February 26, 2019

Satisfying sendoff for seniors

Flanked by Alyssa (left), Marta and DiJonai, Alanna congratulates the team on a job well done.

The Stanford women’s basketball team celebrated Senior Day by honoring its three seniors and defeating Arizona State 71-50 at Maples on Feb. 24.

After the sounding of the final buzzer and the tossing of victory balls, forward Alanna Smith, center Shannon Coffee and guard Marta Sniezek, accompanied by their families, were given flowers and lauded by their teammates and head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Australian anthem honors first international recruit

Before the game, the traditional singing of the U.S. national anthem was preceded by a recording of the Australian national anthem in honor of Alanna, the team’s first international recruit. As she sang along with the anthem, the Australian flag hung in the lower floor corner.

To top it off, Shannon used sign language to interpret “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as did the Dollies.

Tara then gave flowers to ASU’s four seniors.

The first quarter ended in a 14-14 tie, but after that, the Cardinal offense and defense took over. Subsequent quarters ended with Stanford up 29-22 at the half, 53-37 after the third and finally 71-50. The team led for nearly 36 minutes.

Lexie goes for a layup for two of her 11 points.
Balanced scoring helps

Contributing to the win was sophomore guard Kiana Williams with a game-leading 15 points. Alanna was right behind with 14, followed by junior guard DiJonai Carrington with 13 and freshman forward Lexie Hull with 11.

It was a nicely balanced offensive attack with eight points from sophomore forward Maya Dodson and seven from sophomore forward Alyssa Jerome. As a team, Stanford shot nearly 62 percent and held ASU to 30 percent.

In many of its possessions, ASU was forced by Stanford’s defense to shoot just before the shot clock expired.

Maya goes up for one of her four baskets.
Maya was among the sharpest shooters, making four of five shots, while Lexie and Alyssa each made three of four.

The Cardinal had six threes --- three by Kiana and one each by Alyssa, Alanna and Lexie.

Everyone contributes to win

All 13 available players got in on the fun, and all contributed in some way, whether with points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.

Starters were Alanna, Alyssa, DiJonai, Kiana and freshman forward Lacie Hull.

Still recovering from a foot injury, Maya played 24 minutes. Most of the time when she wasn’t on the court, she peddled the stationary bike.

During Conga on the Court between the first and second quarters, one energetic boy wearing a Shannon button ran ahead of the entire pack. As was discovered during the post-game ceremony, he was her cousin A.J.

With the game well in hand toward the end of the fourth quarter, Alanna went to the bench as the crowd of 3,057 gave her a standing ovation. Shortly thereafter, Shannon also got one as she returned to the bench.

Post-game festivities started with a salute to practice player Trey Turner.

Tara introduces seniors

Tara then introduced the seniors, starting with Marta. Although Marta has missed all of this season with a hand injury, she was 12th in career assists in her three years of playing.

An American studies major, she wants to earn a master’s degree in communication, Tara said. She was accompanied by her mother, Edwina, and a brother. (She’s one of nine siblings).

The coach remarked on the three threes that Shannon scored in this season’s upset of Baylor, its only loss of the season. She later called Shannon “a bear killer,” noting that she tended to score crucial threes whenever Stanford played a team with a bears nickname.

Relatives join Shannon and Alanna

A human biology major, Shannon wants to become a physician assistant. She was accompanied by her parents, Karen and Chris, and her grandmother while other relatives sat nearby.

Alanna's mom, Simone; sister, Andie; and dad, Darren (in back) walk to center court.
Joined by her parents, Simone and Darren, and 10-year-old sister, Andie, Alanna is a psychology major who wants to play professionally before going into developmental psychology.

She has accrued a laundry list of honors and is in line for possibly more before the season ends.

Tara foresees Marta as a good coach

Saying the team has missed Marta’s “elite point guard play,” Tara said she would make a good coach. DiJonai followed by saying that Marta is tough, “an incredible teammate.”

Marta declined to answer a question about where she’ll go next year. Since she played only three seasons, she has another year of eligibility.

Alyssa and sophomore forward Estella Moschkau teamed up to salute Shannon. Alyssa said she “welcomed us and took us under her wing. … (She) always steps up in huge minutes.”

Estella said she’s the “captain of energy” on the bench. Alyssa concluded that she’ll “always be part of the sisterhood.”

Shannon’s mother said Shannon was always in motion as a child and started walking at 8 months. She always tried to keep up with her older brother and sister.

Players appreciate fans’ support

Like her classmates, Shannon had many people to thank, including the fans. “We appreciate your support,” she said. 

After graduation, she’s aiming for physician assistant school.

Tara noted that Shannon had a summer internship involving a study of concussions. As a player, “she is a great communicator” on the court and “will never let her teammates down.”

Junior forward Nadia Fingall, who’s recovering from a ACL surgery, was  the one to salute Alanna. She said they have a pre-game ritual in which Nadia asks, “Who are you,” and Alanna answers, “I’m a b-a-a-a-d woman.” She complimented Alanna’s finesse as a player.

Because she’s so far from home, her freshman year was rough, Alanna said, but “I wouldn’t be able to call this place home if it weren’t for you,” she said to her teammates. She added that she cherishes the fans and their loudness.

Alanna shares praise with teammates

When one fan asked if it has dawned on her that she’s one of the best players in the nation, she shared the praise with her teammates.

During the summer, she played on the Australian national team for the FIBA World Cup in Spain. The Aussies placed second to the U.S. team.

Alanna said she was thrilled to play against some of the nation’s best players, including Elena Delle Donne, Brittany Griner and Stanford grad Nneka Ogwumike, ’12. “It taught me a lot,” she said.

Alanna’s father said he’s glad to know she’s in such nice place.

“We have a very special culture” of supportive players, Tara said.

Still more games to play

Although this was the team’s last regular season home game, it’s expected to return to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in March.

In the meantime, it will wrap up the conference season by flying north to face Washington State at 7 p.m. March 1 and Washington at 2 p.m. March 3.

Then it’s off to Las Vegas for the Pac 12 tournament. Because Stanford has clinched a first-round bye, its first action will come March 8, time and opponent to be determined. The tournament ends March 10.

Photos by Cody Glenn/Icon Sports Wire

February 23, 2019

Down to the wire against Arizona

Alanna, Lacie and DiJonai celebrate the win. (AP photo)

After sweeping the Southern California schools the previous weekend, the Stanford women’s basketball returned home to host Arizona and eked out a 56-54 victory on Feb. 22.

As the score would indicate, it wasn’t easy. The team appeared to have the game reasonably well in hand at the half, when the score was 35-27. However, Arizona outscored the Cardinal in the third, giving it a 45-47 edge.

In the fourth, was Arizona up by seven with just about four and a half minutes left. That’s when the Stanford defense and offense shifted into high gear, holding Arizona scoreless while pouring in the 11 points needed for the win.

Alanna helps to clinch victory

Credit senior forward Alanna Smith for doing much of the heavy lifting with a game-high 21 points. She bookended the win by scoring the team’s first four points and, from behind the arc, the final three.

Lacie plays tight defense. (AP photo)
Freshman forward Lacie Hull did her part with 15 points from five of the team’s 10 threes. Alanna had three, while sophomore guard Kiana Williams had two. Kiana’s threes accounted for all of her six points, a low score for her.

Junioe guard DiJonai Carrington was the other Cardinal in double figures with 10.

Team gets more from threes than points in the paint

The Arizona defense appeared focused on keeping Stanford out of the paint and swarming any player who got near the basket. Hence Stanford had only 20 points in the paint but 30 points from behind the arc.

Arizona had a balance of 24 points each in the paint and from three-point range.

Besides Alanna, Lacie, Kiana and DiJonai, the other starter was sophomore forward Alyssa Jerome, who didn’t score.

Stanford had a big advantage in rebounds, 42-28, but committed 16 turnovers to Arizona’s 12.

All told, the score was tied six times. The lead changed seven times.

Maya returns to action

Sophomore forward Maya Dodson, who had missed the SoCal games  because of a recurring foot problem, was back in uniform and snared seven rebounds while scoring two points in 14 minutes.

She spent most of the third quarter and part of the fourth on the stationary bike until summoned back with just over seven minutes to go and her team down five, 47-52.

Junior forward Nadia Fingall, who has been out after sustaining a torn ACL, reportedly had surgery earlier in the week. She was reasonably mobile, though, walking with a heavy brace.

Fans provide vocal boost

The team got plenty of vocal support from the crowd of 3,569, especially when the game was at its most nail-biting. The noise practically raised the rafters of Maples.

Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne joins the band with his saxophone. (Go Stanford photo)
Among those fans was the band with its newest member, Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne on saxophone.

Also among those fans were the families of the three seniors, Alanna, center Shannon Coffee and guard Marta Sniezek. They’ll be honored at Senior Day when the team plays Arizona State at 1 p.m. Feb. 24.

I got to meet Shannon’s parents and grandparents. They sat in the family section wearing big Shannon buttons and could be heard cheering when Shannon got into the game. She didn’t score, but she had two valuable rebounds and two assists, which led to points.

Fans who arrived early had some reason for concern when Alanna was on the bike while the team went through its initial warmups before going into the locker room. However, she was a full participant in the warmups afterward, and the score sheet reflects her effectiveness during 31 minutes in the game.

Alanna amasses athletic, academic honors

The honors she merited after the SoCal games (despite losing the nail on her right ring finger at USC) also reflected her effectiveness. Not only was she named Pac 12 Player of the Week for the third time this season, she was named the Naismith National Player of the Week.

As if that weren’t enough, she became the 16th player in SWBB history to score 1,500 points. Her total now stands at 1,532 and counting.

On top of that, the College Sports Information Directors of America named her to the All-District Women’s Basketball First Team.  Stanford is part of the district that includes eight Western states (with Alaska and Hawaii) as well as Canada.  She’s a psychology major with a 3.47 cumulative GPA.

The team wraps up its regular home season with the Arizona State game. After that, it heads north to complete the conference season against Washington State at 7 p.m. March 
1 and Washington at 2 p.m. March 3.

AP photos by Ben Margot

February 11, 2019

Cardinal can't quack the Ducks

Tara urges her team, but it still loses  to Oregon by 40 points.

The women’s basketball team suffered the worst point loss in head coach Tara VanDerveer’s 33 seasons at Stanford when Oregon won 88-48 on Feb. 10 at Maples.

Playing before a crowd of 5,250, which included a contingent of Ducks fans, the team had little to brag about as its streak of 22 home game victories ended.

Ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll at the time, Oregon topped No. 11 Stanford in nearly every statistical category, especially shooting.

Oregon outshoots Stanford

While the Ducks were scoring at a 57.1 percent rate, the Cardinal managed only 31.7 percent. The disparity was especially glaring on threes, with Oregon making 12 of 16, or 75 percent, while Stanford managed only five of 22, or 22.7 percent.

Lexie tries to power her way through a double team.
Stanford’s threes came from freshman forward Lexie Hull with two, while sophomore guard Kiana Williams, sophomore forward Alyssa Jerome and freshman guard Jenna Brown each had one.

Oregon had four players in double figures, while only junior guard DiJonai Carrington reached that range with 13.

Oregon had more rebounds and more assists and one less turnover.

Stanford has more blocks

The biggest bright spot for Stanford was blocks, eight to Oregon’s one. Senior forward Alanna Smith had three, sophomore forward Maya Dodson two, and DiJonai, Kiana and Alyssa one each. 

In addition, Stanford had eight fouls, Stanford 13.

Because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Day, fans received pink T-shirts. Four cancer survivors were honored during a first-quarter break.

Twins’ dad wears pink tutu

Following a tradition that began with the father of Jayne Appel, ’10, and continued with a Stanford dad each year after that, Jason Hull, the father of Lexie and her twin sister, Lacie, also a forward, wore a pink tutu. He’s a fraternal twin, according to ESPNW.

The players’ white home uniforms were accented with pink.

Another bright spot was the national anthem sung by the Peninsula Girls Chorus. Several student choruses have sung the anthem (as written) for appreciative fans.

Yet another bright spot came during the half when ESPNW announcer Holly Rowe presented ESPNW Player of the Year Awards to Catarina Macario from the women’s soccer team and Kathryn Plummer from the national champion women’s volleyball team. Both will be back next year.

As for the game, the Ducks led 20-11 after the first quarter, 44-20 at the half and 66-36 after the third quarter. At that point, some people began leaving.

After the game gets out of hand, starters can only watch from the bench.
With game out of hand, starters go to bench

With about three minutes to go and Oregon up 83-48, the starters were on the bench and all available players had seen action.

There’s no way to sugarcoat a 40-point loss, but as one fan said afterward, at least “we kept them under 100.”

The loss dropped Stanford to No. 3 in the Pac 12 behind No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Oregon State, but the win over OSU two days earlier moved it up a notch to No. 10 in the Feb. 11 AP poll.

Stanford fans can hope for better game results the following weekend when the team travels south to take on UCLA at 6 p.m. Feb. 15 and USC at noon Feb. 17. Both will be televised by Pac 12 Networks.

Photos by Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle

February 9, 2019

Cardinal's defense dams up Beavers' offense

Lexie Hull blocks a shot by OSU's Destiny Slocum. (Photo by Cody Glenn, Associated Press)

Although Oregon State is known as a sharpshooting team, especially from beyond the arc, stifling defense by the Stanford women’s basketball team effectively altered that scenario in its 61-44 victory at home on Feb. 8.

OSU came into the game with a 43 percent success rate on threes, but Stanford held it to 19 percent on four of 21. In the meantime, Stanford tallied 29 percent on its threes, or nine of 31.

The team’s leading scorer for the game, sophomore guard Kiana Williams, scored 12 of her 18 points on threes.

Freshman forward Lacie Hull chipped in three on her way to nine points while senior forward Alanna Smith (17 points) and sophomore forward Alyssa Jerome (five points) had one each.

Although head coach Tara VanDerveer stuck with the same starters --- Alanna, Kiana, Lacie, sophomore forward Maya Dodson and junior guard DiJonai Carrington --- she gave the opening tip assignment to Maya rather than Alanna.

Slow start but better finish in first quarter

The team started slowly as OSU jumped to a 6-0 lead. DiJonai broke the ice with a basket (her only points of the game) after about three minutes.

After a jumper by Kiana, Alanna scored against a 6’8” defender under the basket to knot the score at 6-6. Stanford went on to take its first lead less than a minute later and ended the first quarter up 12-8.

The margin widened to 36-20 at the half and 50-29 in the next quarter. OSU outscored Stanford 15-11 in the fourth quarter, when bench players had taken over by the final buzzer, but the effort was for naught.

Upset extends home winning streak

Thus Stanford, ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll, knocked off No. 7, extended its home court winning streak to 22 and handed Tara her 903rd win on the Farm.

In addition to outscoring the Beavers, the Cardinal forced 13 turnovers while committing seven, had seven blocks to OSU’s none, and had nine assists to OSU’s four.
Maya with four and Alanna with three led the block party. Kiana had four of the assists. 

Reaching a career high, Maya also had 10 of the team’s 43 rebounds (OSU had 42). Alanna and Alyssa had seven each.

Misses, fouls are negatives

On the negative side, Stanford missed some seemingly easy shots under the basket. It also was whistled for 17 fouls, OSU for 10.

Several of the refs’ calls against the home team drew prolonged boos from the crowd of 2,840. (It included some fans in orange near the OSU bench.)

Stanford fans have little time to bask in the win. AP’s No. 3 team, Oregon, comes calling at 1 p.m. Feb. 10 after pulverizing Cal 105-82 at Cal two hours after the Stanford-OSU game. ESPN will televise the game.

February 3, 2019

Team tells Cal: Not in our house

Associate head coach Kate Paye and head coach Tara VanDerveer exhort the players against Cal.
After suffering a disappointing last-second 81-80 loss at Cal on Jan. 31, the Stanford women’s basketball team turned the tables and then some on its cross-bay rival at Maples by winning 75-50 on Feb. 2.

The Cardinal dominated the Golden Bears in almost statistical category before a loud crowd of 4,066. It included some Cal fans, its band and cheerleaders but no mascot to bow to the Tree.

Cal’s star senior forward, Kristine Anigwe, scored a game-high 20 points, but only eight of them came from baskets. The rest were at the free-throw line where she was 12 for 16.

She fouled out with just over two minutes left. One of those fouls was an unsportsmanlike call about halfway through the second quarter.

On the other hand, no Stanford player fouled out, and three were in double figures. Junior guard DiJonai Carrington and sophomore guard Kiana Williams had 19 each while senior forward Alanna Smith had 16. All three were starters.

Maya and Nadia share a laugh in the locker room.
Maya returns to action

The home crowd had something else to celebrate as sophomore forward Maya Dodson returned to action and the starting lineup at home after missing eight games with a foot injury. She also had played at Cal.

At Stanford she contributed nine points, four of the team’s 41 rebounds, three of its five blocks and one of its 14 assists in 21 minutes.

Shannon had four of the team's 14 assists.
Leading the way in assists were Kiana and senior center Shannon Coffee with four each.

The other starter was freshman forward Lacie Hull, who had three of the team’s six steals to go with five points, seven rebounds and one assist.

Stanford never trails

Stanford led the entire game, starting with a sizzling first quarter that ended 22-5. By the half, the lead had ballooned to 20 and rose to 56-31 after the third.

The team’s final 75 points included 24 from eight 3s: three each by Kiana and DiJonai and one each by Lacie and her twin sister, Lexie.

In this hard-fought game, action stopped twice as referees reviewed plays. The crowd wasn’t always pleased with the officiating overall, booing lustily several times.

In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, outstanding achievements in several Stanford women’s sports were highlighted on the video board.

Women’s championship volleyball team honored

Appearing in person, the women’s volleyball team received a standing ovation as it displayed its eighth NCAA national championship trophy. The softball team also appeared as it prepares for its season to open soon.

After the game, Maya joined associate head coach Kate Paye to start a Behind the Bench.

“That was a great bounce-back win for our team,” Kate said. As for Maya, “She’s going to get better and better,” the coach said.

Maya, who said her foot is “getting better every day,” said she’s thinking about majoring in engineering. Right now her hardest class is physics, where she had a mid-term coming up during the next week.

Kate concluded by saying the team was much more aggressive at this game and got “a lot of help off the bench.”

Joining the gathering, head coach Tara VanDerveer agreed that the team played better this time. The win “sets us up confidence-wise for our next games,” she said.

Maya, next to Lacie, gets a high five from a team mate as the team celebrates.
Tara likes the players’ camaraderie

Answering a fan, she said her favorite part of coaching is “how well they get along” and support each other. “They’re really good people.”

Asked about the two injured players, she said that senior guard Marta Sniezek, who hasn’t played all season because of a hand injury, is working hard. As for her return to action, “we’ll have to wait and see,” Tara said. 
She added that Marta might qualify for a red shirt.

Junior forward Nadia Fingall, who has a torn left ACL, will have surgery soon. “She’s a great teammate,” Tara said, adding that both Marta and Nadia are “all about the team being successful.”

Coming up next are two more home games. Oregon State will visit at 6 p.m. Feb. 8, and Oregon will visit at 1 p.m. Feb. 10. The Oregon State game will be on the Pac 12 Network, while ESPN will televise the Oregon game.

Photos by Don Feria/ISI Photos.com