November 20, 2017

Young team improves record to 2-2

Shannon, DiJonai, Nadia, Estella, Alyssa and Kaylee show off their turquoise uniforms. (Bob Drebin/
The Stanford women’s basketball team showed improvement over its previous outings by defeating Cal State Bakersfield 57-34 in Maples on Nov. 19.

Although senior guard Brittany McPhee was still out and wearing a boot, sophomore forward Nadia Fingall returned to action after missing the UC Riverside game on Nov. 17. 

Head coach Tara VanDerveer said after the game that Brit is doing well. “We’ll see her when she’s healthy.”

With Tara substituting rather freely, nine players logged 13 minutes or more, and all 13 available players contributed in some way.

Alexa leads the way with 13

Junior guard Alexa Romano led the team with a career-high 13 points, most of them coming from three 3-pointers.

Alexa prepares to launch a 3-pointer. (Bob Drebin/

Although she was the only player in double figures, four others scored at least 7 points, leading to a fairly balanced attack.

Joining Alexa as a starter were senior forward Kaylee Johnson, junior forward Alanna Smith, junior guard Marta Sniezek and sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington. Kaylee and Brit, the team’s only two seniors, are its co-captains.

The Cardinal held the Roadrunners scoreless for almost the first four minutes of the game while logging 9 points. (The visitors are coached by Greg McCall, father of Erica “Bird” McCall, ’17.)

Besides Alexa, those making 3’s were sophomore guard Anna Wilson with three of her own, along with one by freshman forward Estella Moschkau for her first collegiate points.

After giving the ball away 19 times against Riverside, the team cut its turnovers to 14. It also had 44 rebounds to the Roadrunners’ 30, and 16 assists to the opponent’s three. Still, scoring was a bit dicey at 39.2 percent. At the free throw line, the team made 10 of 15, or 66.7 percent.

Team honors Native American Heritage Month

The team wore turquoise uniforms in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Ten Native Americans in colorful costumes performed traditional dances during halftime.

Following the game, fans heard from associate head coach Kate Paye and Tara at a Behind the Bench.

Kate introduces Alyssa at the Behind the Bench. (Photo by Dave Cortesi)
Kate was joined by freshman forward Alyssa Jerome, whom Kate called “one of our super freshmen. Alyssa is doing an awesome job, as are all the freshmen.”

Alyssa played for Canada during summer

Because Alyssa, who hails from Ontario, played with two Canadian national teams during the summer, she didn’t arrive on campus until Labor Day and practiced only twice before the team left for Italy. Nevertheless, she learned two positions, the 3 and the 4, in two days, a “very challenging” task, Kate said. “She takes it all in stride.”

Alyssa scored 4 points and snagged three rebounds during 17 minutes against the Roadrunners.

Answering fans’ questions, Alyssa said she started playing basketball in sixth grade after becoming too tall for soccer. Her advice to sixth graders regarding basketball is this: “Play because you love it.”

The hardest part of making the transition from international play to Stanford was the different terminology. Because she and her teammates work so hard, they “have to enjoy the process,” she said. “It’s been really special here,” and she enjoys the team.

Alyssa wants to be a doctor

Like so many SWBB players before her, the poised, well-spoken freshman said academics were important in her decision to come to Stanford. Her career goal is to become a doctor.

She was excited and intimidated to start against powerhouses Ohio State and UConn the previous weekend, she said, adding that she looks up to all of the upperclassmen.

Kate called her “pretty mature and polished.” Tara added, “Alyssa’s our freshman senior.”

Tara pleased with team’s progress

Assessing the game, Tara said she was pleased with everyone. “We’re making some progress. … You have to enjoy the grind of getting better. … In practice I see some amazing things.”

What she likes best about the team so far is that “they’re just outstanding young women. They care about each other. … They’re fun to be with.”

“I think this can be a great team” with work and unselfishness, she concluded.

November 18, 2017

Short-handed Cardinal compile first victory

Players and coaches gather around Tara during a time out.
Despite missing four key players for all or part of the game, the Stanford women’s basketball team notched the season’s first win, defeating UC Riverside 53-43 on Nov. 17 in Maples.

Senior guard Brittany McPhee, a regular starter, was in a boot. Sophomore forward Nadia Fingall, who regularly comes off the bench, was in street clothes, too.

Compounding the team’s difficulties, senior forward Kaylee Johnson and junior forward Alanna Smith were limited because of foul trouble.

Nevertheless, Kaylee started well, scoring the team’s first two baskets. She finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. Similarly, Alanna had 11 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes. Her scoring may have been limited because nearly every time she got the ball near the basket, she was swarmed by defenders.

DiJonai drives to the basket against UCR defenders.
DiJonai leads team in minutes, points, rebounds

The undisputed star of the game was sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington. In the first start of her career, she played a team-high 31 minutes, scored 13 points and snared an impressive 22 rebounds.

Joining Kaylee, Alanna and DiJonai as starters were junior guards Marta Sniezek and Alexa Romano. They combined for 11 points and seven rebounds.

Victory notwithstanding, the stat sheet reveals some downsides: 19 turnovers, many on errant passes; and only three of 28 3’s for 10.7 percent. Overall shooting was only 29.7 percent.

On the other hand, the team garnered 59 rebounds to the Highlanders’ 44 and recorded an 11-8 advantage in assists. Marta had four of them.

11 players see action

By game’s end, head coach Tara VanDerveer had called on 11 of the 12 available players.

The evening started well with Steve Goodman, professor of medicine, singing the national anthem as written (something we don’t always hear) in his rich baritone.

And then there was the band to liven things up after being suspended for the latter part of last season. Although the university has placed it under an oversight committee, the students seemed as spirited as usual with many sporting zany attire.

Adding their support were the Tree, Dollies and cheerleaders.

After the Nov. 19 home game against Cal State Bakersfield, the Cardinal journey to Las Vegas for a tournament pitting them against Kent State on Thanksgiving followed by two more opponents TBD the next two days.

(Photos by Bob Drebin/

November 6, 2017

Exhibition win gives first look at team

The team gathers in a circle to celebrate. (SWBB photo)
Stanford women’s basketball launched its 2017-18 season with a 60-46 exhibition win over visiting UC San Diego Nov. 4, but it wasn’t always pretty.

The young team shot only 39 percent overall and just 16 percent from beyond the arc while logging 16 turnovers as it tried to adapt to the new offensive style that head coach Tara  VanDerveer calls Warriorized with more passing and less dribbling.

All 14 players were available, all saw action, and most contributed.
Tara went with a starting lineup of three guards – senior Brittany McPhee and juniors Marta Sniezek and Alexa Romano – and two forwards, senior Kaylee Johnson and junior Alanna Smith.

Sophomore guards DiJonai Carrington and Anna Wilson were first off the bench, followed by freshman forward Alyssa Jerome, freshman guard Kiana Williams and sophomore forward Nadia Fingall in the first quarter.

Alanna led the scoring with 13. Also in double figures were Alexa with 11 and Brit with 10. Brit undoubtedly would have scored more, but she tweaked her ankle late in the second quarter and limped to the locker room. She returned to the bench but didn’t play.

Three of the team’s four 3’s came from Alexa. Anna had one.

Some other stats of note: Marta and DiJonai each had four of the team’s 13 steals. Maya had three blocks to go with a team-leading seven rebounds.

After the game, season ticket holders were invited to partake of light refreshments in the practice gym followed by a Behind the Bench, where Tara introduced each player and the staff.

She called the game the “beginning of what we know will be a special year” and said the team can be better than last year’s, which went to the Final Four.

Here are her comments about each player:

Anna –Although she missed much of her freshman year because of injuries, “she’s picking up where she left off in high school,” when her team won a championship.
DiJonai – “She’s out there making big plays.” Tara is confident in her.
Kiana – She “has done nothing but impress.”
Nadia – “We’re counting on her to step up for us.”
Maya – She’ll “be an awesome player for us.” Maya, whose father was at the game, reminds Tara of Nneka Ogwumike, ’12.
Sophomore guard Mikaela Brewer – “She did some great things for us in Italy,” Tara said, referring to the team’s summer trip.
Alanna – “She had some good looks tonight.” She’s a leader who has improved.
Kaylee – She’s a leader who’s working hard.
Marta – She’s a spark on defense who “gives us good offense and defense.”
Junior center Shannon Coffee – She was the second-leading scorer in Italy.
Alyssa – She missed summer school because she was playing for her native Canada, but “what a pleasure it is to coach” her.
Freshman forward Estella Moschkau – She’s “incredibly disciplined” and an “excellent shooter.”
Alexa – She guarded Karlie Samuelson, ’17, in Italy, but if anything, “she’s too nice.” Still this was “a great game for her to start off with.”
Brit – “She is just competitive all the time. (We’re) expecting an outstanding senior year.”

Tara with her mother, Rita, and sister Heidi. (SWBB Photo
Since UCSD is coached by Tara’s sister Heidi, their mother, Rita, was at the game, visiting from Colorado.

Tara introduced the coaching staff and pointed out former associate head coach Amy Tucker, now WBB administrator, on the sidelines.

She stressed the players’ hard work all around, but added, “We’ve got a lot of work to do” with “arguably what could be the toughest start ever” to the regular season. The team travels to Columbus, Ohio, to play two powerhouses, Ohio State at 3 p.m. PST Nov. 10 and UConn at 10:30 a.m. PST Nov. 12.