February 3, 2016

Translation from the Australian

My commitment to Stanford University meant not only leaving everything I knew and the safety of home behind me in Australia, but also having to adjust my use of language.

Some people say Australian’s have their own language and on arriving in the USA in September last year I came to realize that this is somewhat true.

On my first day in Palo Alto I made my way to Target in search for some bedding. I proceeded to ask a store employee where the “doonas” were located. The look I got from the employee was a mixture of confusion and concern. I had to explain that a “doona” was a blanket used to keep you warm at night.

I have experienced countless more instances similar to this one, where no one seems to understand what I am saying. In an effort to help people understand some of the Australian language I have come up with some rough translations.

Doona – blanket used to keep you warm at night
Vegemite – delicious condiment that is commonly spread on toast with butter
Mate – a friend, more than an acquaintance
Barbie – Barbeque
Bikkie – Tasty biscuit
Bloke – man, guy
Brekkie – Breakfast
Crook – sick, unwell
Daks – pants, clothing worn on the bottom half of the body
Dunny – lavatory
Lollies – candy but not chocolate
Corkey – deep bruise, Charlie horse
Maccas – MacDonald’s
Spewin’ – angry or extremely disappointed

— Alanna

January 26, 2016

A new look at the Juniors

Hi Stanford Fans!

It is crazy being an upperclassman this year. I love my Junior classmates. This is our third year together, and I would not ask for anyone different to spend my four years of college with. Each one of us is very different and this makes us get along so great. To tell you a little bit about each one of us, I wanted to compare each of us to a dog look-alike.

I love dogs. My first dog was a golden retriever named Sami. My family now has a new puppy named Lucy. She is a black lab and no matter how big she is getting, she still thinks she is a lap dog. She constantly jumps up onto the couch and sits right on you. Here are what I think are not only dog look-a-likes for us five juniors, but also similar in personalities.

Bird – St. Bernard
For Bird, I always get a smile on my face when I see her, so I thought a St. Bernard was perfect. When I think of Birdie, I think of a fun-loving, energetic person who’s always putting a smile on people’s faces. When I see a St. Bernard, I just want to give him or her a big hug. They are gentle, lively, and friendly just like Bird.

Lili – Komondor
Now, I chose the Komondor for Lili because of its dread-like fur. However, looking up the personalities of Komondors actually match Lili quite well. Komondors are intelligent, independent, and protective. When I look to Lili, I always know she has something meaningful to say and I know she has my back.

Kailee – Rhodesian Ridgeback
Kailee is tall, athletic, and tan. So I thought a Rhodesian Ridgeback would be a perfect look alike. Looking at the personalities of these dogs, however, also gave a perfect match. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are strong-willed, dignified, and loyal. I know that Kailee always has my teammates and I’s backs and she is always going to be there to fight for herself and her teammates.

Kailee Alternate

Bri – French Bulldog
Bri was a tough one to match. I went with a French Bulldog because she is small and athletic. Bri may be small in size but she does not act small. French bulldogs are easy-going, alert, and playful. Bri is one of the most easy-going people I know.

Karlie – Yellow lab
I just picked a yellow lab for myself because I am blonde and I love them.

And just to throw in some dog pictures for the coaches:

— Karlie

January 25, 2016

From one family to the next

I absolutely love when people ask about my family because I always have so much to say about each and every member. I could tell endless crazy stories about my siblings and our adventures, ranging from playing roller-basketball in the driveway to creating slip-n-slides into our pool.

It’s safe to say there’s never a dull day in the Sniezek household, granted, there are quite a few of us. To be exact, I have six brothers, two sisters, and two parents. When people discover that I come from a large family, I unfailingly receive a variation of the following question, “can you recite all their names?” I’m sure you were all thinking it as well so here it goes, my parents are Edwina and David, and my siblings in chronological order are Sarah, Edward, John, Joseph, Robert, Michael, Matthew, (myself), and Katerina.

Like I mentioned earlier, I could talk forever about my family, but I’ll try to keep it short. In my very unbiased opinion, my mom and dad are the epitome of great parenting, that’s not to say they’re perfect (no offense Mom and Dad), but they taught my siblings and me what to value in life and the importance of strong morals.

As for my siblings, well I can honestly say they’re my best friends. Since we’re all about a year apart, growing up together was quite entertaining. Imagine having recess all day, everyday with your favorite buddies. That’s how I would describe my childhood.

In many aspects, having a big family is quite similar to being a part of a team. I learned a great deal about communication, leadership, and togetherness, so much so, that I attribute much of my success to my family.

Although I miss them everyday, I know my family is proud of me, as well as my decision to attend Stanford.

And what’s even better, I’ve been fortunate to find a second family here at Stanford, my team.


January 21, 2016

Memories of Four years

Freshman Year

First day on campus. Aly Beebe and I went exploring on our bikes (that didn’t stop us from getting lost on the way to the gym on the way to our first workout), I had only learned how to ride a bike two weeks before (in preparation for college), I ran into pole and crashed. I bent my handle bars and went flying. I walked into my very first workout at Stanford with four or five grapefruit sized black and purple bruises covering my legs. But I haven’t crashed my bike since!

The first time we went to Hawaii, the food was amazing, that was the first time I had experienced the gloriousness that is papua. At breakfast they had this coconut syrup that is just to die for. Two years later and I still remember that syrup, of course the win against Brittany Griner and Baylor at Hawaii was sweeter, but only just.

Sophomore Year

The team trip to Italy was simply amazing. I remember Aly, Amber, Alex and I got completely lost on the first day we were in Rome. But I think that overall the funniest part of that trip was when we were playing our first game. We were about half way through the first quarter and somebody had just delivered some water bottles to our bench, we all took huge drinks of the water, and then almost as one we all choked and spit it out, because unknown to us the water that we were given was sparkling water instead of regular water.

My Sophmore year was also my first year of coffee club, I remember one time Sara James, Mikeala and I walked 30 minutes in the middle of a wind storm before breakfast to get to the cafe. I think that might have been the best coffee I ever tasted…and then we walked back.

The Final Four was pretty awesome as well.

Junior Year

I think that one of the most memorable moments of my Junior year, besides the Connecticut win of course (Amber making the three to tie up the game will always stay firmly in my memory as most awesome moment of all time), is when we finally beat ASU in the PAC-12 tournament. The locker room after that win was crazy, plus I always love it when Bonnie breaks out her AC/DC Dynamite performance.

Senior Year

It’s been great so far, but I think that the best moments are still ahead of me.

Tess Picknell

January 4, 2016

Secret Santa

This year our team decided to do a Secret Santa gift exchange, we drew names out of a cup during the Gulf Coast Tournament, we were obviously excited about the Holidays coming up.

The plan was to pick a teammate, get them a small gift, keep it a secret, and we would do the exchange in the locker room on the 21st before we all went home. On a team of 14 girls there aren’t many secrets, we hate keeping things to ourselves so we didn’t think that the secret part was going to work, but everyone was so excited about our new holiday tradition and lips were sealed!

I was driving back to campus from Target when we got back from the tournament and I don’t know what came over me but I decided if we were going to have gifts in the locker room we had to have a tree to put them under so I took a sharp U-Turn to the tree lot I had just passed. The man was nice enough to make a little stand for the mini-tree I got out of a stump. It was the best purchase of the year, it brought a little holiday spirit to the locker room and that tree is still green after a month and I am pretty sure no one ever watered it!

The gifts started to appear under the tree as the 21st was approaching but there were shipping dilemmas that required we push the exchange until the 26th when we were back from our short break. Despite the wait on the 26th the team gathered around the tree to open presents, and I can easily say that this was my favorite ever team activity!

I won’t share what everyone got each other or anything like that, mostly because I cannot remember, but it was so exciting to see how happy people were when they opened these small gifts.

It was amazing how perfect people’s gifts suited them! Usually at a gift giving event people give and receive random stuff but our gift exchange was so special because it was so THOUGHTFUL! Gifts were really varied, from clothing to tea kettles, but each one had such a story behind it… something someone had mentioned in the locker room one day, something that had a saying on it that the teammate always says, or just a fun gift.

The gift exchange was so much fun for our team and definitely a tradition that is here to stay!

Happy New Years Everyone,

Kailee Johnson

December 20, 2015

We Could Be Mechanics

Christmas break can get a little boring after a while. The days we don’t have games, we usually just practice and then sit in the hotel. So you can imagine the excitement some of the team and I had when we discovered that I was locked out of my car with no keys…

To give you the background details, I usually just lock my keys in my car and use the keypad on the door to unlock it. So I walked out to my car after practice and as I pressed the keypad, I realized it wasn’t working and I was in trouble.

So what does any 20 year old in trouble do? I panicked and called my mom, (because of course she could help me from a thousand miles away). Just as I was realizing that she was no help over the phone, some of the team walked out to rescue me.

Brittany, Alexa, Marta, Kailee, and I: I figured we were the perfect team to break into a car. So after trying to come up with a plan, we realized that I left a light on, which killed my battery (thus, the keypad wouldn’t work to unlock the door). All we needed to do was jump the car. Simple right? Wrong. We couldn’t pop the hood because that would require pulling a lever that was in the car. So we had to get creative. We looked up Youtube videos, found makeshift tools in Kailee’s car to use, and it looked like we were getting close to popping the hood. You would’ve thought we were true mechanics.

So what started as an unfortunate event was just another teaching experience. It was a reminder to double check my lights before I get out of the car. I learned that if basketball and school doesn’t work out for us, we can open up our own shop. And I was reminded of how lucky I am that each person on this team has my back on and off the court.

After all of this and about 20 minutes I was in my car and driving away, feeling thankful for my teammates. And feeling thankful for AAA. (Because we called them pretty much right away).

— Kaylee Johnson

December 18, 2015

A Cardinal Chistmas

As the holidays are approaching, between traveling, practices, and games, it can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit.

This year though, our team started a new tradition by doing Secret Santas. For those of you who don’t know what that is, everyone secretly draws a teammate's name out of hat and on the 21st everyone is going to give their gift to the person they have. We made a rule that you can ask one other teammate for help in finding a gift but that is it. Everyone is so excited to see what is in store; not only wondering what gift they are going to get but who it is from as well.

To prepare for all the gifts that are coming, Kailee Johnson even went out and bought a little mini Christmas tree to put the presents under in the locker room. Then Bird (Erica McCall) had her Mom bring up Christmas ornaments from home to decorate the tree with. They are even cardinal red and white to match our school colors! Its like our own little celebration. On top of that, most days we will listen to Christmas music in the locker room at some point.

Overall it is a total team effort to get ourselves into the holiday spirit and I wouldn’t want to spend the holiday celebrating any other way!

Brittany McPhee

December 4, 2015

Things I Miss From Ohio

Hi Fans!

As some of you know I am from Dayton, Ohio (more specifically, Centerville).When I left for Stanford I didn’t think I would miss anything about Ohio, but I was so wrong. Here are a couple things I miss:

Bill’s Donuts: Bill’s is a donut joint in Centerville, Ohio that has become more and more famous for its delicious donuts. The selection of donuts they have is extensive and none of them will disappoint. People from towns all over come to Bill’s to try it. It is open 24/7 so it is a really nice midnight snack on summer nights.

Skyline Chili: (I’m starting to notice a theme of food) Skyline is a restaurant that serves conies (mini hotdogs with cheese, onions, and mustard), 3,4, or 5 ways that included chili and cheese on top of spaghetti noodles, a 4- way has beans in addition, and a 5-way has beans and onions. I did not appreciate it as much as I should have, it is SO good.

King’s Island: King’s Island is an amusement park near Cincinnati, Ohio. I am not really a roller coaster person but it is still a lot of fun. There are a bunch of rides and games, but there is also a water park, which is my favorite. I love all the water slides, the wave pools, and my favorite is the lazy river. But my favorite time for King’s Island is around Halloween. During the fall, King’s Island has a “Fear Fest”. Fear fest is where they turn different parts of the part into “haunted house” type things. You walk through different parts and there are different themed places to match all your worst fears: clowns, hospitals taken over by zombies, werewolves, and much more. So missing Fear Fest this year was very different

Canes Chicken: Canes Chicken, to continue my food theme, is a restaurant that only serves chicken tenders, toasted bread, French fries, and cole slaw. They are the best chicken fingers I have ever had!

Graeters: Graeters is an ice cream place in Ohio. They have an assortment of unique flavors. My favorite is called the Buckeye Blitz, it is chocolate ice cream with huge chocolate chunks and little peanut butter nuggets. It is delicious.


November 22, 2015

Twenty-nine days

Twenty-nine days was all it took for my life to change irrevocably.

In mid-September, my maternal aunt, Professor Michelle Carr, went to the emergency room in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York with a headache.

Twenty-nine days later, on October 16, 2015 my family stood beside her and said our final goodbyes.

My aunt, affectionately known as “Aunt Michey” or my special name for her, “Aunty Wonty” passed away from a rare and highly aggressive form of brain cancer. She lived a very healthy lifestyle, but after having a terrible headache on September 17th while working on a patient, she went to the emergency room and doctors discovered there was bleeding in her skull. After a series of further testing and imaging, we learned that she had a mass in her brain.

On October 1st she had her first surgery, which was supposed to be a relatively simple procedure intended to remove a small piece of the tumor to biopsy and determine the next course of action. But, this tumor did not react as doctors predicted, and that would be a recurring theme throughout this entire ordeal.

Instead of my aunt recovering with her sister (my mother) Tracy, and her children, Courtney and Jerel, at her bedside, her life was thrown into a whirlwind. There were internal seizures and the tumor reacted violently and started to swell, which affected her speech, memory, and overall brain function. My family rallied around her and we supported her with love, affection, and respect. Her doctors worked tirelessly to find a course of action that could help her, and they decided to perform a second surgery to remove more of the tumor in the hopes that it would make room and alleviate the effects of the brain swelling.

After this surgery, things started to look up a bit. I was in constant contact with my mom, who was at Aunty’s bedside around the clock, and we were all sending positive thoughts and prayers into the atmosphere. We had plans to support Aunty through her recovery, which would be extensive, but we believed it would be manageable. We were excited for the opportunity to care for her and love on her, the same way that she had always loved on us.

But, the tumor would again react unpredictably, and Aunty started to slip away from us. The swelling wouldn’t stop, and she started having more seizures. Doctors decided to sedate her into a medically-induced coma in the hopes that her brain would have a chance to rest and recover.

How I wish that had worked.

From this point on, things were obviously difficult. Aunty lost brain function and was put on life support. I flew to New York City immediately and experienced the toughest two weeks of my life.

But, the point of this blog post isn’t to tell you all about the bad times. It is, in part, to raise awareness about brain cancer, but even more so, it’s to tell you about my aunt. She was such an amazing person that I can’t fully explain who she was within the bounds of this post, but I can try to explain who she was to me.

When I tell people that my aunt passed away, I feel as if the word “aunt” isn’t strong enough to convey the bond of our relationship and it does her a disservice. Aunty Wonty was so much more than what that word describes.

Twenty years ago, just around the time I was born, my mother dealt with an unimaginable amount of tragedy. She lost both of her parents, her brother, and a sister, all within a five-month period. Her big sister Michelle was all she had left. Aunty became her new mother. Her sister. Her best friend and her confidante. And she did it all with a grace you cannot imagine. In the same vein, Aunty was not just my aunt, but my second mother, and also the grandmother I would never have.

When I was between three and eight years old, my military parents were stationed in New Jersey, just a short drive down the turnpike from Aunty’s New York apartment. Nearly every weekend Aunty and my cousins visited us, and, as anyone in my family will gladly tell you, on Sunday when it was time for her to return home, I cried from the moment I awoke until hours later when her car pulled out of the driveway.

“Aunty don’t goooo!!!” I’d bawl, and she’d reply, “Khaliyah Mia! I’ll be back next weekend, baby!” and although I knew this was true, my five-year-old self could not bear the thought of a week without her! Looking back on this now, I think that crying when it was time for Aunty to leave was my way of showing my intense love for her when I was too young to express that emotion verbally. As I got older, Aunty and I texted and talked on the phone constantly, and our bond remained very strong.

Another story I’d like to share about Aunty is the story of “Bear”.

You may know Bear from my freshman year video during our Final Four run. Bear travels with the team and I on every trip and sleeps in my bed every night without fail. Bear was a gift from my Aunty. She sent him to me when my military dad was getting ready to deploy to Iraq when I was eight years old. I still remember my mom calling me into the room and giving me a huge white box with my name on it. Aunty sent Bear to be a source of comfort during a difficult time, and no one could have predicted how much comfort he brought me when my father went to war, and how much comfort he brings me today, now that Aunty has passed.

Because of my upbringing, I’m the kind of person who strives to do my best in everything I approach. Last season when I was experiencing some difficulties with basketball I snuggled up with Bear and confided in Aunty. With her typical sweetness she encouraged me to protect my passion for the game. She told me to play without reservation, and to be confident in my own judgment on the court, and to utilize all the basketball skills that I had worked so hard to develop. She was so happy when things turned positive for our team and we reached the Sweet Sixteen!

There are so many stories like this that I could share about my Aunty Wonty; and these are the stories and memories that get me through the days without her. I try to think of our last trip together when we went to Chicago this summer for my sister’s wedding and we had an amazing time. We slept in the same hotel room, stuffed our stomachs with the world’s fluffiest blueberry pancakes each morning, and marveled at the beauty of the Windy City. I wish that words could convey just how much I cherish these memories, and how much they keep me going during such a difficult time.

And a difficult time it has been. I won’t even do the disservice of trying to put into words the pain that I feel on a daily basis. But Aunty wouldn’t want me to be hurt. I can vividly remember her saying on multiple occasions, “Well, you know I don’t like anything making my Khaliyah-Mia sad!”

Instead of being sad, Aunty would want me to remember and cherish all of our great times together, and I hope to honor her with not only how I play on the court, but with how I continue to carry myself through this lifetime.

So, when you see me make the ASL sign for “family” whenever I hit a three point shot on the court this season, know that it is in remembrance of my Aunty. It’s my way of honoring her, and of playing basketball the way she loved to see me play: with confidence, passion, and determination.

Aunty’s funeral service was standing room only. She was only fifty-six years old and her colleagues, students, patients, and fellow dental professionals came out in droves. I heard from so many different people about how she affected their lives so positively, and they were so sad to say goodbye to her.

But I’ve decided that I didn’t say goodbye. I carry her with me. And I always will. She is with me in each and every moment of my life, and that gives me strength. I’m still grieving, and, as many people have told me, I’ll never stop. But I am doing my best to honor her memory and to live, and play basketball, in a way that would make her smile. As my mom says, “Grief is the price of love.”

Yes, there is a lot of grief, but only because there was a lot of love.

Learn more at the American Brain Tumor Association - www.abta.org

November 17, 2015

Bird is ready to lead

Playing with USA basketball this summer was an absolute amazing experience. South Korea had an amazing atmosphere with amazing people. Much of the experience was like the Olympics, we had an opening and closing ceremonies and even a World University games village. Despite my worries, the food was amazing and if you ever want to try some good Korean food, I recommend authentic Korean barbeque. Besides the great food, just being able to play with some of the nation’s top players was an unforgettable experience. Winning the gold was great, but being able to win it with such an amazing team and coaching staff made it even better.

One of the biggest things I learned from this experience was leadership. Being a captain of such an elite team, taught me communication was a key part of our success. Twelve girls means twelve different personalities. Learning to have different conversations with these players not only helped me understand that each person will bring a different type of energy to the group, but also everyone’s effort and energy is necessary in order to achieve the common goal. I also learned how to be the middleman by communicating with both the coaches and team to make sure that there was a common ground on certain tasks. This year I look forward to bringing my leadership qualities to the team. I want to be someone who my teammates feel they can lean on, on and off the court. Leaders have a very important job, but I think this year I am ready to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park!

This year’s team is going to be GREAT. We have a lot of talent that will help us tag-team a lot, which allow us to keep a fast pace the entire game. I have so much confidence in this team, I look forward to winning many games. When everyone thinks Stanford basketball, one thing that comes to mind is tradition. There are so many one can think of, but when I think of this team I think sisterhood and success.

Erica (Bird) McCall