April 18, 2018

A look back at ’17-’18, Part 2 of 2

After ending 2017 and beginning the Pac-12 season with home wins over the SoCal teams, the Stanford women’s basketball team began 2018 in the desert.

The Cardinal defeated Arizona 61-46 on Jan. 5 but lost to Arizona State 66-73 on Jan. 7. After freshman guard Kiana Williams led the team in both games with 12 points against Arizona and 14 against ASU, she was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Jan. 8.

The Washington schools came calling for the next two games, and both left with losses. Washington State fell 70-57 on Jan. 12. The Farm team shot a sizzling 64.7 percent in the first quarter and 58.8 percent in the second to go into the locker room up 45-17.

Britt and Tara show off Britt's plaque from USA Basketball. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos0
It was a nice way for senior guard Brittany McPhee to celebrate her 22nd birthday. In addition, head coach Tara VanDerveer gave her a plaque honoring her summer with USA Basketball and the U23 National Team in Japan.

Tara gives a shout-out to Kaylee

Washington fell next, 71-45, on Jan. 14. During the Behind the Bench, Tara said the team still had a long way to go, but she saluted senior forward Kaylee Johnson, who had 12 rebounds and eight points in this game and 10 points and 15 rebounds against Washington State.

During the Washington game, junior forward Alanna Smith had a game-high 19 points, while Britt had 15 and sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington had 11.

Also during the Behind the Bench, former associate head coach Amy Tucker said her duties as women’s basketball administrator include managing the Nike apparel contract and helping Tara with correspondence and engagements.

Split decision in SoCal

A trip to SoCal gave Stanford a 59-55 victory over USC on Jan. 19 but a 53-64 loss to UCLA on Jan. 21. DiJonai had a team-high 15 points against USC, while Kiana had 14 against UCLA.

Britt became the 39th player in SWBB history to notch 1,000 points during her team’s 74-50 home victory over Arizona State on Jan. 26. Needing just 14 to reach that mark, she hit it early in the fourth quarter. She had scored a buzzer-beater in the third and then hit the team’s next three shots in the fourth. In all, she scored 24 points.

Ros Gold-Onwude, '10, of Pac-12 Networks, interviews Marta after the ASU game .(Bob Drebin/ISI Photos)
Junior guard Marta Sniezek’s 13 points were a career high, and she dished out six assists, half of the team’s total. DiJonai also was in double figures with 13 points.

Reporting on the game, the San Francisco Chronicle said, “No other team in the country has played as many games against ranked teams as Stanford, but (this) win was just its second against the top 25.”

Fourteen three-pointers by six different players sparked the team to a 79-42 victory over the visiting Arizona on Jan. 28. Britt, Alanna and Kiana had three each. Marta and sophomore guard Anna Wilson had two each, while freshman forward Alyssa Jerome added one. Another notable stat was that the team had only seven turnovers.

Season’s peak: Upset over Oregon

Traveling to Oregon, the team notched two major wins by defeating Oregon State 60-57 on Feb. 2 and upsetting No. 6 Oregon 78-65 on Feb. 4.

In the tight Oregon State win, DiJonai (nine points) sealed the victory with a steal in the final seconds. Britt had 18 points, Kiana 14 and Alanna 11.

Against Oregon, Britt poured in 33 points, while Alanna and Kiana had 14 each. Kiana suffered a cut on her nose after a collision with Britt. She had to have stitches, but returned to play in the fourth quarter. Oregon didn’t score during the final 6:29 minutes.

These weekend victories vaulted Stanford to 17th from 24th in the AP poll, its largest jump in SWBB history.

Honors for Britt, Kiana

They also gave Britt the honors of ESPNW National Player of the Week, Pac-12 Player of the Week, U.S. Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week and a Naismith Trophy finalist. Kiana was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week.

The Cardinal breezed to a 70-49 win over visiting Utah on Feb. 9. Tough defense played a role again, as did 18 points from Britt, 11 from Marta and 10 from sophomore forward Nadia Fingall. Nadia’s total came from 4-4 shooting, including 2-2 from beyond the arc.

Kaylee and Britt, with freshman forward Estella Moschkau, in the locker room. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos)
Senior Day was celebrated with a Feb. 11 victory over Colorado, 62-53. During the post-game ceremony, Kaylee and Britt said they hope to play professionally after graduation. Kaylee then hopes to go to law school, while Britt aims for med school. It later was reported that knee issues would end Kaylee’s pro hopes.

The game brought the team’s winning streak to six and elevated it to 14th from 17th in the weekly AP poll. It remained tied for first with UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-12.

Split decision for cross-bay rivals

The annual Battle of the Bay ended in a split decision, with Stanford taking the first round at home against Cal 74-69 on Feb. 15. Kiana led the team with a career-high 26 points, including five three’s in this final home game of the regular season.

Cal got revenge on its Senior Day, defeating its visitors 66-78 on Feb. 17. Three Cardinal starters shouldered most of the scoring load, 87.8 percent.

Britt had 24 points, followed by Alanna with 20 and Kiana with 14. The fourth starter who scored was Kaylee with six. The loss bumped Stanford down to 16 from 14 in the AP poll.

Washington win ends regular season

Going north, the Cardinal prevailed 86-79 over Washington on Feb. 23.  Although only seven players saw action, they were productive. Four scored in double figures: Britt 25, Alanna 15, Marta 13 and Nadia 10 (on 5-5 shooting). Kaylee’s 13 rebounds contributed to the Cardinal’s 38-22 advantage on the boards.

The victory marked the program’s 500th in the Pac-12 and the 17th straight season with at least 20 wins.

Washington State was scheduled for Feb. 25, but the sudden death of its strength coach led to the game’s cancellation.

Hence Stanford’s regular season record remained at 20-9 and 14-3 in the conference, cementing a two seed for the Pac-12 tournament and keeping the team at No. 16 in AP rankings.

Honors for Tara, players

In the meantime, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Assn. gave Tara its annual Carol Eckman Integrity in Coaching Award. She also was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

At the same time, Britt was named Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was named to the All Pac-12 Team along with Alanna. Kiana was honorable mention for that team and named to the all-freshman team. Kaylee and Marta were honorable mention for the all-defensive team.

Traveling to Seattle for the Pac-12 Tournament, Stanford defeated USC 69-59 on March 2, led by Kiana’s 18 points. Arizona State fell to the Cardinal 58-46 on March 3, when Kiana led with 24 points.

In the championship game on March 4, Stanford lost 57-77 to Oregon. Kiana was named to the all-tournament team, and the Cardinal moved up to 15 in the March 5 AP poll.

Britt garnered another honor, being named to the USA Today Women’s Basketball All-America third team on March 7.

She and six teammates also were honored by the Pac-12 for their academic achievements on March 12. She and Kaylee were named to the All-Academic first team. DiJonai, Nadia, Alanna, junior forward Shannon Coffee and junior guard Alexa Romano received honorable mention.

Team hosts first two rounds of NCAA

The team’s record entitled it to a four seed and the right to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The bench celebrates one of Stanford's 11 three's against Gonzaga. (Stanford Athletics)
The home environment proved advantageous as the team defeated 13 seed Gonzaga 82-68 on March 17.

Tara used the same starting lineup that had carried the team through the past several games; Kaylee, Alanna, Britt, Marta and Kiana. They did most of the scoring, led by Kiana with 21, Alanna with 20, Britt with 11, Marta with seven and Kaylee with six.

Home wins send squad to Sweet 16

Next to fall was 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast, 90-70, sending Stanford to the Sweet 16 for the 11th straight season.

Alanna poured in nearly a third of the team’s scoring, with 28 points plus 12 rebounds. Her 28 points were the most for a Stanford player in the tournament since Chiney Ogwumike, ’14, scored 29 against Penn State on March 30, 2014. It was Alanna’s seventh double-double of the season.

Alanna leads the team in celebrating the Florida Gulf Coast win. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos)
Thus Alanna made sure that Britt and Kaylee had happy memories of their last game at Maples.

Their last game ever wasn’t quite as happy as the Cardinal fell 59-86 to one-seeded Louisville on March 23 in Lexington, Ky. Despite shooting 72.7 percent in the first quarter and 43.4 percent for the game, Stanford was undone by 19 turnovers and by a better team.  Louisville went on to defeat Oregon State to advance to the Final Four.

Thus the season ended with a 24-11 record.

The players had some time off between the Sweet 16 and the start of spring classes on April 2.

Players and coaches gather for one last photo session after the banquet. (Stanford Athletics)
Banquet wraps up the season

The team, coaches and fans then had one final get-together, the annual spring banquet April 8 at Arrillaga Alumni Center. Unlike past banquets, it was a brunch rather than dinner.

With Tara as emcee, the crowd of 160 heard praise for team and individual accomplishments.

The afternoon ended with a nostalgic video showing highlights of the season starting with the team’s trip to Italy and ending with the Sweet 16.

“This team has been really special,” Tara said.

Looking ahead

Returning players gathered for a team meeting right after the banquet. The next day, April 9, they began working with strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil for six hours a week and with the coaches on the court for two hours a week.

Spring finals are June 8-13. After a break, the three incoming freshmen will join their new teammates for summer school, which starts June 25 and ends with finals Aug. 17-18. Workouts and practices will be part of the routine.

Fall classes start Sept. 24.

The pre-conference schedule will include home games against Baylor and Ohio State and away games at Tennessee and Gonzaga. In honor of its two Canadians, Alyssa and sophomore guard Mikaela Brewer, the team also will travel to Toronto to play Buffalo.

April 16, 2018

A look back at '17-'18, Part 1 of 2

It was a season that began with many questions but that ended with mostly satisfactory answers for the Stanford women’s basketball team in 2017-18.

How would the young team fare with only two seniors?

How would the team adapt to the new Princeton offense stressing constant motion, back-door cuts, passing, picks on and off the ball, and disciplined teamwork?

How would the team rebound from one of the most grueling early schedules in its history?
The answers: Amazingly well. The team finished with a 24-11 record, hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 in Lexington, Ky.

Amy retires from coaching

Before all that, though, in April 2017, just after the 2016-17 season had ended with the annual banquet, associate head coach Amy Tucker said she would leave the bench after 32 years at Stanford. Earlier in the season, Kate Paye had been promoted to associate head coach alongside Amy, but with the new season pending, Kate had the job alone.

Lindy did her share of scoring. (SWBB photo)
Lindy La Rocque, a 2012 SWBB alum, became an assistant coach. Tempie Brown, the other assistant coach, assumed Amy’s responsibility for coordinating recruiting. Amy stayed on as women’s basketball administrator.

Most of the 14-member squad reported to campus for the summer, when they could practice with the coaches for two hours a week for eight weeks.

Alyssa, Alanna and Britt play internationally

The exception was freshman forward Alyssa Jerome, who was captain of Canada’s U19 Women’s Basketball Team in July. After an exhibition tournament in France, her team won bronze in the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup 2017 in Italy.

Junior forward Alanna Smith left campus in mid-July to join her country’s Australian Opals, which won silver in FIBA Women’s Asia Cup games in India.

Shortly after that, senior guard Brittany McPhee went to the 2017 USA Basketball Women’s National Training Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she made the 12-player squad. It won the championship in the U23 Women’s Basketball Four Nations Tournament in Japan.

Team travels to Italy

After summer school ended Aug. 17, everyone returned Sept. 4 for a trip to Italy Sept. 5-15. The team visited Rome, Florence and Venice and won one of five games against Italian college and professional teams. The fourth loss came in a 64-57 overtime game against a team with recently graduated Karlie Samuelson.

Despite the losses, the trip was a big win, allowing the players to form all-important bonds and get valuable playing experience. It gave the coaches a chance to see how the team was meshing and how various lineups worked.

After a short break, the well-traveled team returned to campus Sept. 21 for fall classes on Sept. 25.

Fans got their first look at the team on Nov.  4, when it defeated visiting UC San Diego 60-46 in an exhibition game.

With only two seniors, Britt and forward Kaylee Johnson, the young team shot only 39 percent overall and just 16 percent from beyond the arc while logging 16 turnovers.

All 14 players were available, and all saw action. The starters were Britt, Kaylee, Alanna and junior guards Marta Sniezek and Alexa Romano.

After that, the team got a taste of powerhouse competition at a tournament in Columbus, Ohio, where the 2018 Final Four would be played.  The Cardinal left with losses of 64-85 to Ohio State and 53-78 to UConn.

First win comes against UC Riverside

Returning home, the Cardinal notched its first victory, 53-43 over UC Riverside on Nov. 17. The team was short-handed with Britt in a boot and sophomore forward Nadia Fingall in street clothes. She missed only this game, but it was the first of nine that Britt missed.

Sophomore guard DiJonai Carrington, in her first career start, played a team-high 31 minutes, scored 13 points and snared 22 rebounds. Alanna, Kaylee, Alexa and Marta also started.

Alexa shoots against UC Riverside. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos)
Two days later, the team hosted Cal State Bakersfield and won 57-34. Alexa was the top scorer with a career-high 13 points, including three three-pointers. Sophomore guard Anna Wilson also had three three’s, and freshman forward Estella Moschkau had one for her first collegiate points.

Back on the road for a tournament in Las Vegas, the team defeated Kent State 79-54 on Nov. 23 and Belmont 74-53 on Nov. 24. Wrapping up the tournament on Nov. 25, the team met Ohio State again and lost 82-94, this time in overtime.

Alanna, Anna honored

Alanna led the team in scoring for in two games in Las Vegas and was named Pac-12 Player of the Week. She and Anna were named to the all-tournament team.

A quick road trip resulted in an 86-66 win over the University of San Francisco on Nov. 29. The game started slowly for the Cardinal, who trailed after the half, but the team turned the tide to win.

The comeback was fueled by a fusillade of treys: 11 of 21, or 52.4 percent, after the half, a school record for a half. For the game, the team had 15 three’s, third-most in team history.

Freshman guard Kiana Williams led the trey parade with five. Alanna, Alexa and DiJonai had three each. Anna had one.

Still on the road, the team lost to another powerhouse, Baylor, 57-81, on Dec. 3. Junior center Shannon Coffee was the top scorer with 14, with four three’s. She was followed by Kiana with 13 points and Alanna with 11.

With finals in the rear-view mirror, the team enjoyed a 74-33 victory over visiting UNLV on Dec. 16. DiJonai joined Britt on the unavailable list.

Kiana is interviewed after her first start. (Stanford Athletics)
Kiana had the most points, 14. Alanna and freshman forward Maya Dodson had 11 each.
The revamped starting lineup featured regulars Kaylee and Alanna joined by three first-timers: Kiana, Shannon and Anna.

Season’s nadir: Loss to Western Illinois

In what was perhaps the most surprising loss of the season, the Cardinal fell 64-71 to unranked Western Illinois on Dec. 18 in Maples.  Poor free-throw shooting and turnovers contributed to the loss.

Completing the non-conference schedule, the team lost 71-83 to then-unbeaten Tennessee on Dec. 21 in Maples. This loss, along with the one to Western Illinois, dropped Stanford out of AP’s top 25 for the first time in 17 years.

Despite the loss, fans were cheered by Britt’s return after a nine-game absence. She proved to be a spark plug and poured in 27 points. DiJonai was still out.

Thus the nonconference season ended with an uncharacteristic 6-6 record, but five of the six losses were against teams that were in the top 10 at the time.

Returning from a brief holiday break, the team upset visiting UCLA 76-65 to start Pac-12 competition Dec. 29. This victory marked the season’s first over a ranked team.

Britt goes for a layup against USC. (Richard Erstad/ISI Photos)
Britt led the way with a game-high 26 points. Alanna had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Nadia added 10 points. DiJonai was back in action and added seven points in only 10 minutes.

The starting lineup featured Britt, Alanna, Marta, Maya and Kiana.

The team ended 2017 by defeating USC 72-65 on Dec. 31. This victory returned the Cardinal to AP’s top 25, with the Jan. 1 poll ranking Stanford No. 24.

Britt led the team with 21 points. Because she had scored at least 21 points in the three games since returning from her injury, ESPNW named her its National Player of the Week.

Next: Part 2, the new year

April 9, 2018

Final farewell to team

Players and coaches assemble for photos after the banquet. (Stanford Athletics)

Now that the season has ended, 160 people gathered for the annual Stanford women’s basketball team’s spring banquet April 8 at the Arrillaga Alumni Center.

Unlike past gatherings, which were dinners, this one was a brunch. Served buffet style, offered an array of food like fresh fruit, salads, entrees, side dishes and tempting desserts. According to a number of fans, it was a marked improvement over last year’s event at the Faculty Club.

Alanna chats with a young fan. (Dave Cortesi)
Like past gatherings, though, it gave the players a chance to wear outfits other than their uniforms. Hence, each one was nicely dressed, and many wore high heels, even some of the tallest forwards, like 6’4” junior Alanna Smith and 6’3” senior Kaylee Johnson.

Tara serves as emcee

“Today is a day of celebration and appreciation,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer, serving as the emcee.

Even though junior guard Marta Sniezek was the only returning player who had averaged more than 20 minutes a game in the 2016-17 season, even though the early schedule meant facing Top 10 teams and even though the team had to learn a new offense, “This team showed great determination and resilience,” Tara said.

“I’m really proud of how everyone stayed together. We kept improving and growing.”
Throughout the program, Tara touted both individual and team accomplishments. She didn’t mention that those accomplishments helped her earn the honor of Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

Among the team accomplishments she ticked off were that SWBB was the only undefeated Pac-12 team at home and that it averaged 81 points a game in its first two NCAA tournament games, shooting 50 percent overall and 51 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshmen earn praise

During the program, she thanked all of the people who had contributed to the team’s success. She then introduced each player, starting with the freshmen.

“What an outstanding freshman class,” she said.

Among them, forward Maya Dodson led the team in field goal percentage and was third in blocks. Forward Alyssa Jerome played for Canada last summer and proved to be a versatile player.  Even though she didn’t play much, forward Estella Moschkau was first in three-point percentage and was first in the gym every day.

As for guard Kiana Williams: “What a special freshman season” she had. A three-point sharp shooter, she also had the best assist to turnover ratio and displayed “consistent energy and enthusiasm.”

Tara admires sophomore’s boots

As the sophomores took to the stage, Tara joked, “I almost wore those boots, Di.” She was referring to guard DiJonai Carrington’s above-the-knee boots of beige suede. As for her playing, Tara noted how much she had improved from her freshman year. “Whenever there is a scrum, Di comes up with the ball.”

She praised guard Mikaela Brewer for her hard work in practice and cited her writing ability, as shown in her regular columns for the Stanford Daily.

She urged forward Nadia Fingall to “follow the Erica McCall (’17) path and break out your junior year.”

She said she can’t wait for oft-injured guard Anna Wilson “to play for a whole season. She did great when she wasn’t injured (and) was leading the cheers for others” when she was.

Shannon makes memorable three-pointer

When it came to the juniors, Tara recalled center Shannon Coffee’s three-point buzzer beater at the end of the first half in the home game against Cal and cited her 4.0 GPA in the winter quarter. Guard Alexa Romano “really improved” on defense.

Alanna garnered many honors and was the team’s second-leading scorer (behind senior guard Brittany McPhee) and rebounder (behind Kaylee). She might play for her home country of Australia this summer.

Marta, wearing white-rimmed glasses, “understands the strategy of basketball” and has “great court vision.” She also improved a lot, joining the likes of such past greats as Jennifer Azzi, ’90; Nneka Ogwumike, ’12; Jeanette Pohlen, ’11; Erica and Brittany.

Lindy with Kaylee and Britt. (Stanford Athletics)
Big chunk of scoring, rebounding to graduate

The two seniors then came up front. “What outstanding seniors they have been,” Tara said. Later she noted that 30 percent of the team’s scoring and rebounding will graduate with them.

Kaylee has made an impact on the team since she was a freshman, Tara said. She does the little things, is “a great defender and a vocal, no-nonsense leader.”

Kaylee responded, “A lot of people have helped on this journey,” she said, citing her mother, other relatives and her father, who died in May 2017. She thanked the coaches and her teammates, earning a standing ovation after she had finished.

Britt also earned a standing O for echoing Kaylee’s remarks and thanking her teammates and coaches. Tara said that “she improved in every single statistic” and earned numerous athletic and academic honors.

Each senior received her framed home jersey and a pasteboard cutout of herself.

Tara singled out her colleagues: assistant coaches Lindy La Rocque and Tempie Brown and associate head coach Kate Paye. She also mentioned former associate head coach Amy Tucker, who retired from coaching last season after 32 years at Stanford and now serves as basketball administrator. “Everyone misses Amy,” even the referees, she said.

Video brings back memories of season

As a final grace note to the gathering, a video showed season highlights starting with the 
team’s trip to Italy in September and continuing through its final game against Louisville in the Sweet 16. It brought back lots of great memories and showed just how good each player could be. As one fan remarked afterward, “It looked like they should have won every game.”

Noting that she has been a head coach for 40 years, Tara said, “This team is really special.”

She then looked ahead to the next day, when returning players would work on strength, conditioning and skills, and to the summer, when the three highly touted recruits officially become freshmen.

“We’re laying a foundation for next season,” she said. It will include a home game  against Baylor and away games at Tennessee and in Hawaii and Toronto (a salute to Canadians Mikaela and Alyssa).

With that, the crowd began to disperse, but many stuck around to take pictures of the team and players while the returning players awaited a team meeting to talk about what’s to come.

April 6, 2018

Greedy team is ready to spring ahead

Now that the 2017-18 women’s basketball season is over, the Stanford team is looking ahead to the 2018-19 season.

First, the players had some time off between the Sweet 16 and the start of spring classes on April 2.

Preparations for next season start immediately after the spring banquet on April 8, when returning players have their first team meeting with the coaches.

Organized workouts with strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil start the next day, April 9, said associate head coach Kate Paye in a phone interview.

Besides working with Brittany six hours a week, the players will have two hours a week on the court with the coaches. They’ll also work out on their own and play pickup games.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer will meet with each player individually to review the past season and to set goals for the next one. The aim is to “develop a plan to help them be successful,” Kate said.

While the returning players look ahead to next year at Stanford, the two seniors -- forward Kaylee Johnson and guard Brittany McPhee -- will take the final classes needed for graduation in June. “Both are excellent students,” Kate said.

Britt hopes to continue playing on the professional level, while Kaylee is focused on getting into law school and becoming a lawyer.

When the team was in Lexington, Ky., for the Sweet Sixteen, Kaylee was studying for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). She also has a job with a local law firm next year, Kate said. During Senior Day, Kaylee had said she hoped to continue playing basketball, but knee issues have changed those hopes, Kate said.

June 6 is the last day of spring classes, and finals are June 8-16. Graduation is June 17.

Summer classes start June 25. That’s when the three incoming freshmen -- Jenna Brown and the Hull twins, Lexie and Lacie -- will join their new teammates for the coming season. “We’re very excited about our freshmen,” Kate said, adding that all three are healthy.

While the 2017-18 season brought some surprising successes, given the team’s relative youth with only two seniors, “We’re greedy to get more,” Kate said.