November 21, 2016

Tournament tuneup?

Perhaps looking ahead to the coming week, when the Stanford women’s basketball team has three games in a row, head coach Tara VanDerveer substituted freely and frequently in the team’s 88-54 victory over Cal State Northridge on Nov. 20.

The team will spend the Thanksgiving holiday at a tournament in Cancun, Mexico, facing Northeastern, Wichita State and Purdue on consecutive days starting Nov. 24.

Tara altered the starting lineup somewhat, sticking with senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall, junior forward Kaylee Johnson, senior guard Briana Roberson and junior guard Brittany McPhee but substituting senior guard Karlie Samuelson for sophomore guard Marta Sniezek.

Karlie returns to starting lineup

Karlie hadn’t started previous games after recently recovering from a hairline fracture in her left forearm, but she was usually first off the bench.

However, Marta came in about halfway through the first quarter, joined by freshman forward Nadia Fingall.

By the end of the first half, when the score was 41-23, 11 of the 12 available players had seen action. The only exception was that night’s featured player, sophomore center Shannon Coffee, but she came onto the court only 30 seconds into the third quarter and wound up playing a total of seven minutes.

The most anyone played was 25 minutes, logged by Bird.

Shannon goes up for a score. (Bob Drebin/Isiphotos)
Shannon shines in short time

Shannon’s seven minutes were the least by anyone. She made the most of her time, though, with a career-high 8 points on 3-for-3 shooting from the floor and 2-for-2 shooting from the free-throw line. She also added three rebounds and a steal to her stat line.

Bird led the scoring with 17 points plus five rebounds, two assists and one block. Brittany and Nadia were right behind her with 14 points each in 21 and 16 minutes, respectively. Brittany also had one each in rebounds, assists and blocks plus two steals. Nadia had seven rebounds.

Two of Nadia’s classmates, guard DiJonai Carrington, playing 13 minutes, and guard Mikaela Brewer, playing 15 minutes, chipped in with 7 and 3 points, respectively.

The team had a total of 52 rebounds, compared with 29 by the Matadors. Kaylee, Nadia and sophomore forward Alanna Smith each had seven.

The turnover picture was improved with 13, while free throw shooting was admirable, 17 of 20, or 85 percent.

The three-point percentage was only 33.3, with five of 15. The threes came from Brittany, Karlie, Bird, Mikaela and Alanna.

Halftime entertainment was provided by Native Boogie and Beats, a group of Native American dancers in colorful costumes accompanied by two men in street clothes drumming and chanting. The dancers were mostly women and a few children.

After returning from Mexico, the Cardinal travel to Cal State Bakersfield to take on the team coached by Bird’s father at 7 p.m. The next home game is against UC Davis at 2 p.m. Dec. 4.

November 19, 2016

Family's first for Joslyn

When Stanford WBB alum Joslyn Tinkle, ’13, returned to Maples Nov. 18, she was wearing a Gonzaga shirt and sitting behind the Gonzaga bench.

Why? Because her sister, Elle, a redshirt senior, was a starting guard for the Zags as they faced their Cardinal hosts. As it turned out, Elle also was her team’s second-high scorer in its 68-63 victory.

It wasn’t an easy game for either team. Gonzaga held one-point advantages, 15-16 and 27-28, at the end of the first and second quarters, respectively, but Stanford was ahead 51-46 after the third.

Sara, Joslyn recount recent doings

That’s when Joslyn and teammate Sara James, ’14, were interviewed. Joslyn said she’d been playing professionally overseas, but she’s taking this year off to keep up with her family. Besides Elle with Gonzaga, her dad, Wayne, is the men’s basketball coach at Oregon State, and her brother, Tres, is on the team.

Sara, who earned her master’s degree in the pediatric nurse practitioner program at Columbia in New York City, is now a nurse at Stanford Hospital.

Both were warmly greeted.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer kept the starting lineup intact with sophomore guard Marta Sniezek, senior guard Briana Roberson, junior guard Brittany McPhee, junior forward Kaylee Johnson and senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Bri scored first for the Cardinal, and freshman forward Nadia Fingall was the first player off the bench, subbing for Kaylee. Next came senior guard Karlie Samuelson, subbing for Marta.

Five players do the heavy lifting

Altogether, Tara used 10 of the 12 available players, but Bird, Bri, Brittany, Karlie and sophomore forward Alanna Smith had the lion’s share of minutes.

Brittany led the team with 22 points plus eight rebounds, three assists and one block in 32 minutes.

Bird gets the team ready to run onto the floor.  Bob Drebin/Isiphotos
Bird added 17 points and 11 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. She also had one assist, one block and one steal in 34 minutes.

Also in double figures was Karlie with 10 points plus one rebound, three assists, one block and three steals in 37 minutes, but she fouled out late in the game.

Zags hot beyond the arc

Perhaps the most telling difference between the two teams is that the Zags were hot with their treys, making eight of 13, or 61.5 percent. Meanwhile, Stanford was cold, scoring on only three of 18, or 16.7 percent. Bird, Bri and Karlie each had one.

The team showed some improvement in turnovers, 11 for the game. However, the last one, an intercepted inbounds pass when Stanford had a final chance, proved to be a killer, combined with the Zags’ successful free throws after Stanford’s intentional fouls.

Overall, it was a tight game, but the home team couldn’t overcome cold shooting, 37.9 percent for the game, compared with the visitors’ 50 percent.

The team has a short time to regroup before hosting Cal State Northridge at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 20.

November 16, 2016

Father knows best

When Darren Smith, father of sophomore forward Alanna Smith, was asked what advice he had for the Stanford women’s basketball team during the third quarter of its game against Texas, he had just five words: “Get the ball to Brittany.”

Evidently the team heard the man who had played professional basketball in Australia for 12 years. Junior guard Brittany McPhee poured in a team-high, game-high and career-high 28 points to lead the 11th- ranked Cardinal to a decisive 71-59 victory over the visiting 8th-ranked Longhorns on Nov. 14.

Alanna’s father and mother, Simone, were visiting their daughter from their home in Australia.

Alanna drives to the basket.
As if heeding her dad’s advice, Alanna immediately dished an assist to Brittany, raising the score to 48-39 and giving Brittany her 25th point, one past her previous career high of 24.

A few minutes later, though, Alanna went to the floor during a scrum under the Texas basket and didn’t pop up right away until senior guard Karlie Samuelson helped her to her feet. Trainer Katelin Knox accompanied Alanna toward the locker room, but she returned to the bench a short time later.

She didn’t see any more action, but she eagerly joined her teammates in tossing victory balls after the game. Her stat line showed 5 points, one rebound and two assists in nine minutes.

Brittany gets a high five from Kate after the game.
Not content with merely scoring 28 points, Brittany had seven rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal in 39 minutes. Her scoring included two-of-two on treys. Also contributing 3’s were Karlie and senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall with one each.

Bird has six blocks

Although Bird’s 17 points were second on the team, they were almost overshadowed by her six blocks. For example, early in the second quarter she made two in a row during one Texas possession. She also had five rebounds, two assists and one steal in 39 minutes.

Bird, Brittany, junior forward Kaylee Johnson, senior guard Briana Roberson and sophomore guard Marta Sniezek started the game. In an encouraging sign, Marta scored the team’s first 2 points on a drive to the basket. A second drive was unsuccessful. She finished with 3 points, thanks to a free throw, but she also had five assists and one steal in 25 minutes.

Karlie was first off the bench, filling in for Bri.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer used eight of the 12 available players. Besides Karlie and Alanna, the only other player off the bench was freshman forward Nadia Fingall, who had one rebound and one assist in four minutes.

The evening opened with a well received operatic rendition of the national anthem from Steve Goodman, Stanford professor of medicine.

Shortly thereafter, Lili Thompson arrived and sat courtside opposite the Texas bench. Lili left the team for undisclosed reasons after last season but is completing her senior year at Stanford.

Despite all the bright spots and the victory, the team still has areas of concern, especially the 20 turnovers. It also was outrebounded 38-32.

The team made only 11 of 18 free throws, or 61.1 percent, but Texas was worse, making six of 14, or 42.9 percent.

Team edges ahead after first quarter

The game’s start wasn’t all that promising, with Stanford lagging 17-18 after the first quarter. The team pulled away during the second quarter, which ended 35-29, and the third, when the score was 58-50.

Attendance, 2,447, seemed sparse for a game between nationally ranked teams, but the 5 p.m. start time on a work night could have been a factor, as could have been the national telecast. Some fans arrived after the game had started.

Next up is another home game, this one against Gonzaga at 7 p.m. Nov. 18. It will be quickly followed by another home game against Cal State Northridge at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 20.

Photos by Don Feria IsiPhotos

November 13, 2016

Game one is won

The Stanford women’s basketball team opened its regular season with a decisive 83-55 win over Cal Poly in Maples on Nov. 11.

Except for the very first few minutes, Cal Poly never led. The closest the Mustangs got after that came late in the second quarter, when they trailed 25-23. That’s when junior guard Brittany McPhee knocked in two consecutive baskets to put the Cardinal ahead 29-23. There was no looking back after that.

The score was 38-27 at the half and 61-41 after the third quarter.

Bri led all Cardinal players with 16 points

Bri leads the way in scoring

Senior guard Briana Roberson was the night’s star, compiling 16 points, including four 3’s, to lead the team.

Also contributing to the team’s eight 3’s were senior guard Karlie Samuelson and freshman guard Mikaela Brewer with two each. Sharpshooter Karlie’s first 3 came late in the second quarter, a good sign for a player who had been cleared to play only a few days earlier after recovering from a hairline fracture in her left forearm.

She also was the first player off the bench, entering the game to loud applause about halfway through the first half. She finished the game with 10 points plus two assists and a steal in 19 minutes.

Besides Bri and Karlie, the other three players in double figures were senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall with 14, junior forward Kaylee Johnson with 11 and Brittany with 10.

Bird, Kaylee, Brittany, Bri and sophomore guard Marta Sniezek started the game. By the time it was over, all 12 available players saw action and contributed in some way. Freshman guard Anna Wilson has yet to be cleared.

Mikaela on her way toward making both of her 3's

Freshmen show their mettle

Fans were especially pleased at the other three freshmen’s contributions. Besides Mikaela’s 6 points, forward Nadia Fingall chipped in with 6 points, while guard DiJonai Carrington had 5. Moreover, Nadia had two blocks, and Di had one steal. In all, the freshmen scored 17 points, slightly more than 20 percent of the team’s total.

With everyone making at least two, the team had 45 rebounds, led by Kaylee and sophomore forward Alanna Smith with eight each. The team also had 21 assists, including 10 from Marta.

The 2,684 fans were joined by the band, Tree, Dollies and cheerleaders. The game opened with a presentation of colors by a Navy contingent in honor of Veterans Day.

Alexa talks about trip to India

Sophomore guard Alexa Romano was the featured player, speaking in a video about her experiences with a Stanford-Duke program in India during the summer. She also was featured in This or That questions with such queries as whether she liked pie or cake, or pancakes or waffles.

Although there were many bright spots for the team, there also were areas for improvement, such as free throws, only 7 of 15, or 46.7 percent; and turnovers, 16.

Next up is Texas at 5 p.m. Nov. 14 at Maples.

November 7, 2016

Team tunes up for new season

The Stanford women’s basketball team had lots of harmony and a few sour notes in its 85-41 exhibition defeat of UC San Diego on Nov. 4 in Maples.

First all the bright spots: All of the returning players seemed improved, especially sophomore guard Alexa Romano, sophomore center Shannon Coffee and sophomore forward Alanna Smith even though she fouled out with under five minutes left. Sophomore guard Marta Sniezek, who became so reliable at the point last year, seemed even more so this year.

The three available freshmen –- guards Mikaela Brewer and DiJonai Carrington and forward Nadia Fingall -- impressed the 2,660 fans with their hustle and energy.

Freshman guard Anna Wilson, still recovering from a concussion sustained last spring, didn’t play. Likewise, senior guard Karlie Samuelson stayed on the sidelines with a brace on her left wrist, which had been broken. Head coach Tara VanDerveer expects Karlie to see action at the next game.

Everyone contributes to win

All 11 available players contributed to the victory over the Division II school even though no one played more than 25 minutes, the time tallied by senior guard Briana Roberson. Everyone scored, and everyone played with urgency despite the lopsided score.

Still, there’s room for improvement, as Tara and her staff would undoubtedly acknowledge. For example, the team committed 14 turnovers, while UCSD had only 12. Part of the reason may be that Tara was freely subbing players. Thus there wasn’t quite the consistency and chemistry that one might expect with a more stable rotation.

The starting lineup featured Marta, Bri, junior guard Brittany McPhee, junior forward Kaylee Johnson and senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Bird had led the team onto the floor, and she, Kaylee and Marta represented the team as captains during the traditional pre-tipoff meeting with the refs.

Stanford got the tipoff, soon followed by the game’s first score –- a 3-pointer by Bri. UCSD’s first possession resulted in a turnover.

The subbing started early, with Alanna coming in for Bird and Alexa coming in for Bri with 5:31 left in the first quarter and the score 13-5. Nadia came with under two minutes left in the quarter after Alanna had collected her second foul. Shannon and Mikaela saw their first action in the second quarter.

Defense proves strong

Defense was stingy throughout the game, especially in the second quarter, when the Cardinal outscored UCSD 20-3. Those 3 points came with just 1:20 to go before the half.

The team amassed made 8 of 19 3’s, or 42.1 percent. Bird, Brittany and Mikaela had two each. Bri and Alanna had one each.

Brittany led the team in scoring with 19 points in 21 minutes. She also had a team-high nine rebounds and tallied two assists, two blocks and one steal.

Also scoring in double figures were Bird with 16 in 17 minutes and Shannon with 14 in 20 minutes.

It’s worthwhile noting that all 11 players had at least one rebound. Just behind Brittany’s nine were Kaylee’s eight and Nadia’s seven. The team as a whole had 59, dwarfing UCSD’s 25.

Even though it was an exhibition game, it had some of the trappings of regular season game with the band, Dollies and Tree on hand. During the singing of the national anthem, the Dollies and the Tree signed the words.

A new wrinkle came after the first quarter when the Tree led a conga line of kids around the court. The Dollies assisted by keeping some of the littlest ones on track.

Tara's mom, Rita, with Tara's sister Beth, doesn't play favorites.
The game was a family affair for Tara since her sister Heidi coaches UCSD. Their mother, Rita, was in the stands with their sister Beth. Mom diplomatically wore a sweatshirt featuring Stanford on the top half and UCSD on the bottom half. She told a group in the elevator after the game that she didn’t want to play favorites.

Tara introduces freshmen

During the Behind the Bench that followed the game, Tara introduced the four freshmen, starting with Mikaela. 

“Mikaela did a great job out there,” Tara said, noting that Mikaela is the team’s first Canadian recruit.

She didn’t join the team for summer school because she was playing for the Canadian team that won silver (to the USA’s gold) in U18 competition in Chile.

Even though she had missed that bonding team with her new teammates, “I was surprised at how fast they welcomed me,” Mikaela said.

Anna said she had expected to meet special people at Stanford, but “the amount of them is tremendous,” she said.

“Every day we learn something new,” Anna added. Mikaela seemed to echo that thought, noting “how much we don’t know.”

Stanford students don’t have to declare a major until they’re juniors, but Anna said she’s considering communications and science, technology and society. 

Nadia said that she observed “how close the team seemed,” during her official visit, and found out it was true when she arrived for her first quarter.

Nadia said that as the best player on her high school team, her coaches didn’t correct her much. At Stanford she’s “corrected on every little thing,” she said, giving a nod toward assistant coach Tempie Brown, who works with the bigs along with associate head coach Amy Tucker.

Calling herself “the biggest nerd,” Nadia said she’s interested in chemistry. 

DiTara said that DiJonai didn’t play during her senior year or practice at first at Stanford because of knee injuries. However, DiJonai said she likes that everyone helps everyone else to succeed, but the biggest challenge is that “the pace of the game is a lot quicker. You have to go every play.”

DiJonai wants to major in psychology and minor in either sports broadcasting or criminal justice. Mikaela’s undecided.

Tara complimented Heidi’s coaching, while Heidi said that Tara has helped her team. At Stanford, “there’s no drop-off when someone comes in,” Heidi said. She called Stanford “a really fast and exciting team.”

Coach pleased with team

“I’m excited about how well everyone is doing,” Tara said. “Our future is in great hands with the freshmen. … It’s a heady time for us” with four promising recruits lined up for next season and two for the season after that.

Visiting from Australia, Alanna’s parents were at the game.

Also observing were Karlie’s mother, Karen, and older sister, Bonnie, ’15. Bonnie has just completed her first quarter in the four-year doctoral program at Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, thus earning her white coat.

The regular season opens at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 against Cal Poly at Maples.

Photos by Dave Cortesi