Rather they were dressed up to be honored for their hard work and accomplishments during the season.

Giving the welcome, longtime administrative assistant DeeDee Zawaydeh ticked off a long list of those accomplishments, such as going to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament and winning the 1,000th game in the program’s history as a Division I team.

In the process, head coach Tara VanDerveer chalked up her 980th overall career win versus only 225 losses.

Before and during the buffet dinner, action photos from the season flashed on two screens.

Team, players to set goals for next year

Tara served as emcee. She began by saying that after the banquet, the team and individual returning players would meet with the coaches to set out their goals for next season.

For example, when Tara met with junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall last spring, Bird said she wanted to do more. Tara said, “I was OK with that.” Subsequently, Bird “set the tone” for the season and the rest of the team bought into it.

“We have a lot to celebrate,” she said, such as the 18th trip overall to the Elite Eight and the 10th time in 13 years to get that far. The two best games of the season were the Feb. 26 defeat of Oregon State and the Sweet 16 upset of Notre Dame on March 25.

The team ranked sixth in the nation in defense. Its 211 blocks set a Stanford record and ranked fifth in the nation.

She then began thanking people who contributed to the team’s success, starting with Stanford president John Hennessy. For the most part, the team stayed healthy thanks to team doctor Geoffrey Abrams and trainer Katelin Knox, who joined the staff this year, along with strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil. “They did an awesome job for us,” Tara said.

Freshmen come first

Freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee, who was on crutches following recent foot surgery joined her three classmates to be the first players saluted by Tara.

The coach called guard Alexa Romano “one of the team’s fastest players” and credited her for never missing practice and always keeping a positive attitude.

Forward Alanna Smith came to the team from Australia. “Talk about an adjustment,” Tara said. Nevertheless, she “had a very solid freshman year” with 20 blocks and 20 3-pointers along with a “desire to be physical.”

Guard Marta Sniezek had 109 assists, only the fourth freshman in the past 20 years to reach that number. Her 43 assists with no turnovers during the Pac-12 season set a conference record. “Marta is a very special player” and fearless, Tara said.

Tara then challenged the four freshmen to take advantage of the off-season to improve their skills.

Among those named in the next round of thank-you’s was longtime bus driver and fan Don Van Zandt, who’s retiring soon but who will continue to attend home games.

Sophomores praised

The two sophomores were next. Tara praised guard Brittany McPhee for spending so much time in the gym to improve her skills as well as spending extra time with assistant coach Kate Paye, who works with the guards.

Much of Brittany’s improvement came during the season, when she was the fourth-highest scorer on the team and held Oregon State star Jamie Weisner to a mere 4 points. The human biology major can “run the floor and attack the basket.”

Forward Kaylee Johnson also was productive as the team’s fifth-highest scorer despite having broken her wrist during the summer. Many of her contributions are intangible because “she does the dirty work” An economics major, she carries a 3.7 GPA.

Juniors come next

After more thank-you’s, Tara asked the juniors to come forward, but there were only four. The fifth, guard Lili Thompson, was not at the banquet. Queried afterward, no one with the team had any comment.

Tara praised guard Briana Roberson for her improvement in assists, resulting in 86, as well as her extra work in the gym. The political science major is “a quick and aggressive defender,” the coach said.

Tara called forward Kailee Johnson an “intelligent player and effective screener” who’s good on defense. She’s majoring in science, technology and society.

Guard Karlie Samuelson was the only player to start every game. She was the team’s third-highest scorer. Her 47 percent success rate beyond the arc was not only best on the team but second only to Jennifer Azzi, ’90, in program history. The human biology major was second on the team in steals and first in taking charges.

As for Bird, she “definitely joined the most improved players club.” She was the team’s leading rebounder and added a 3-point shot to her game, making 11. She was co-captain of the gold-winning USA team at the World University Games in the summer and was named to the All Pac-12 team. She’s majoring in psychology.

Improvement seen in rebuilding year

Commenting on the season, Tara noted that the team lost a lot with the graduation of the class of 2015, so it was expected that this year would be a time to rebuild. The team did just that, even improving over last year’s team in several statistical categories.

In addition to players’ hard work, she credited the coaches for that improvement. She called assistant coach Tempie Brown a very talented, very competitive coach who works with the posts. Kate is “an excellent teacher and mentor,” Tara said, adding that Kate and Tempie scout opposing teams.

Associate head coach Amy Tucker, who also coaches the posts, has a “great understanding of the game.”

Seniors speak to fans

Finally it was time for the seniors, starting with redshirt guard Alex Green. Tara said she was glad that Alex came back for a fifth season despite suffering an Achilles injury and her second ACL during her Stanford days. A science, technology and society major, Alex is a “tireless worker” who “gave the other guards fits” in practice.

Alex responded by thanking the fans, coaches and her teammates for their support.

Guard Kiran Lakhian was with the team her freshman year and “loved to play basketball,” so she asked to come back this year. She’s a human biology major who wants to go to medical school.

Kiran thanked Tara and the other coaches for her second chance to play and thanked her teammates for welcoming her.

Tara said of forward/center Tess Picknell, “I’m so proud of Tess for her dedication and contributions” to the team. She’s a film and media major.

Like her classmates, Tess had many people to thank. She added that Alex credited her for getting the usually quiet guard to talk more.

Although the three seniors didn’t get much game time, they played on the scout team and were “critical for the team’s success,” Tara said.

Behind the platform were the seniors’ framed jerseys along with an action photo of each one, a Stanford logo and the team’s accomplishments during their time on the team.

Next came a video featuring plays by each team member as well as highlights from games and season statistics.

Tara cites Warriors’ success

Looking ahead, Tara said, “We’re excited about the future of our program and team.” She urged the players to “enjoy every single day” and cited the Golden State Warriors for their outstanding season along with their unselfishness and hard work.

“Records aren’t the most important” thing, she said. The journey is, but “we have very high goals and standards.”

Something different about the printed program is that it was only four pages with the roster, staff, endowments and a page to honor the seniors. Missing were the usual tributes by each underclassman to each senior.

Coming next: A three-part retrospective on the season