December 30, 2014

The summer of a basketball junkie

They call me a "basketball junkie” and I’m proud of it! I absolutely love the game of basketball, and this summer, I watched, played, and taught the game.   

I love men’s and women’s professional basketball. This summer I spent much of my time watching professional basketball. My favorite player is Damian Lillard.  He is an explosive point guard who has uncanny abilities — he can both make plays and be a "clutch" player. During a recent interview, Lillard said something that was very noteworthy to me.  He said, "I think we just need to take the summer... take pride in going home and improving... coming back better players and holding ourselves accountable to help the team to be a little better."

In addition to watching professional basketball this summer, I spent a lot of time in the gym working on the essentials: ball-handling, passing, and shooting.  My teammates and I played pick-up just about every other day and we WENT AT IT!  Every game was competitive and gritty. Sometimes basketball players from the University of Santa Clara and University of San Diego joined us too. Further, my teammate Bird (Erica McCall) and I were able to play in the San Francisco Pro-Am Summer League at Kezar Pavillion. We enjoyed playing against outstanding players in women's college basketball. 

Finally, I taught basketball. I was fortunate enough to be invited to make a guest appearance at the Torch Basketball Academy Summer Camp. It was awesome!  I worked with the kids and helped develop their fundamentals. I told them how important it is to "work smart" as much as you "work hard.” But, don’t be fooled, some of those kids could ball!  When I was coaching a team during the final tournament game of the camp, I thought,  “these games are just as competitive and gritty as our pick-up games!” Young players were chasing loose balls and fighting for every rebound too!  It was great. I really enjoyed watching players develop!

This summer was great and I'm really looking forward to next summer. 

— Bri Roberson

December 27, 2014

What Kaylee misses about Wyoming

What do I miss about Wyoming? It has to be the people. I can’t say that I miss the sustained 45-60 mph winds or the snowstorms from September through May. I don’t miss the 2-½ hour road trips just to get to the next town to play a game. But I do miss the small hometown feel and the support of everyone in Casper.

My first experience with basketball was when I was 2 years old. My older sister and I got a little kids basketball hoop and I was hooked. My competitive nature was apparent even then and I refused to let my sister beat me just because I was younger. My mom then signed us up for basketball at the YMCA in Casper when I was in kindergarten. It was there that my love for the game really took over.

I played basketball at the Y, the Casper Rec Center, and in Junior High and I had the support of my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunt and uncle, and family friends at every game. Then I met Coach Diehl. Who knew then that his guidance, mentorship, support, and advice would be life changing on and off the court? It was him that told me I could play basketball year round through AAU teams in Colorado and Montana. So my mom and I travelled 2-3 times a week 3 hours one way for practices and games. We would leave early from school drive to CO/ MT, practice, eat, drive back (usually getting home around midnight- 1 am) and then get up the next morning to go school and she’d go to work. We were exhausted, but had fun too. She use to say, “It’s worth it because this will be your college tuition”. She was right. I knew then that this game they call basketball is addictive, frustrating, fun, and stress relieving all at the same time.

By the time I was in high school, I had the support of not only my friends, family, teachers, teammates and coaches, but also the town and entire state. But that’s Wyoming. I don’t think there is any other state that makes you feel like you are in your hometown, no matter what town you are playing in. We all compete. We all want to win. We all need support to do that; I did and still do, even hundreds miles away. Because of that, I am here at the best university in the country, doing what I love.


December 9, 2014

Jasmine's Favorite Moments

I can’t believe it’s already senior year! These four years have gone by so quickly, but they have definitely been a lot of fun.

There have been an immeasurable number of good times, and I’d like to take a minute to reflect on some of my favorite moments.

My first NCAA tournament was definitely one of my favorite moments in my Stanford career. The excitement was so overwhelming, and I’m sure I lost my voice a couple times during the tournament. I don’t think I had ever screamed that much in my life.

One of my second favorite moments would have to be the staff game in Arizona last year. It was absolutely hilarious. We spend so much of our time playing and battling each other on the court, so we live for those moments when we can see our coaches get down and dirty. That game was one for the ages! Bodies were flying. Tara’s trying to make no look passes, and a few staff members took midgame breaks and decided not to run back on defense. I don’t even remember which team won, but it is a game that I will never forget.

I could go on and on about the great memories I’ve had over these last few years, but I won’t.

The most important thing that I take from my years here is that I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I love my team. I love my school, and I’m grateful to have spent so much time with some of the most amazing women I know. I will always have these memories, and until graduation, I plan to make plenty more memories. So, on that note, it’s time to have a rocking senior year!

November 28, 2014

A Friendship That Will Last a Lifetime

As the holiday and basketball seasons begin I find myself thinking about how thankful I am to be able to go to and play at Stanford. This school has been wonderful to me and has provided me with so many opportunities that I will cherish for a lifetime. One of those opportunities was meeting and getting know my amazing teammates. I am so grateful for them and their impact they have had on my life. There are so many reasons that makes this team so special and blessed, but here are just some of my favorites:

One reason is the helpful culture of the team. No matter the circumstance, there is always someone to give you a hand in times of need or just give you uplifting words when you are having a bad day. I’m especially thankful for the upperclassmen this season. At times I have become upset and frustrated about my performances in basketball but every time, they come to my rescue and remind me to shake things off and just keep playing.

Another reason is the tightknit bond within the team. It’s crazy how our relationships with each other have evolved into sisterhoods. I see these girls every day and each day is full of laughter, love, and friendship. One of my favorite team activities I appreciate the most is our locker room dancing and singing sessions. It is amazing how one song, no matter what the genre, can bring all of us together. Although we may not know all the words and sound like “aspiring” Whitney Houstons, Taylor Swifts, and sometimes Bon Jovis I think these are the times I love the most.

Last but not least, one thing that is sometimes overlooked, but is great to be thankful for is the fact that all of my teammates are healthy and able to play this season. I know so many teams where they have at least one person who has to sit out due to injury, and having a full healthy roster is truly a blessing.

I am so thankful for those amazing girls in my life and I know with our bond this season will be something to remember!

-Erica “Bird” McCall

March 29, 2014

Excited to be back at Stanford

Here is Chiney's espnW blog about the excitement of a Sweet 16 at Stanford.

March 14, 2014

Get ready for 'N-E-R-D-S'

Here is Chiney's espnW blog, in which she celebrates the culture of Stanford.

A hungry team can be dangerous

Here is Chiney's espnW blog, in which she says that the loss to USC in the Pac-12 tournament was disappointing but that only makes Stanford more inspired for the NCAA tournament.

March 5, 2014

Seniors' Memorable Moments

From Alex:

I am dedicating my blog to our four wonderful seniors. I decided to ask them about their most memorable moments at Stanford.

Mikaela’s most memorable moment came in her freshman year at Stanford. While the NCAA tournament is always a great time for our team, that season’s elite eight was especially exciting. With only 4.4 seconds left on the shot clock, Jeannette Pohlen ran the ball from one end of the court to the other, scoring a layup and sending us to the Final Four.

Sara James told me that her favorite memory also happened her freshman year. It was December 30, 2011, a day I’m sure many Stanford fans remember. It was the day we beat UConn 71-59, breaking their 90-game winning streak. It was a great opportunity to defend Maples.

Chiney’s best memory so far at Stanford is a little more recent. We’ve all seen Chiney make amazing plays on the court, but her most memorable moment surrounds something unrelated to basketball—Nneka’s graduation. Chiney describes Nneka’s graduation as a beautiful moment for her family. In that moment she realized that never would she have imagined growing up that she would be playing the sport she loves at the best university. It was a surreal moment for her.

Toni’s favorite memory from Stanford happened just a couple months ago when she planned the Cal and Stanford We Are Pride event. She worked tirelessly for months to create a program about LGBT inclusion in sports. Being able to bring rival schools together was life changing for her. Witnessing Cal and Stanford athletes go from strangers to best friends in their photo project left her and the other organizers speechless. The event exceeded her wildest expectations and allowed her to put her passion into action to give back to the community.

We’re really going to miss our seniors. It’s been an exciting three years with these seniors and I’m sure that they will be a part of some of my most memorable moments at Stanford. I can’t wait to see what amazing things they do next.

March 3, 2014

A Tribute to the Seniors

Hey Stanford fans!

I thought that in light of the senior night festivities this week that I would write my blog in honor of the four lovely ladies who I can’t believe will be graduating soon. I feel so lucky and honored to have spent 3 years with them, and these will be some of the things that I miss the most:

SEJ: I cannot imagine how the team, the locker room, road trips, and life in general is going to be next year without her. She brings such a positive and fun presence to everything that we do as a team.

She is also one of my best friends and is the older sister I never had. Any time that I have been down or had a tough day, Sej has listened to me, talked me through it, and is always there to have my back.

Our team’s love for Sej is obvious in the sheer amount of nicknames we have given her including: Sejba, Sej-er-ama, Sejjie, and my own personal nickname for her, Stella. She in turn calls me Bridget. (It’s a long explanation behind those two names)

I also have to acknowledge how much her legendary singing will be missed when she is gone. She is known by some people as the next Mariah Carey, and she will always sing the entire song even if she has to mumble her way through any tricky lines. Our team’s favorite song for her to sing at the moment is “Do What U Want” by Lady Gaga.

We have shared many funny moments together, some of which include many people mistaking us for each other. Apparently, many people think that we look alike and are the same person, especially when we both wear our hair in a braid. It always makes us laugh, and we just go with it and pretend to be each other.

I’m going to miss her so much, and her humor and personality will be irreplaceable.

Mik: Our team calls her our 35 year old fifth year because she has been here so long! And thank goodness she has because I can’t imagine how life is going to be at Stanford without her here.

Mik is such a goofy and fun person to be around, and ever since my very first summer as a freshman, when she invited herself over to my dorm to watch Pretty Little Liars marathons with me while she worked on her complicated math and engineering psets, I knew that she was going to be a great friend.

We have spent many hours watching Grand Slam tennis championships together, each of us cheering on our favorite players. My favorite player is Rafael Nadal, while hers is Roger Federer, and we have had many friendly arguments over who is actually the best player ever.

Though we will never agree on that topic, we do share our taste in music. We both love Queen, Elton John, and Billy Joel. It’s always fun when we blast “Vienna” or “Benny and the Jets” in the locker and have a mini karaoke session.

I am going to miss her goofy and hilarious personality so much.

Chiney: There are so many things that I am going to miss about Chiney that I cannot possibly list them all here.

All of you know how valuable she is to our team on the court, but off the court, her bubbly and fun personality is going to be missed by us even more. It never fails to make me smile when I see say or do something that makes the whole team laugh.

One of my absolute favorite memories of Chiney is when she put together a barbeque for our team, and we were all hanging out by the pool. Chiney was walking around the edge of the pool and singing along to whatever song we had playing when she turned too early and stepped right into the water and fell in! We all immediately stopped what we were doing, and she came up laughing hard. Of course the rest of us couldn’t stop laughing either for some time. (I can’t stop laughing as I’m typing this just remembering it)

Chiney is one of the most loyal and caring friends I will ever have, and I am going to miss her so much.

Toni: I am so lucky to have gotten to play and become friends with Toni because she is the kind of person that genuinely cares about you and sincerely wants the best for you.

She is such a great role model to me, and she has shown me that it is completely acceptable to just be yourself. She exemplifies what it is to go to Stanford.

I love going to football games and looking out at the band and trying to pick out Toni among them. My favorite memory of her with the band was when she styled her hair into a giant purple Mohawk; needless to say it took a lot of hairspray and gel, but it looked awesome.

Our team loves Toni so much, and we know that it has been very hard for her not being able to play this year. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at her because she continues to cheer for us, keeps us laughing and positive, consistently comes to practice every day, and always has a smile on her face.

Every time I look at Toni and see her dedication and love for our team, I am inspired to play harder and give my best effort in everything I do. I am so lucky to have met Toni and have her as a friend because you will not find a more creative, caring, and generous person out there, and I am going to miss her so much.

Until next time,

February 11, 2014

Mental Toughness

I often talk with Coach Kate one-on-one and she always has a lot of insight to offer me, whether it’s athletic or academic. One of the very first conversations I had with her was when I attended Stanford summer camp, before I decided if I actually wanted to attend Stanford. I asked Coach Kate what I would need to do in order to be successful at Stanford. I expected a tangible answer like, “Learn to do this dribble move, get up hundreds of shots each day, or study for X amount of hours each night,” but instead she gave me something so much more valuable. She told me that my success at Stanford would be contingent upon how well I dealt with adversity.

As Stanford student-athletes, we sometimes get lost in the seemingly never-ending routine of rigorous practices, strenuous academics, and highly competitive games. In my short amount of time at Stanford thus far, I, and most of my teammates, have dealt with many different types of adversity. Some of us have had injuries, most of us have had bad days at practice, and sometimes some of us don’t do as well as we would like on exams.

Add to that the other stressors that lie outside of the student athlete “bubble” and our challenges are even more impactful. Challenges that all 18-21-year-old college students go through, like arguing with your best friend, feeling homesick, or struggling to find a social niche. Most of us have learned that it’s not the adversity we encounter that matters, it’s how we respond to it that helps us grow.

Being mentally tough as a student-athlete means learning to give yourself positive “self-talk,” staying poised and focused under pressure, and always realizing that everything we experience is a necessary part of the learning process as we strive to achieve our goals.

This season has not been easy for any of us. We’ve had self-doubts and stumbling blocks, unexpected losses and unforeseen challenges, and many other normal issues to contend with as well. But this is a mentally tough team. We believe in ourselves. We understand that we are on this journey together, and that we all have the same goal in sight.

Together, we are building a strong foundation of mental toughness, team unity, and all-around grit that makes Stanford Womens Basketball a sisterhood and an amazingly courageous unit. As our team leader and fierce motivator Chiney likes to say, “We’re not the ‘Nice Girls’ from Stanford anymore!”


Disappointment can be a blessing

Here is Chiney's espnW blog.

February 1, 2014

Let Me Explain

Hello Everyone!

Now I know this is not the first blog that one of us has written about the topic of our team’s hair preferences and it might seem like a trivial topic. Nonetheless, there is more behind our hair choices than meets the eye. The reason I have actually chosen this topic is that I have received quite a few comments and questions behind my choice to switch from my giant ponytail to my new bun.

A lot of people have been against the switch because they say it makes it harder for them to identify me when I am out on the court. A few of my own family members have expressed their frustrations about the difficulties of locating me without the giant ponytail. Now I am not presuming that everyone is concerned with finding me out on the court, however, I am sorry to those that do not support my switch for whatever reason. It is something I felt I had to do and here are my reasons why.

Over the last two years my hair has grown so that it is much longer than it use to be. Actually, if I straighten my hair it goes well past the middle of my back. This of course makes my ponytail much longer, and when I play basketball it would constantly swing around and hit me in the face. It can be quite frustrating when you are sprinting for a fastbreak lay-up and your own hair is obstructing your view of the basket. Therefore, I felt the bun was necessary in order to rein in the giant ponytail and teach it who is boss. I am the one running the show here not you.

My second reason for trying out the bun this year is because I think it represents change, which is a common theme of this season. This year our team has many new players and a different energy as well. We are a different team all together than last year, and so I feel my bun is just going along with this pattern of change. We have a new team and so I am bringing out a new hairstyle to match.

My final reason for sticking with the new hairstyle is that my Grandpa is a huge supporter of the bun. On our recent trip to Arizona a few family members of mine were at the game, including my Grandpa. While some of my other family members were expressing how my less visible hair made me harder to distinguish, my Grandpa stepped in and said that he thought the bun was very “cute”. There you have it folks. If Grandpa thinks the bun is cute, well then the bun is here to stay, because I trust my Grandpa’s opinion on hairstyles 100%. So now you all can see that even though my hair is not as large and noticeable there is more to my confined bun than meets the eye. I am not the only one who has a story behind my hair.

If you look at the progression of Taylor’s hair you can see that she has gone from ponytail, to bun, and now the braid this year. I cannot give you the full story why but her reasons are very similar to the frustrations I had with my ponytail before I switched to the bun.

As you all may know Bonnie has been consistent over the last three years with wearing her braid. However, what you all do not know is that there was a period where Bonnie struggled with braiding her own hair. She could do it but it wasn’t always the prettiest. Due to this struggle she found help from many different people on the team and staff to braid her hair for games. Today, I must admit that Bonnie has developed into an excellent braider but she still has Marcella, our trainer, braid her hair for games in order to keep the tradition alive.

So now you all see that hair is not as trivial a topic as you might have thought. In order to catch everyone’s hair in action out there on the court, or to test yourself and see if you are up to the challenge of spotting me without my notoriously big ponytail, come to one of our home games and cheer us on. We love it when the stadium is packed. Go Card!


January 28, 2014

The best locker room in the nation

Hello FBC Blog Readers!

What’s your favorite room?  Is it the kitchen, living room, or den?  One room at Stanford has become a very special place for me -- the Stanford Women’s Basketball locker room. 

Now, what’s so special about a room we use to don our uniforms and prepare for games?   Stanford’s locker room is like no other.  It is a safe haven, a place I can go to in order to escape.  It’s a great place!  I believe we have the best locker room in the nation! 

Our locker room is a place where I can study.  A Stanford student-athlete must stay focused on academics, and the locker room is an easy place to study and complete homework.  If you enter the locker room, you will probably find Tess with a laptop working on an essay, Mikaela pondering math problems, or Chiney wearing her earphones and typing away.  Amber and Alex will be using their iPads for assignments for their Communications courses.  Lili and Karlie, pencils in hand, will be working away on their latest assignment.  You can even catch Taylor and Erica Payne reading page after page for an upcoming exam.  Our locker room is a quiet and great place for study. 

Not only is our locker room a great place for study, but also it is a great place to have fun.  With a large boom box at hand, our locker room can quickly become a dance floor.  Erica McCall (Bird) usually provides the music as the entire team breaks out in dance to great beats.  I love watching Jas impersonate Shakira, Bonnie perform a Russian traditional dance, or Toni's original spin around dance.  Sej always bursts out with the vocals and does the best renditions of Lady Gaga’s latest hits!  My favorite moment is when Bird decides to crank out the bass guitar.  Within seconds, the locker room is filled with laughter!  Our locker room is not only a place for studies, but also a quick getaway spot for great times with the team.

Finally, the locker room is a great place for reflection.  Our locker room is filled with many inspirational quotes. Displayed on one of the walls is John Wooden’s famous “Triangle of Success” which helps each player understand what it will take to achieve our ultimate goal -- winning an NCAA championship! When we need to focus and prepare for our practice or games, the locker room is where you will find us most. 

Our locker room is the best locker room in the nation -- a place for escape, study, great times, and reflection, which fosters team bonding, camaraderie, and a sense of community. 


January 18, 2014

Amber talks about leadership

Hello Everyone,

For my blog I'd like to talk about the leadership of the seniors of our team, Chiney, Sara James, and Mikaela Ruef. Chosen as this year's captains, they not only have the most experience but also display the essential qualities of leadership that guide the rest of us in the right direction, just as the seniors before them did and the seniors before that.

All three of our seniors lead us both on and off the court and help us push through the problems we encounter as a team.

Sej is one of the hardest working people on the team. She's always one of the first people on the floor before practice and before games. She competes hard and is a physical player who is willing to put her body on the line and leave her best effort on the court. Whether it is diving for a loose ball, crashing the glass for rebounds, sprinting her lane, or being vocal in practice, Sej's intensity is always at 110%. Whenever we prepare to play another team, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who feels sorry for the opposing player who has to guard and be guarded by Sej. If there's anything I should hope to take from Sara, it is to be as tough as her.

Mikaela is definitely one of smartest players on the team (if you need someone to read over a paper for a class for you, Mik is undoubtedly the person to ask). A core member of our team today, I've witnessed Mik's growth from serving more of a role to becoming an indispensable component of our gameplan both offensively and defensively. We count on Mik everyday to hit open shots, play great defense, rebound, and be aggressive. Additionally, Mik is a great passer, from which the rest of us benefit. Mik is a problem solver- if something isn't working, it is absolute that she will devise and share ways that we can find solutions.

Finally, there aren't enough words to describe what Chiney does for and means to this team. The all-time PAC-12 leader in rebounding, Chiney plays with a ferocity and passion matched by none. You can see it in her eyes. From increasing her scoring after Nneka graduated to improving her outside shooting, Chiney has always stepped up in all the right ways, helping lead her team to success. I feel privileged to play with a player of her caliber and call her a teammate, friend, and sister.

I'd also like to take the time to acknowledge another one of our seniors,Toni Kokenis. Although she's no longer playing with us this year, Toni was one of my favorite teammates to play with. She could shoot, drive, was our team's best perimeter defender, and was incredibly fast both with and without the ball. Helpful both during practices and on the sideline during games, we all appreciate what Toni has done for Stanford basketball.

As I reflect on my freshman experience, a time where I was often overwhelmed and sometimes lost in the transition to college basketball and to college life, I can't help but think about the seniors that assisted me in adjusting to such a large change. Lindy La Rocque, Nneka Ogwumike, Sarah Boothe, and Grace Mashore all impacted me in ways that I could never forget, and although our time was short together, I still fondly think about the great memories we shared together and appreciate everything they did for me.

Time has flown, as it seems that I was just a freshman not long ago. As I look forward to my senior season with the rest of my class, I hope to carry out and build on the legacy of being a leader here at Stanford.


January 14, 2014

Reflections on 900 Wins!

Last month in Mexico, our team won a game that was my 900th win as a college head coach. We all took pictures in front of a nice banner (compliments of Fast Break Club member Su Schaffer who flew down for the tournament!). The game (and some of my bleeped comments during the game) was chronicled by a Pac-12 camera crew. I was up late answering hundreds of text and email messages from many thoughtful people. Some coaches reminded me that they had contributed to the 900! Later that evening our team met and watched video. We had a cake specially made as a surprise from the hotel chef to celebrate. After 15 minutes, we were back to video for the game the next day!

At our first home game after returning home, we had a postgame celebration (actually win 902!). WOW! There were sunglasses (designed by Toni Kokenis), cool 900-win shirts, the 900 game ball, a framed Stanford jersey numbered 900 and a sextant from Nike! (You ask why a sextant? That is another story!) Stanford University President Hennessy along with Athletic Director Bernard Muir congratulated me at half-court. I was TOTALLY surprised by my mother who with great friend and fan Nancy Sabbag showed up at my house the night before the celebration!

I am a person who lives in the present. I also don't like to be the center of attention. I will say that 900 wins did get me thinking and reflecting on all those games so I thought I would share 13 of the 900 that REALLY stand out in my mind.

1. Idaho vs. Western Washington, 1978: Our point guard was Willette White, who is currently an assistant at Utah! This game stands out because we were beaten REALLY badly by them earlier in the season. Our team simulated the Western Washington offense every day in practice to get ready for the rematch and the hard work paid off! We also went from a gym where I pulled the bleachers out (maybe could seat 25) to drawing over 3,000 for our AIAW Tournament game at the end of the season!

2. Ohio State vs. South Carolina, 1980: This was my first year at Ohio State. Our team was a .500 team just learning a new system. South Carolina had been in the Final Four the year before. They were LOADED! My sister Marie was in grad school at OSU. She had a class but told me she would be at the game at halftime. I told her, "The game might be over by halftime." Marie looked at me and told me, "Well, if you don't believe you can win, why would your players?" This may have been one of the biggest upset wins of my career. Thank you, Marie, for the important lesson!

3. Ohio State vs. Iowa, 1985: On the way to the Sunday afternoon game, I said to my assistant, "Did church just let out? Where are all of these people going?" My assistant replied, "They are all coming to our game, Tara." Iowa Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer and I stood together looking into a packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena. All the yellow and black made it looked like a beehive. This was a women's basketball record attendance - 22,157. We were down 12 at half time but the 2-time Big Ten Champions pulled it out!

4. Stanford vs. Tennessee, 1989: After losing to Tennessee in Knoxville in 1988, I went back to my hotel room distraught. Could we ever beat them? Thanks to my sister Heidi, we broke down the game tape all through the night. When Tennessee came to Stanford the next year the game was a break out game. Led by Jennifer Azzi, Sonja Henning, and Stacy Parsons in the backcourt along with Trisha Stevens, Katy Steding, and Val Whiting up front, we prevailed for the first time over the Lady Vols!

5. Stanford vs. Arkansas, 1990: This game was only the second time Stanford had been in the Elite Eight. The year before we had lost to Louisiana Tech with Venus Lacy. After that game, I said, "How can we beat them?" Associate Head Coach Amy Tucker said, "We have (incoming super frosh) Val (Whiting) next year!" We played the game at Stanford. There were 7 of the top 20 teams in our West Bracket. The Sweet Sixteen game before had been a nail biter vs. Mississippi. We barely survived. Afterwards I told our team, "Pack for spring break. If we continue to play like this we will not get to Knoxville." As I entered Maples for the Arkansas game, one of the "red coats" (ushers) handed me a note. It was from Jennifer and it said, "Tara relax, this one is for you!" We played GREAT, scoring over 100 and we even had a 6-point play! That was an incredible atmosphere. The bouncy Maples floor and band played on and on! I never wanted that night to end! We would go on to win Stanford's first NCAA Championship in Knoxville. Our team and band celebrated at the Azzi house that night. It was AWESOME!

6. Stanford vs. Tennessee, 1991: Without Sonja and Jennifer our backcourt had some new faces - welcome Molly Goodenbour and Christy Hedgpeth! The frontcourt had Rachel Hemmer, Chris MacMurdo and old timer Val Whiting. We also had a great captain in Ann Adkins. We were down 10 with just 2 minutes left in the game at Maples. Behind really loud fans we mounted a tremendous comeback. The last play was an inbounds offensive rebound that freshman Rachel Hemmer grabbed and put in to seal the victory. Beating Tennessee became a good omen! Our team went on that year to beat Dawn Staley's Virginia team and Western Kentucky to win the 1992 NCAA Championship!

7. Stanford vs. Oregon, 1997 and 2003: Playing at Mac Court was ALWAYS tough! For 2 years Oregon won the Pac-10. They had great crowds and Mac Court had the BEST popcorn in the league! I picked 2 games because in each game we were able to make spectacular plays at the end of the game. First in 1997 with only seconds remaining we ran a side out of bounds play for Kate Starbird. She came off a double screen and knocked down a 3 pointer to win the game! In the same gym six years later, down 1 with 3.3 seconds, post T'Nae Thiel threw a long bomb to Nicole Powell who was TACKLED going to the basket. It felt like an eternity but finally the whistle blew and Nicole calmly sank 2 FT to win.

8. Stanford vs. Vanderbilt, 2004: This year we were a 6-seed. After beating Missouri and Oklahoma (the 3-seed), we were not welcomed warmly in Norman for the Regionals! The newspaper reporters didn't give us much of a chance against the Commodores. Behind a great team effort led by Susan King, Sebnem Kimyacioglu, T'Nae, Nicole and the heroine of the game Kelley Suminski, we fought hard. Again it came down to the last play. We called a clear out for Nicole. As she started her move she was doubled. She pitched to Kelley and just like she had practiced over and over in her NJ driveway - nothing but net! Kelley's vertical after that made basket had to be 40 plus inches!!!

10. Stanford vs. Maryland, 2008: After struggling to get back to the Final Four, this Candice Wiggins lead team got us back in a BIG way! Candice along with Jayne Appel, Kayla Pedersen, Ros Gold-Onwude, and JJ Hones took down the defending National Champions with brilliant passing and shooting. This was a team that didn't want to stop playing with each other! We went on to beat UConn in Tampa before our loss in the Championship game to Tennessee.

11. Stanford vs. Xavier, 2010: Another Regional Final game. Xavier was BIG. I mean REALLY BIG! It was not a pretty game. Both teams struggled to make shots. On top of that Jayne fouled out. Freshman Joslyn Tinkle responded with great play! The game was tight. We were down 2 with under 30 seconds. Ros smartly fouled. They missed both FT. We came back and always-steady Kayla Pedersen put a shot up that bounced on every piece of the rim before dropping in. With the game tied and Xavier ball, we knew who was getting the shot - All-American Amber Harris. We doubled her but didn't rotate to the player under the basket. The open player missed two point-blank shots that would have put Xavier ahead. After the rebound and time out, Associate Head Coach Amy Tucker drew up the game-winning play and Jeannette Pohlen took it the length of the court in 4.4 seconds for an ESPN Top 10 Sports Center highlight!

12. Stanford vs. UConn, 2010: I hope you were at this game! Maples was ELECTRIC! Behind the great shooting of Jeanette (31 pts), the hustle play of Kayla, rebounding of Nneka, and defense by Chiney and Jos, we broke the amazing record of 90 wins. Coincidentally we had been the last team to beat them, as Notre Dame was the bookend with the UCLA men's record.

13. Stanford vs. Baylor, 2012: This was a game that no one thought we had a chance to win. We had lost to Baylor in the national semifinal the year before. They had gone 40-0 and looked unstoppable. Our team didn't get that memo way over in beautiful Hawaii. What a game Chiney, Mikaela, Taylor, Toni, Amber and Jos had! Our team followed the game plan flawlessly. We shot the ball extremely well. It was too bad the game wasn't televised because it was a great game. On the final play Baylor was down 2 with a side line out of bounds. Everyone in the gym knew where the ball was going. We sandwiched Brittany and the shot fell short. ALOHA!!!

There are so many other games that I could reflect on. I have been so fortunate to work with outstanding assistants and coach incredibly talented players. Each year and team is amazing to work with. Why did I pick 13? If you watch our team this season you know 13 is a great number! I am excited about this year's team and our Pac-12 season! I hope you will have a chance to see our team this season. A top game that really stands out could happen and you don't want to miss it!

-Tara VanDerveer

Note: Tara's blog was originally posted to the Stanford WBB Alum newsletter.

January 9, 2014

The Cardinal's awesome Christmas presents


First and foremost, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break! Our team absolutely loves the holidays because it means we get to take a break from school and focus on basketball. It is also a special time for us because we get to go home for a few days and spend time with our families. However, with Christmas comes presents for the Stanford Cardinal; therefore, I have decided to dedicate my blog to telling you about some of the awesome presents we received this year!

I’ll begin with Jas. Jas had the toughest route home this year to Georgia, but she safely made it there to spend Christmas with her family. Her favorite gift she received is a sleek pair of black boots from her brother. Jas now has about 20 pairs of boots.

Next is Alex. Alex had a great time at home in Texas with her family, and she was really excited to see her sister again. Lex said her favorite gift this year was a white sweater from her mom, and she has already worn it a few times so it’s obvious she loves it!

Sara “Sej” James comes from Sacramento, so she was able to avoid any airports for her holiday travel… I am extremely jealous. If you didn’t know already, Sej is a pretty crafty person. She takes most of our photos when we travel to awesome places, and she bought a GoPro before we went to Italy so she could take awesome pictures. For Christmas she got a Helicopter that flies the GoPro so she can take aerial-view pictures, which is insanely cool! It’s almost like a team present.

Next is one of the freshmen, Kailee Johnson. Kailee comes from Oregon, so she had a nice and short trip home with her family. It is probably hard to notice from the crowd, but she always has her nails painted, so it makes sense that her favorite gift from this year is an at-home Shellac manicure set from her grandma. Kailee gave me a manicure the other day, and this thing is the real deal.

Erica McCall is another one of our freshmen. It is weird for me to even type out her name because we all call her “Bird”, and she has fully welcomed this nickname. Bird didn’t really have to travel much because she comes from Bakersfield, California, so she really got to maximize her time at home. Bird says her favorite gift is her new Nikes and Vans!

Chiney had a really special Christmas this year because she got to see her entire family together, which is pretty difficult considering Nneka is playing basketball in a different country. Chiney’s favorite Christmas gift was BeyoncĂ©’s new album. It’s been on repeat in the locker room.

Next is Amber. Amber is one of the Texans, so she had to face the airports as well. Bam was pumped to get home for the holidays so she could spend some quality time with her family. She says her favorite gift she received this year was a new MacBook!

Erica Payne, much better known as “E”, has the shortest trip home. She comes from Danville, California, so she is able to hop in the car and drive about 45 minutes to get home. I think she was more excited to see her dogs than anything else. She can’t pick one favorite, but she got a lot of new clothes that she is really excited about. I definitely agree with her on this can never have too many clothes.

Next is our girl Tess. Tess is another Oregon gal, and she was actually able to travel home with her parents because they came to our Tennessee game (which was a great game!!!). Tess says her favorite gift from this year’s Christmas is the soundtrack to Desolation of Smaug and seeing The Hobbit!

Next is another freshman, Briana Roberson. Bri is a Californian as well, and she was stoked for the short trip home. Bri is always listening to music, introducing new songs to our team, and playing her iPod in the locker room. This year for Christmas, she got a new pair of Beats headphones (probably because she wore out her old ones), and she wears them all day long!

Mikaela Ruef, our fifth-year Senior from Ohio, switched up her plans and actually stayed in California this year for Christmas because her family came to visit her, which was pretty cool. Her favorite gift she received is definitely the sushi kit from her mom. Our team, for the most part, loves sushi! Ruef has had us over a few times during the break to make (more so eat) sushi, and she is quite the chef.

Next is Bonnie. Bonnie was so excited to go home because she loves and misses SoCal. She had a pretty easy flight home as well, and she was fortunate to have a companion during travel since her sister is on the team now, too. Bon says her favorite gift this year is …

Karlie Samuelson is a California freshman. She said she had an awesome Christmas this year with her family, and she was so happy to get to see her puppy again. Karl’s favorite gift from this year is a new iPhone because she seemed to have a minor incident with her last one.

I’ll wrap it up with our last freshman, Lili Thompson. Lili actually had shorter travel than “E” because her family moved out to California when Lili came to Stanford. It is so awesome that they were able to do this, and I know Lili really appreciates it. Lili says the best gift she received this year is a new pair of headphones, and she has been listening to the BeyoncĂ© album on repeat as well.

I almost forgot to share my favorite Christmas gift this year! I was lucky enough to make it home without any travel issues this year, which was awesome. Along with E, I received some new clothes for Christmas that I am stoked about, and I also got a new MacBook Air, which I am obsessed with! It was a special Christmas this year. Our team is extremely blessed and grateful.

We are really thankful for the amazing holiday break we had. We know it is not about the gifts or anything, and we could not do what we do without the support of our families. Stanford is a special place filled with great people and amazing support from people like you! Thank you for all you do and keep it up because it is going to be a memorable year.

Thanks for reading!
Taylor Greenfield

January 3, 2014

Sara's Stanford Memories

Throughout my time as a Stanford women's basketball player, I have played in some incredible places, played for some incredible coaches, and played with some incredible teammates. I've made all sorts of memories that I will never forget, and given that this is my senior year, there is so much I will miss about being a part of this program.

One of the most memorable moments during my freshman year was the night we beat UConn at home. That was my first experience really seeing how loud Maples could get, and I will never forget going wild on the bench and rushing the court once the final buzzer sounded.

Other important games ring a bell, like our win in San Francisco for Tara's 800th and our win in Mexico for her 900th. I don't think I understood the magnitude of Tara's 800th win given that I was a still a wide-eyed little freshman caught in the headlights, but being a part of her 900th this year was really special. It shows how fortunate we all are to play for such an elite and accomplished coach.

There are many more awesome games like these (aside from the 800th and 900th) that I will never forget, but it is the people I got to share those experiences with that mean the most.

Throughout my four years here, I have made some of the best friends of my life. Each year I say that there's no way to have a better team than the last, but I've found that the next is always just as good.

I've made plenty of friends throughout my lifetime, but there's something distinctly different about the friendships made on a team like this. Spending 5+ hours together a day, we honestly become a family. My teammates have seen me at my best and my worst, and love me just the same. We go through incredible tests together, whether it's running sprints day in and day out, or even just battling whatever life challenges come our way together while we spend our time at school.

I was thinking about it on our last road trip to Fresno — that there's something super cool about the time we all spend together on bus rides. We always have our same seats but the situations are always different.

We've traveled to Italy, Mexico, Hawaii, Connecticut, and everywhere in between together. Just like anything else, you don't just remember where you end up, but the ride that got you there.

After a game, on the bus back to the hotel or whatever, the team is crazy — yelling, singing, and goofing around.

On the way to games, on the other hand, everyone's doing their own thing to get themselves ready. Nobody is really talking to each other, and most people have their headphones in, but even then, the team is together. We're all visualizing how we want to play as a team and individually, whether it's by physically reviewing the scouting report on our ipads, or just by closing our eyes and thinking about it.There are plenty of times like this — that aren't really obvious as to times when memories would be formed — but they often mean the most.

Like I said, becoming a Stanford women's basketball player has welcomed me in to an incredible family. I can name them all — Kayla, Jeanette, Ashley, Hannah, Mel, Nneka, Boothe, Lindy, Grace, Jos, Ruef, Chiney, Toni, Tay, E, Bon, Jas, Bam, Lex, Tess, Aly, Denia, Kiran, Karlie, Kailee, Bri, Lili, and Bird. Not to mention my coaches, and all the other staff members I've worked with.

Whether I end up going to nursing school, finding a job with my HumBio degree, or anything else next year, I will really miss being a part of such amazing teams.

Can't look too far ahead though — we have a job to do in 2014! Pac-12 season is here, and it's time to continue our trek to the national championship!