Stanford DailySPORTS – Stanford Daily http://www.stanforddaily.com 7/25/2016 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 Photos: Cardinal at The Bank of The West Classic 2016 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/22/photos-cardinal-at-the-bank-of-the-west-classic-2016/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=photos-cardinal-at-the-bank-of-the-west-classic-2016 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/22/photos-cardinal-at-the-bank-of-the-west-classic-2016/#respond Fri, 22 Jul 2016 22:25:04 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1116485 Photos by Mike Kheir and Rahim Ullah

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Cardinal well-represented at 2016 Bank of the West Classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/18/cardinal-well-represented-at-2016-bank-of-the-west-classic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cardinal-well-represented-at-2016-bank-of-the-west-classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/18/cardinal-well-represented-at-2016-bank-of-the-west-classic/#respond Mon, 18 Jul 2016 22:25:11 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1116426 Stanford women’s tennis will see its fair share of action during the following week in the 2016 Bank of the West Classic at Taube Family Tennis Stadium, headlined by newly turned professional athlete Carol Zhao facing off against Stanford alum and current world No. 71 Nicole Gibbs in the first round.

The main draw tournament runs from July 18-24, with the battle of the Stanford athletes getting underway on Monday at 7 p.m. Zhao, ranked No. 346 in the world, earned a wildcard into the main draw, while Gibbs was one of the 20 professional players selected for the tournament field based on ranking. The winner of their match will advance to face the 4th-seeded Coco VandeWeghe, ranked No. 35 in the world, on Thursday at 7 p.m.

However, the Stanford duo will not be separated for long as they also compete in the doubles draw, this time as a team. Zhao and Gibbs will face off against Arina Rodionova from Australia and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

Zhao has played in this tournament for the past two years, falling in the first round last year to world No. 57 Mona Barthel. Gibbs reached the second round of last year’s tournament before losing to world No. 20 Elina Svitolina.

Zhao decided last month to forgo her senior year at Stanford in order to pursue her professional career. Playing at the team’s No. 1 spot for the past two years, Zhao has seen incredible success in a Cardinal uniform. The 2015 NCAA Singles runner-up accumulated a career 76-16 record and was a three-time all-conference pick. Zhao was instrumental in Stanford’s 2016 NCAA championship run despite missing much of the season competing in tournaments and training with the Canadian national Fed Cup team. After the Cardinal started their season 6-3, Zhao’s return to the lineup prompted Stanford to win 16 of its last 19 matches, with the team ultimately capturing its 19th national championship.

Gibbs, who has been competing professionally since leaving Stanford after her junior season, finished her successful college career with 111-15 overall record. An All-American in singles during each of her three seasons at Stanford, she was a two-time NCAA champion (2012, 2013) and a two-time NCAA singles champion as well.

Both Zhao and Gibbs remained busy in the weeks prior to the tournament. Zhao recently competed at the $25K Winnipeg National Bank Challenger in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Coming off a loss in the Round of 128 at Wimbledon, Gibbs played in the Stockton Challenger, a $50K USTA Pro Circuit tournament held at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

The Stanford ties continued as returning sophomores Melissa Lord and Caroline Lampl received wildcards into the tournament’s qualifying draw. On Saturday, Lord dropped a 6-2, 6-3 decision to Olga Govortsova. Lampl also fell in the first round to Asia Muhammad, 6-1, 6-0.

Playing a prominent role down the stretch this season, Lord won 10 of her last 11 matches, posting a 25-12 overall record, including 16-7 in dual matches. Lampl also enjoyed a tremendous rookie season as she led the Cardinal in overall victories (30-5), including 13 of her 14 matches at the No. 5 spot in the lineup.

Local top-ranked junior Catherine ‘Cici’ Bellis has also accepted a wildcard into the main draw of the tournament. After winning the USTA Girls 18’s National Championships, the 17-year-old from Atherton rose to national fame in 2014 after knocking off world No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the US Open at the age of just 15. 

The playing field also includes some of the top names in women’s tennis, including world No. 7 Venus Williams and No. 12 Dominika Cibulkova. Americans Coco VandeWeghe and Varvara Lepchenko are seeded in the tournament as well.

The Bank of the West Classic is the longest-running women-only professional tennis tournament in the world and is the first stop of the Emirates Airlines US Open Series. Tickets and more information can be found at www.bankofthewestclassic.com.

 

Contact Benjamin Chen at thebenchen10 ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Stanford men win first Capital One Men’s Cup, women runners-up http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/15/stanford-men-win-first-capital-one-mens-cup-women-runners-up/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-men-win-first-capital-one-mens-cup-women-runners-up http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/15/stanford-men-win-first-capital-one-mens-cup-women-runners-up/#respond Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:59:39 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1116407 Stanford Men’s Athletics captured its first Capital One Cup as the nation’s most successful athletics program during the 2015-16 campaign.  The Cardinal women finished second after winning the Cup for three straight years.

The Capital One Cup is awarded annually to the best men’s and women’s NCAA Division I athletics programs for their cumulative on-field performance across all collegiate sports. Teams earn points for their schools based on their top-10 finishes in NCAA championships and final official coaches’ polls across 21 women’s and 20 men’s sports.

Stanford and USC, the winner on the women’s side, will receive a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships and will both be recognized at the 2016 ESPYS on July 13.

The Stanford men totaled 126 points, edging runner-up North Carolina (108). The Cardinal women scored 86 points, losing out to USC (94).

Stanford got off to a strong start in the 2015-16 academic year by winning the NCAA title in men’s soccer, and secured top-10 finishes from football (ranked No. 3 in final USA Today Coaches’ Poll) and men’s water polo (ranked No. 5 in final CWPA poll).

In the spring, Stanford received boosts from men’s track and field (eighth at NCAA Championships, sixth at MPSF Championships), men’s gymnastics (NCAA runner-up) and men’s volleyball (ranked No. 6 in final AVCA poll).

The Cardinal women earned a national championship in tennis as well as top-10 finishes in soccer, gymnastics, swimming and diving, golf, lacrosse, outdoor track and field, rowing and water polo.

Prior to this year, Stanford’s best performance in the Men’s Cup was a fifth-place finish in the 2010-11 inaugural trophy presentation.

 

Contact Matthew Oh at mattoh ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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Dwight Powell ’14 signs four-year extension with Dallas Mavericks http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/10/dwight-powell-14-signs-four-year-extension-with-dallas-mavericks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dwight-powell-14-signs-four-year-extension-with-dallas-mavericks http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/10/dwight-powell-14-signs-four-year-extension-with-dallas-mavericks/#respond Sun, 10 Jul 2016 23:42:39 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1116319 Former Stanford basketball standout Dwight Powell ’14 signed a four-year deal worth $37 million on Sunday to return to the Dallas Mavericks, according to several reports. The power forward, previously a restricted free agent, will return to a Mavericks team that has been active in the offseason, re-signing Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams and acquiring Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Golden State Warriors.

Powell played four years at Stanford, averaging 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in his senior year.  The five-star high school recruit received first-team All-Pac-12 honors twice in his career. Powell earned his degree in science, technology and society and was named the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year in his senior year.

Powell was also part of the 2013-14 Stanford team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after upsetting the Kansas Jayhawks. The Toronto native ranks in the top 15 at Stanford in career points, rebounds, blocks and steals.

After being selected with the 45th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Powell signed a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers that summer but was later traded to the Boston Celtics. After seeing little playing time during his first season in Boston, Powell was traded to the Mavericks as a part of the blockbuster trade that moved Rajon Rondo from the Celtics to the Mavericks. Last season, he averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds — both career highs — in just over 14 minutes for the Mavs.

At 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, Powell has shown promise as a spirited rebounder and an athletic finisher off of the pick-and-roll.  While possessing a versatile skill set, he must improve his defense and develop an outside jump shot to become a more all-around player. The Mavericks have locked Powell up as a part of their future plans as Dallas prepares for the impending retirement of its franchise player and power forward Dirk Nowitzki.

 

Contact Matthew Oh at mattoh ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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Indianapolis Colts sign Andrew Luck ’12 to largest contract in NFL history http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/04/indianapolis-colts-sign-andrew-luck-12-to-largest-contract-in-nfl-history/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indianapolis-colts-sign-andrew-luck-12-to-largest-contract-in-nfl-history http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/04/indianapolis-colts-sign-andrew-luck-12-to-largest-contract-in-nfl-history/#respond Mon, 04 Jul 2016 18:56:53 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1116278 On Wednesday, former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck ’12 signed a contract extension with the Indianapolis Colts that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL, based on guaranteed salary.

The massive contract, announced by owner Jim Irsay via Twitter, will give Luck $140 million over six years with $87 million in guaranteed money, per ESPN. Barring an unlikely trade, Luck will remain with the Colts through the 2021 season. Luck’s $87 million in guaranteed money surpassed the previous two largest guaranteed salary contracts, which belonged to Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.

Luck had a legendary career at Stanford and was the one of the catalysts of Stanford football’s recent run of success. Alongside head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Texan native helped lead Stanford to its first winning season in eight years in 2009. The team would would lose only three times in the next two years, as he lead the Cardinal to consecutive BCS bowl appearances and year-end top 10 rankings. A two-time Heisman runner up, Luck left the Farm in the top 5 in passing completions, yards and touchdowns in school history, etching his name alongside the likes of John Elway and Jim Plunkett among Stanford quarterbacking greats.

Luck was drafted first overall by the Colts in 2012, and was immediately tasked with replacing Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Luck made the transition a smooth one, leading the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, culminating in an appearance in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. He struggled in 2015 however, missing a total of nine games due to injury and turning the ball over 13 times in just seven games. Fully healthy and with an offensive line bolstered by highly touted rookies, Luck will look to make this upcoming season his most successful one yet.

 

Contact Matthew Oh at mjoh99 ‘at’ gmail.com

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Chasson Randle joins New York Knicks in return to NBA Summer League action http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/03/chasson-randle-joins-new-york-knicks-in-return-to-nba-summer-league-action/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chasson-randle-joins-new-york-knicks-in-return-to-nba-summer-league-action http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/07/03/chasson-randle-joins-new-york-knicks-in-return-to-nba-summer-league-action/#respond Sun, 03 Jul 2016 23:41:01 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1116271 The last time Chasson Randle ’15 stepped on the court at Madison Square Garden, he walked off a two-time NIT champion. Now, after signing a deal with the New York Knicks’ Summer League team, Randle hopes to have a chance to play on that floor again, this time clad in a white Knicks home uniform.

After a stint in the Czech Republic with ČEZ Basketball Nymburk, the former Stanford point guard will join New York’s summer squad in Orlando in a bid to make the cut for the team’s NBA roster. The 2016 Orlando Pro Summer League will run from Saturday, July 2 through Friday, July 8.

Randle set many high-water marks during his time on The Farm, forcing bookkeepers to pencil his name in at the top of Stanford’s all-time scoring, minutes, and three-point shooting charts. In his senior season, the four-year starter broke onto the national stage, leading the team in scoring and earning numerous accolades, including Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention.

Like many Stanford athletes, Randle also broke ground in his studies. He was named to the Capital One Academic All America First Team and Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2015.

This won’t be Randle’s first shot at cracking an NBA roster. Last summer, the undrafted free agent signed on with the Golden State Warriors’ Summer League team, but his efforts just weren’t enough to make the squad.

“As a rookie last year, it was all new to me and everything was happening so fast,” Randle told QCOnline. “I had to learn how to approach the game. I’ll go in there a little more prepared. This is a somewhat different feeling and I know the best I can do is go to Orlando and play to the best of my abilities. If I do that, I can sleep well at night.”

Randle gained some valuable experience this season on a championship winning team in the Czech Republic. During the team’s title run, Randle was second on the team in scoring at 12.0 points per game. The 23-year-old will lean on this experience and his ability to put the ball in the net in his pursuit of an NBA roster spot.

Randle did not play in either of the Knicks’ games this weekend. New York returns to the court on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

Contact Ben Leonard at bentleonard18 ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Strong side: Mission, faith help shape Dallas Lloyd into team leader http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/06/09/strong-side-mission-faith-help-shape-dallas-lloyd-into-team-leader/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=strong-side-mission-faith-help-shape-dallas-lloyd-into-team-leader http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/06/09/strong-side-mission-faith-help-shape-dallas-lloyd-into-team-leader/#respond Fri, 10 Jun 2016 06:04:39 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1116075 If you take a drive down the 800 block of El Camino Real, it’s impossible to miss the massive billboard at the road’s intersection with Galvez Street. On the billboard these days are close-up shots of four Cardinal football players in a row, uniformed but helmetless, their intense expressions obligating passersby to, as the billboard advertises, buy their season tickets for Stanford home games.

Working right to left, you have Solomon Thomas, expected to be the rock of the Cardinal’s defense this upcoming season; Michael Rector, the Cardinal’s primary returning wide receiver; Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey, the face of Stanford football after becoming the spark of the offense; and on the far left, rising fifth-year senior, safety Dallas Lloyd.

Lloyd may appear to be the odd one out on this billboard. While he was the team’s primary strong safety last season and played in all 14 games, he’s not as lethal on defense as Thomas, not as dominant or illustrious as McCaffrey (though no one really is) and probably not as well-known as Rector.

Beyond the billboard, Lloyd is used to being the odd one out on the team itself. He’s a Mormon, the only married player on the team and a former missionary who spent two years in Chile before coming to Stanford.

But it’s those very idiosyncrasies that have shaped him into the football player he is today, someone who deserves to be up on that billboard.

***

Most of the 11,000 football players across the 128 FBS schools follow a similar path: Get recruited, sign with a school, show up to college the summer after you graduate from high school to prepare for the fall football season and, if you’re lucky, earn some playing time right off the bat.

A small fraction of these players — 147 from last year’s FBS teams — deviate from the norm: They put their football careers aside and went on two-year missions before heading off to college.

The vast majority of these former missionaries go to school at BYU, Utah State or Utah, though 11 of them play at Pac-12 schools (specifically Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State). Six of the 147 former missionaries are in school out in California, and three of those six — rising junior Brandon Fanaika, rising sophomore Sean Barton and Lloyd — are at Stanford.

Unlike that of other schools that were recruiting him, Stanford’s coaching staff was supportive of Lloyd’s decision to spend two years on a mission before arriving at the Farm; thus, while Lloyd, recruited as a quarterback, was part of the 2010 signing class, he wouldn’t come to Stanford until 2012.

After getting past the recruiting hurdle, the challenges had just begun for Lloyd.

While some missionaries get called to serve within the United States, others, such as Lloyd, spend their two years in a foreign country. He was initially excited to have been matched with a Spanish-speaking country, since he knew some Spanish.

“When we landed in Chile, I got off the plane with all these other missionaries from the United States. We heard people speaking Spanish and I was like, ‘This is not what they taught me in the United States … this is not Spanish. This is not ok,’” Lloyd said. “I couldn’t understand anything.”

Along with not being able to see his family for two years, he was allowed to email his loved ones just once a week, on Mondays, for only an hour. No phone calls, texts or social media were permitted throughout the mission, though he could Skype his family twice a year, on Christmas and on Mother’s Day.

There was no one with whom Lloyd could throw around a football, and the areas where he lived did not have any gyms. Instead, his workouts consisted of running through the streets in the early morning before his studies started at 8:30 a.m. He had to convince his companion, a person he’d be paired with for as little as six weeks or as long as three months, to come along for his morning workouts, even if the companion had no desire to work out.

The missionaries would spend nine hours a day talking to Chileans on the streets, trying to teach them about Mormonism, but they were not typically well-received. While some Chileans would kindly decline to speak with them, others would tell them to get lost (“gringo, go home”). People would often invite the missionaries to their homes but would be absent when they arrived later that day.

Stray dogs would chase after the missionaries — there was a running joke that you couldn’t complete your mission without being bitten by one of them. At one point Lloyd couldn’t sleep for two weeks because he was so uncomfortable from the fleas that were eating him alive at night. People would throw rocks at Lloyd and the other missionaries, and once, a group of teenagers spat on him.

“It was so hard. It was so hard, looking back on it…” Lloyd said. “If you can go on a mission for two years, you can do anything.”

***

Spending two years on a mission instead of coming straight to Stanford seemed at first to be a setback for Lloyd’s football career.

Lloyd arrived at the Farm for the 2012 season, one year removed from the Andrew Luck era. As Kevin Hogan earned the starting quarterback job from then-starter Josh Nunes, Lloyd did not see any action. Things weren’t much better his sophomore year: He got the ball twice in the Cardinal’s first game of the season against San Jose State — the first time in the second quarter, rushing for 7 yards, and the second time fumbling the ball early in the fourth. After that, he would appear in six other games and only get the ball four more times in 2013, recording 26 total rush yards on the season. He never passed the ball that year.

“It was really frustrating,” Lloyd said. “I was upset at myself and I let these thoughts of doubt come into my mind, like, ‘If I [hadn’t] gone on a mission, then I would have been able to come straight to Stanford.’”

With Hogan’s spot at quarterback seemingly secured for the next two years and Lloyd’s prospects not looking promising, Lloyd even considered transferring from Stanford.

“I realized they were all just excuses,” he said. “They were justifying the fact that I wasn’t getting it done.”

“It’s really sad that those two years, the best two years of my life, became an excuse for why I was so frustrated,” he added. “Looking back, it had nothing to do with those two years. I was a better person and football player because of those two years.”

Instead of choosing to transfer or spend the remainder of his career on the bench, Lloyd turned his efforts to finding an alternate way to get on the field and contribute towards the team’s success: He would make the switch from offense to defense — from quarterback to safety — in his junior year.

After having finally gotten a grasp of Stanford’s offensive playbook, considered one of the most complex in college football, Lloyd had to completely switch gears and start over, learning new techniques, changing his diet, turning to film and relying on his older teammates — “Jordan Richards was the best. I had so many questions… He was so annoyed with me, I’m sure.” — to show him the ropes.

“It was really hard,” Lloyd said. “I hadn’t backpedaled since high school — which was like five years ago. I felt like a freshman again.”

Defensive backs coach Duane Akina, who had had experience coaching players who transitioned from offense to defense, came to Stanford at around the same time that Lloyd made the switch and helped him get used to his new position. Former Cardinal and NFL greats Richard Sherman and John Lynch, who both switched from offense to defense during their careers, offered their advice and helped him realize that his offensive foundation would not go to waste — in fact, it could actually be used to better analyze opposing offenses.

After playing in nine games as a junior, Lloyd finally had the opportunity in 2015 to make a name for himself: He appeared in all 14 games and, with fellow former offensive teammate Kodi Whitfield, filled the role of the Cardinal’s primary safeties. Lloyd’s 55 tackles were third-best on the team behind NFL-bound Blake Martinez and Aziz Shittu.

“I just felt like it was all meant to be,” Lloyd said. “I knew just like anything else that my experience was going to be what I made it.

“The platform was there and the work was there for me,” he added. “I just took advantage of it.”

***

Before he decided to go on a mission, Lloyd had reached a point where he knew he was at a crossroads with his faith: He was either in or out.

“I reflected upon the experiences I’d had in my life … the best moments that I’ve had, which have been when I’ve been serving other people or loving other people,” Lloyd said. “Despite all the trials and the [internal] storm that was going on, I felt peace and happiness deep down inside when I believed in Jesus Christ and when I tried to follow Him.”

And that’s why, despite all the difficulties from those two years, going on his mission was one of the best times of Lloyd’s life.

“From the outside, I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” Lloyd said. “But every day, you go out and you talk to people on the streets, you get to know them, you ask if you can come teach them. You talk to them about their families, you go into their homes and see what they’re like. It was the most amazing thing.”

Along with the people the missionaries would approach on the street, they got to know Chilean Mormons. The Chileans would have them over for lunch, their biggest meal of the day, or would come over for “family home evenings,” once-a-week get-togethers that allowed the Chileans to get to know the missionaries and learn more about Mormonism.

The missionaries wouldn’t have to teach the Chileans about their faith to serve them: Lloyd recalls weeding a woman’s yard for the entire day, even though she said she didn’t want to hear anything about Mormonism.

“Literally, it’s 24/7, you’re just focused on helping other people,” Lloyd said.

One day in particular stands out to him: Six families had signed up for appointments for the afternoon, but when Lloyd and his fellow missionaries arrived at their homes, no one was there. The same day, a stray dog had attacked one of the guys Lloyd was with, and people had thrown rocks at the group. They were about to go home but took a minute to pray, asking to find someone that they could help as the day closed. They looked up when they were done and saw on the street ahead a single house with its light on.

They approached the house and called out to see if anyone was home. A woman peeked out the window and her eyes went wide; she explained to the missionaries that she had just been praying for help — her husband was planning to leave her and her young son the following day.

“There were moments like that throughout my whole mission that made all of the days where horrible things happened or where nothing happened despite our hard work so worth it,” Lloyd said.

“That was probably the happiest period of time I’ve ever had.”

***

For his first two years at Stanford, Lloyd approached football in a way that is probably unrecognizable to most of his teammates today.

“My first two years here, I got really focused on myself and was really unhappy,” Lloyd said. “I [have] all these hard stories from my mission, but at the end of the day, those were two of the most happy years of my life because I wasn’t focusing on myself, I was focusing on other people. I finally had a wake-up call that that [also] applies to football.”

He figured out how to apply what he had found to be so beautiful about his mission — focusing on others instead of himself — to football: not simply by switching from quarterback to safety so he could contribute to the team, but by becoming a leader for the defense and the team as a whole.

“He definitely does everything in his power to make it so that other people are appreciated,” linebacker Noor Davis said. “He goes out of his way to help people.”

“He’s really our comfort blanket back there,” fellow safety Whitfield said. “He has the ability to calm everyone down if things aren’t going [well] and to inspire people.”

Lloyd even stepped up to become the holder for field goals this past season after kicker Conrad Ukropina asked him to assume the role with the graduation of former holder Ben Rhyne.

“He dedicated himself to it when he really didn’t have to. He was going to start at safety, regardless,” Ukropina said. “He doesn’t have to work that hard, but he does.”

Already during this offseason, Lloyd is one of two seniors who helped organize a meeting among the leadership of the team to discuss the mentality they want to have going into summer workouts and ways in which to better help the younger players prepare for the upcoming season. He’s also planning to hold casual film sessions for the defense throughout the summer. His teammates already speak of him as a strong possibility to be one of next season’s captains.

***

“If you apply too much of Mormonism to football when you’re on the field, you’re not going to get along very well,” Lloyd said. “You won’t stand a chance.”

That may be true to a certain extent — it’s difficult to apply the peace-loving tenets of Mormonism to a game as brutal as football. But the ways in which Lloyd’s faith has shaped him as a player — one who can respond to obstacles and come out better from them, one who constantly puts others before himself — are undeniable.

The parallels go deeper, too.

To Lloyd, Mormonism also offers a promise for what is to come after life on earth: a knowledge that he can be with his family — his wife Libby, his parents Casey and Angie, and his siblings Jake, Ellie and Savannah — and friends, forever.

“I think about all the relationships that I’ve built while I’m here on earth, and I don’t want those to end,” he said. “It just doesn’t feel natural, it just doesn’t seem right for all the knowledge that we’ve acquired, all the experiences that we’ve had, to come just to an abrupt end… I have hope in that.”

Those same relationships are what says he’ll most take away from his five years at Stanford.

“My teammates, I love them. They’re such amazing people,” Lloyd said. “My coaches, my classmates, all of them have just touched me, inspired my life.”

Lloyd names gratitude as one of the things that’s made him happiest.

“Whenever I’m complaining or moaning and groaning because of workouts, or because I’m waking up early, or because I have to eat healthy … I just need to take a step back and realize how amazing this is and how grateful I am to be able to run around, to have a body where I can play, to have coaches and teammates and [to spend] time with such amazing people on campus that I never would have met [otherwise].”

These moments often manifest themselves in the middle of football games.  

“I just have a second to look around, at the camera that’s floating down, to look at a hundred thousand fans and my teammates and the other team,” Lloyd said. “I just take a deep breath and just realize how beautiful this whole experience is and how lucky I am to be out there.”

***

In the final months of his mission, people told Lloyd that if he had worked his hardest and put his heart into everything he did, leaving would be one of the most difficult parts of the experience.

He doubted it. He was excited to finally see his family after two years, to get back to football and to start his life at Stanford.

But when he got on the plane to leave, he looked out the window at the Andes and started crying.

“I’d given my all for these people and had so many amazing experiences. And I didn’t want to go home,” he said. “I know it’ll probably be the same thing when I’m done here.”

Two years of his mission and four years of Stanford later, Lloyd finds himself nearing another ending: to his Stanford education and possibly his football career.

There’s plenty of work to do up until then: The players have a few weeks until their grueling summer workouts start, and then before they know it, the season will be underway. Lloyd, who has been accepted into a co-term program in the communications department, will return to the field as a fifth-year senior, looking to build upon his performance last season as he leaves his final mark on the Farm.

“I’m afraid to think about the day when it’s all said and done,” Lloyd said.

He pauses. “For now, I just want to leave my all. I want to have no regrets.”

He shifts from Stanford back to his mission — a transition he makes often, though one that seems natural, seamless. He describes how his last few months in Chile were the best because he worked his hardest and with the most urgency.

“I know the same thing is going to apply here,” Lloyd said. “I know it’s going to be the best seven months.”

His next two sentences are still about Stanford — but they are just vague enough that they might mean something more.

“I never want to leave. This is the best life.”

 

Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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On the attack: Stanford volleyball seniors look to continue careers in Europe http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/on-the-attack-stanford-volleyball-seniors-look-to-continue-careers-in-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=on-the-attack-stanford-volleyball-seniors-look-to-continue-careers-in-europe http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/on-the-attack-stanford-volleyball-seniors-look-to-continue-careers-in-europe/#respond Tue, 31 May 2016 08:03:09 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115969 As the 2015-16 school year draws to a close, the Stanford men’s volleyball team prepares to salute four of its finest. After a long and successful season, the four graduating seniors are enjoying their last weeks of school.

Conrad Kaminski, Madison Hayden, James Shaw and Alex Stephanus have officially seen their last season as members of the Stanford volleyball team, but although their Stanford careers are over, three of the four plan to continue into professional leagues.

Madison Hayden

Madison Hayden, Stanford’s star outside hitter, played four years of great volleyball on The Farm. In just his freshman year, Madison was off the bench in 20 games, often being put in as a serve specialist.

Outside Hitter Madison Hayden #17. Photo by Rahim Ullah

Senior outside hitter Madison Hayden (right) was named to the All-MPSF second team this past season, and was part of the starting lineup for the Cardinal during both his junior and senior years. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

By his sophomore year, Hayden was playing regularly and even earned himself a then-career-high 6 kills at the end of the season against UC San Diego. But all of this was only warmup.

As a junior, Hayden played as the starting outside hitter, and he did not disappoint. He was top 10 in the MPSF conference for both points for set and kills per set, often leading the team in the latter category. Despite a rough season for the entire team, Hayden’s tally was impressive.

In his fourth and final year, Hayden was named All-MPSF second team after a stellar season. The outside hitter was imperative in important wins throughout the season, posting highs in kills, digs, blocks and aces.

Now, Hayden is looking to use the strengths he developed in college to guide him to a professional career in Europe.

“I’m talking to teams and agents right now and sort of finalizing who I’m going to sign with,” Hayden said. “It looks like it’ll probably be somewhere in France or the Netherlands.”

Before narrowing it down to a couple of teams in these countries, Hayden, like the other seniors, had to go through a tough process of finding an agent the second the collegiate season ended.

This process consisted of talking to several agents, “mostly through Facebook,” each of which promised to get him a spot on a strong team. Positions offered included teams in Austria, Poland and Korea.

According to Hayden, the most stressful part was determining the legitimacy of the agents, since he did not know most of them personally. The easier part was talking to individual coaches looking to sign him.

If Hayden didn’t end up playing abroad, he would have most likely started a job at a consulting firm in San Francisco that he had set up as a backup plan. But Hayden knew that his dream was to become a professional volleyball player, and he’s on the right track to getting there.

“When I came to Stanford, I knew a few older guys who were playing abroad that really enjoyed it. It was always a goal to go play abroad and just see how I stacked up against the best volleyball players,” he said.

One of things that Hayden is most excited for is the prospect of living in Europe. “My whole life has basically just been in California. On top of volleyball, I’ve heard that you find out so many things about yourself by living out of the country.”

James Shaw

James Shaw has been on the Stanford volleyball court since childhood, when his dad was head coach of first the women’s team and then the men’s. Growing up, volleyball was a big part of his life, and it will continue to be so as he too takes on a professional career in Europe.

Setter James Shaw #8. Photo by Rahim Ullah

Senior setter James Shaw (above) was a standout player for the Cardinal in all of his four years on The Farm, and was named MPSF Player of the Year this past season. He was third in the NCAA for attacks, and 12th in assists per set. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Shaw knew from his early days that he wanted to take on the big leagues. In 2013, he was the first freshman to start at setter since 2007, earning high praise and playing great matches. The next year, he kept himself in the top five on several charts within both the MPSF and the NCAA.

The following summer, the young player began training with the U.S. national team in Anaheim, which he has since done twice more and plans to do for many summers to come.

After firmly establishing himself in the collegiate world, Shaw unfortunately had to sit out a big part of his junior year due to an injury, but this only fueled him to come back stronger his senior year. In his final year, the setter was third in the NCAA for attacks and 12th in assists per set, earning MPSF Player of the Year, making the All-MPSF First Team and earning several other honors.

Now, Shaw, who has officially signed with “one of the best [agents] in the world,” will most likely end up in Italy, Poland or France.

In the meantime, Shaw is focused on his training in Anaheim, which has started and will continue throughout the summer.

“I’m finally getting healthy for the first time, so things are really looking up. I would obviously love to get on the court this summer with the team and represent America, but the setting position is full of guys who are talented and have been in the gym longer than I,” Shaw said. “The coaches know, though, that I’m in it for the long haul, so I have no worries or stresses about making an immediate impact.”

Shaw’s hope is to play in Europe during the regular season and return home to play for the U.S. national team during summers “for the next 10 to 15 years.”

Despite his bright future in the outside world, Shaw expressed his appreciation for “all the hard work on everyone’s part in helping us seniors become the best men we could possibly be.”

There is a fair chance he will be back in some capacity for the Cardinal, possibly following in his father’s footsteps as a coach for the program.

Conrad Kaminski

The last senior who will be putting his talents to the test is middle Conrad Kaminski. Unlike Hayden and Shaw, playing professional volleyball was not on Kaminski’s radar until relatively recently.

Middle Blocker Conrad Kaminski #4. Photo by Rahim Ullah

Senior middle blocker Conrad Kaminsky (middle) has been a consistent performer for the men’s squad, tallying a career-high 15 kills in a game this season and leading the NCAA in blocks per set. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

“When I was a freshman, I wanted to play volleyball and see how good I could get — I didn’t expect to even really be on the floor,” Kaminski said. “Volleyball was sort of my ticket into school. I was going to get an engineering degree from a premier institution and be able to go and follow that career.”

Kaminski’s career played out much differently than he thought it would. His freshman year, he started twice, appearing in 10 total matches. By his sophomore year, he had become the team’s starting middle blocker, making new records in Stanford volleyball history and being placed on the All-America Second Team.

During his junior year, Kaminski was the only player on the Stanford team to start every single match, once again earning high honors in the collegiate world. By his senior season, he tallied a career-high 15 kills in a game and was consistently notching blocks to help his team win. He finished the season with 14 individual blocks and an astounding 121 block assists, blowing away competition and placing first in the NCAA in blocks per set.

Most likely, Kaminski will end up at a club based in Ravenna, Italy, which is currently in the highest Italian league: Lega Pallavolo Serie A.

“The Italian league is one of the most competitive leagues in the world. I’ve heard people show up, and it’s competitive, and there’s a good culture around it. Every time I hear something like that, it’s only positively reinforcing this decision,” he said with a smile.

Besides the excitement of playing in a professional league this upcoming year, Kaminski admitted how sad it was to be done with Stanford volleyball.

Having just come from an intense, but lonely, workout, he said, “Even now, just seeing guys in the locker room, I’m going to work out on my own, and I’m not with the guys as they’re doing their team activities. I’m an old guy now.”

 

Contact Laura Sussman at laura111 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/on-the-attack-stanford-volleyball-seniors-look-to-continue-careers-in-europe/feed/ 0 Outside Hitter Madison Hayden #17. Photo by Rahim Ullah Outside Hitter Madison Hayden #17. Photo by Rahim Ullah Setter James Shaw #8. Photo by Rahim Ullah Setter James Shaw #8. Photo by Rahim Ullah Middle Blocker Conrad Kaminski #4. Photo by Rahim Ullah Middle Blocker Conrad Kaminski #4. Photo by Rahim Ullah
Q&A with U.S. equestrian Lucy Davis ’15 on her Road to Rio http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/qa-with-lucy-davis-15-on-her-road-to-rio/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-with-lucy-davis-15-on-her-road-to-rio http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/qa-with-lucy-davis-15-on-her-road-to-rio/#respond Tue, 31 May 2016 07:59:35 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115968 Lucy Davis ‘15 has reached the height of international equestrian competition. Davis is among the 10 Americans selected to participate in the trials for the 2016 U.S. Olympic show jumping team, of which five will make the cut for Rio. Although fellow team members Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Kent Farrington are almost universally considered locks for Rio, Davis still has a strong chance at claiming one of the final two Olympic spots.

But Davis’ achievements extend beyond the equestrian arena. Davis studied full-time at Stanford and majored in architecture while also riding professionally since her freshman year on The Farm. In 2012, she began competing with the horse she currently rides in competitions, Barron. That same year, Davis and Barron broke out onto the world stage with a first-place finish at the 2013 Grand Prix in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Daily spoke with Davis as part of its Road to Rio Olympic coverage about Barron, her training regime for Rio and what it was like balancing it all when she was still a student at Stanford.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): Can you talk about making the shortlist for the Olympics? What has the qualifying process been like?

Lucy Davis (LD): Two years ago, at the World Championships in Normandy, I was on the [U.S.] team and we got bronze. That’s when I realized that my essentially lifelong dream and goal of going to the Olympics could be a possibility. Since then, I have been focusing to peak, ideally, at the right time.

TSD: You participated in the Olympic trials in 2012 for the London Olympics as well, right?

LD: Yes. I was 10th, so I was still considered in the top 10. [The top five qualifiers went on to compete in London.] Four years ago, I had a different horse. He was extremely talented and had a huge heart, but the horse I have now is a once-in-a-lifetime horse, as they say. I would say it’s my best shot this year [to be among the final top five qualifiers for the U.S. team].

TSD: What’s your new horse, Barron, like?

LD: He has a very particular personality. We have to work together to compromise a lot. Other sports in the Olympics are just individual or team, but to be working with an animal that’s so unpredictable is a challenge — but it’s also super rewarding.

In the competition arena, he’s mostly business, which is lucky. At home, he can be a bit of a punk, I would say. He will very easily spin you off. He’s just got a lot of little idiosyncrasies. Basically, we have to have earplugs in him at all times, because any odd noise and he’s gone.

TSD: What is a typical day of training for you like, now that you are riding full-time?

LD: I’m based in northern Germany. I’m at the stable around 7:30 or 8 a.m. every morning. I ride usually around six horses, until about noon. After lunch, I usually do some sort of physical training. I like running and weights. I do a lot of yoga too, because the pounding on your back can get pretty rough.

Another thing that’s pretty unique about our sport is that it’s coed. Being a small girl, depending on the horse, can be an advantage. But I’m physically not as strong as some 6-foot dude, so I have to supplement a lot more with my fitness.

TSD: How does training full-time compare to what you did while at Stanford?

LD: At Stanford, it was a lot more hectic and a lot less sleep. But I’m lucky — because of Stanford, I was able to maintain almost the same schedule. The Red Barn is so close on campus. Most of my friends don’t go to university, because it takes time and energy away from their riding.

With the Red Barn, I was able to ride every morning. I usually rode three or four horses, then I would go to class. In the afternoons I could go to the gym or run around campus with friends. And you know, social life is easy because it’s all there [on campus]. Stanford basically let me do it all, which is why I miss it so much. Don’t ever leave!

TSD: What was it like to major in architecture at Stanford?

LD: It’s within civil and environmental engineering. It’s an awesome major. It wasn’t ideal for the traveling, because you can’t really bring your models on Delta. I tried to arrange my schedule so I could take studio classes when I wasn’t traveling as much.

TSD: An engineering major? That’s pretty intense.

LD: Yeah, it was intense. But it balanced a lot of my interests. I got to do creative design, art history and a lot of math and science as well. I got to take a lot of [environmental engineering] sustainability courses.

TSD: In hindsight, did you get anything out of your time at Stanford that you weren’t necessarily expecting?

LD: I’ve been riding my whole life and balancing it with school. In high school, I was basically M.I.A. most weekends for competitions. What I was not expecting from Stanford was, like I said earlier, to really be able to do it all.

A lot of young riders ask me about my experience. I always, weirdly, did better when I had everything going on. When I was able to go to classes, ride, hang out with friends, I felt more balanced and I always seemed to perform really well in my riding.

 

Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Baseball bounces back against Oregon, sweeps weekend series http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/baseball-bounces-back-against-oregon-sweeps-weekend-series/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=baseball-bounces-back-against-oregon-sweeps-weekend-series http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/baseball-bounces-back-against-oregon-sweeps-weekend-series/#respond Tue, 31 May 2016 07:55:38 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115954 Coming off a disappointing series against the Washington Huskies that knocked the team out of the playoffs, the Stanford baseball team (31-23, 15-15 Pac-12) bounced back and ended its regular season with a sweep of the Oregon Ducks (29-26, 14-16 Pac-12) over the weekend.

Stanford, CA -- May 15, 2015: Stanford Cardinal vs the Oregon State Beavers at Klein Field, Sunken Diamond. The Beavers defeated the Cardinal 5-2.

Junior pitcher Brett Hanewich (above) played six strong innings for the Cardinal on Thursday, only allowing three hits, one walk and one unearned run against the Ducks. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

The Cardinal pitching held the Ducks to only 4 runs over the three-game set, with strong performances from all starters and relievers. In addition, Sunday’s game was Senior Day at the Sunken Diamond, which provided the team and fans the opportunity to honor the seniors graduating in just a few weeks.

“It was a great weekend,” senior Austin Barr said. “It’s been awesome to be out here with [fellow seniors] Jonny [Locher], [Daniel Starwalt] and Bobby [Zarubin]. What a way to cap off a memorable four years.”

While the two teams came in evenly matched record-wise, the Cardinal have been playing especially well down the stretch, winning nine of the last 13 games. They end the season ranked sixth in the tightly packed Pac-12 rankings, just narrowly missing the playoffs by two conference games.

On Thursday, after Barr and Locher cracked back to back singles in the seventh inning, freshman second baseman Nico Hoerner broke the 1-1 tie and gave the Cardinal the lead with an opposite field single.

Junior pitcher Brett Hanewich went six strong innings, only allowing three hits, one walk and one unearned run. His success stemmed from his ability to consistently throw strikes and keep the Oregon batters on edge. Sophomore reliever Andrew Summerville notched the win while sophomore Colton Hock notched his fifth save of the season.

Oregon struck first in the top of the fifth with an unusual play that had one runner score on a wild throw home before another was caught in a rundown to end the inning. Junior Tommy Edman tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI double down the left field line. Edman also flashed some leather with an impressive sliding catch in foul territory.

While they only scored two runs, the Cardinal offense was hot on Thursday as they tallied 10 hits over the course of the game. They struggled to bring the runners home, however, as they left nine men on base.

The next day, fans packed the Sunken Diamond for the annual Fireworks Night, which lit up the sky after Stanford took home a 4-2 victory. It was another exceptional pitching performance from the Card, as freshman Tristan Beck went 6.2 innings and only allowed a single hit. Hock closed out the game for his sixth save.

Sophomore Mikey Diekroeger added three runs to the tally for the team with a bases-clearing, two-out double in the bottom of the sixth that flew past the dive of the Ducks left-fielder. Locher also had a big night, adding three hits, two of which were doubles.

While the team’s pitching excelled, at times the defense was a bit sloppy. In the first game, a wild throw allowed the only run for the Ducks. In the second, Stanford defenders committed two errors, one of which allowed Oregon to score one of its two runs.

Saturday’s game was the seniors’ last, and it was a repeat of the excellent pitching the Cardinal put forth in the other games of the series. Junior southpaw Chris Castellanos put up 7.2 innings of one-run, six-hit baseball. He was credited with his eighth win of the season. Summerville followed suit and closed out the game for his first save on the year.

While Stanford was making good contact and hitting the ball well, the Oregon defense was just too good early on in the game. Sliding catches in the outfield and quick hands behind the plate robbed the Cardinal of several run-scoring opportunities. In the top of the sixth, the Ducks struck first and took a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, junior Alex Dunlap cranked a hanging curveball over the left-field wall to drive home Tommy Edman and give the team a 2-1 lead. On the very next at-bat, senior Austin Barr then finished off his collegiate baseball career in style with a solo home run to left-center that barely escaped the reach of the leaping Ducks center fielder. His teammates celebrated accordingly by drenching him in an ice bath during his postgame interview.

While the season is over for Stanford as they didn’t make  the 64 team cutoff for the postseason tournament, some juniors and seniors will eagerly be awaiting the MLB Draft, which begins June 9.

 

Contact Yousef Hindy at yhindy ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/baseball-bounces-back-against-oregon-sweeps-weekend-series/feed/ 0 Brett Hanewich Stanford, CA -- May 15, 2015: Stanford Cardinal vs the Oregon State Beavers at Klein Field, Sunken Diamond. The Beavers defeated the Cardinal 5-2.
No. 1 men’s golf disappoints at NCAA championships http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/no-1-mens-golf-disappoints-at-ncaa-championships/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-1-mens-golf-disappoints-at-ncaa-championships http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/no-1-mens-golf-disappoints-at-ncaa-championships/#respond Tue, 31 May 2016 07:54:30 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115937 For the second straight season, a promising Stanford men’s golf team saw its season come to an early end after it failed to make the first cut at the NCAA championships.

STANFORD, CA - March 26, 2016: Stanford hosts The Goodwin at Stanford Golf Course. Stanford finished third in the tournament.

Senior David Boote (above) was one of the only bright spots in Stanford’s lineup at the NCAA Championships, shooting a 216 that placed him in a tie for 50th place. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

The Cardinal finished in 28th place in the 30-team tournament, accruing a team score of +44 over the course of three days after hitting above par on 78 different holes. Though no team managed to make par on the difficult Eugene Country Club course, this finish still landed them 18 strokes back of the mark they needed to qualify for the final day of the stroke championship.

For a team that came into the tournament ranked No. 1 in the country, the results were a bit of a letdown.

“It’s a team game, and we weren’t firing on all cylinders,” head coach Conrad Ray remarked. “We’ll have to go back and see why that was, and hopefully, it will make us better in the future. It’s disappointing, considering that our guys are motivated to win and motivated to have high expectations.”

The tournament marks the end a strong season for the Cardinal, which saw them capture the Pac-12 title and come in first in the NCAA regional tournament in Tucson. Stanford had been on a three-match winning streak going into the championship but seemed to struggle from the beginning in Eugene.

Four of the five Cardinal players finished at +12 or above on the weekend, posting scores that landed them outside the top 100 individual finishers. Junior Maverick McNealy seemed particularly out of rhythm, as the country’s top collegiate golfer counted just one of his rounds toward the team’s score after sandwiching a decent 1-over 71 with two rounds of +6.

McNealy finished one stroke behind sophomore Franklin Huang (+12) and one stroke ahead of freshman Brandon Wu (+14). Sophomore Jeffery Swegle rounded out Stanford’s lineup, ending near the bottom 10 with a score of +19.

Senior David Boote was the closest to a highlight for the team, shooting a 216 that put him in a tie for 50th place. Boote rode a first round of 69 — the only below-par performance for the Cardinal all weekend — to end his Stanford career with a +6.

While the results were not what the team was hoping for, it can take some solace in that most of its lineup will return next season. Boote is the only departing member of the squad who consistently counted his score toward the team’s, and Ray hopes the rest of his players will use this experience to make them better next season.

“I’m proud of our team,” Ray said. “We put in a lot of hard work and preparation throughout the season. Sometimes it’s the way the game goes. Sometimes you do all you can do and it doesn’t go your way. It’s not losing, it’s learning.”

 

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/no-1-mens-golf-disappoints-at-ncaa-championships/feed/ 0 David Boote STANFORD, CA - March 26, 2016: Stanford hosts The Goodwin at Stanford Golf Course. Stanford finished third in the tournament.
Shi: Closing Time http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/shi-closing-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shi-closing-time http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/31/shi-closing-time/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 07:52:48 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115971 P1010481

I don’t do endings very well. I never have, which is ironic because I’ve had to write an awful lot of them – leaving Sports for Ops, stepping down from Ops, my last Instant Replay tactics piece, my final football column, my retrospective on my four years at the Daily, and this final Sports column. Six goodbyes in four years, and I haven’t even written my final opinions column yet. I don’t like endings, but I celebrate them anyway because until now, they haven’t even been endings at all. I really am a drama queen.

In other words, I was made for sports.

Like Christianity, where the liturgical calendar cycles around every year, but personal sanctification is supposed to deepen with every day and heaven lasts forever, sports merge the timeless and the evanescent. It shouldn’t feel coincidental that nothing is likened to religion more than athletics. Playing and watching sports teaches you that everything has a beginning and an end, but that no end is truly permanent. In sports we get both the pageantry of accomplishment that comes with an ending – Kobe Bryant only got his title trophies at season’s close, after all – and the promise that such glory will last into eternity. Kevin Hogan will live forever in Stanford lore, and yet like any player, he only got to play four seasons here.

We’ve heard all the stories, all the invocations, all the tales of things no living person can remember. We know that in their constant invocation these tales become part of the present. We’ve seen Mike Trout make grown men look like boys, the video of Kirk Gibson’s miraculous homer in 1988, grainy photos of Willie Mays making “The Catch” against Vic Wertz, and to us they’re all the same. Field of Dreams was right: “America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”

Everything in sports comes and goes and lives forever.

***

Nevertheless, everything I’ve just said has a tinge of post-facto justification to it. The truth is that I liked sports back when I didn’t know that they could have an almost spiritual quality to them. Cheering for the Lakers and the Dodgers, as I’ve said many times, helped me feel more American when I was living abroad and America was thousands of miles away. And more selfishly, I liked sports because back when everybody in elementary school was young and unathletic, I was good at them.

Although few people have had the opportunity to live abroad at a young age, my experience is deceptively typical. In general, sports fans note that they often love sports for reasons utterly divorced from the present. Discussing the NFL with Bill Simmons, the writer Malcolm Gladwell remarked that he was still a Buffalo Bills fan, even though “the very thing that attracted me to the Bills in the first place – that thrilling offense – has completely disappeared.” (You can almost imagine Gladwell shaking his head.)

What, then, keeps us in our seats when Christian McCaffrey has left the building?

Does the answer really matter? Do we keep on bringing up new answers when the old ones become irrelevant? Not really, because like the proverbial immortal with a mortal memory, sports’ curious relationship with timelessness causes it to conflate the past with the present. Nothing draws us to fandom more than the alchemical mysteries of memory that surround our favorite players and our beloved teams. Past, present, and future all meet on the diamond and the court and the gridiron and center ice. And as every mixture of motivation and memory is unique, we all are able to exult in the feeling that we, uniquely, have been initiated into these ancient mysteries.

***

For somebody who has spent as much time thinking and writing about Stanford sports as I have, I’ve noticed that my archive has precious little discussion of what Stanford Athletics as an institution actually means. I’m not sure why that is. But I would hazard a guess that covering sports as closely as the Daily does encourages us to miss the forest for the trees. If you have to put out a sports section every day, it’s not surprising that you focus on the accomplishments you can readily see.

Nevertheless, my Stanford fandom runs deeper than box scores and press passes to Stanford Stadium. I love writing features because unlike standard reporting, they force you to take a look at the sum of a person – and that’s also why I’m sad that I never got to profile Dick Gould or Randy Hart or Tara VanDerveer or John Dunning or any of the other legendary athletic figures on campus. Stanford Athletics is supposed to be the program that allows its fans the opportunity to see the players and staff as real people, not just aloof divinities. And Stanford has given me that opportunity. I like to believe that it’s people like Shannon Turley and Lance Anderson that made me a Stanford fan.

In the most general sense, part of being a Stanford fan is believing that Stanford Athletics is supposed to be the program that will save sports as a whole – and that is why Stanford sports fans love to talk about the Cardinal. We believe that Stanford does not cheat, that its players play fair, that its commitment to both personal and academic excellence comes before sports – above all, that in an era of college sports marked by cheating, crime, and dirty tricks, Stanford can be a model for the world of intercollegiate athletics. Stanford fans believe that their university is a shining city on a hill. David Shaw claimed that Stanford football can change the world.

We’d all like to believe him.

We’ve also had the deck stacked in our favor in ways that other programs cannot hope to imitate. We get Stanford, and we get a $500 million athletic endowment, committed alumni donors, the biggest athletic budget in the nation’s best conference, a winning tradition in nearly every sport we field, and, of course, the most valuable degree in big-time college sports. We aren’t a model for intercollegiate athletics. We’re our own thing.

But even if the main arguments in favor of Stanford sports aren’t necessarily fair, let’s go back to the beginning. Stanford doesn’t need to be a trailblazer to be worth our respect. And although Turley and Anderson are two of my favorite coaches in the world, I was a Stanford fan before I met them. I fell in love with Stanford Athletics during the Arizona game freshman year when, for a moment, Josh Nunes became a demigod. Back then I didn’t even know who Shannon Turley was!

Stanford Athletics is fun. I watch Stanford’s teams because I like them.

And why not?

***

The last sports event I saw at Stanford was baseball’s season finale. Stanford beat Oregon 3-1 behind 7.2 strong innings behind Chris Castellanos and seventh-inning home runs by Alex Dunlap and Austin Barr. Recap aside, it was a good game. The seniors wanted to win their last home game. I wanted Michael Peterson to have a good time calling his final Stanford baseball game. Everybody won.

I am first and foremost a football writer, but baseball is perhaps the most timeless sport because the game is so fundamentally similar to how it was a hundred years ago – there are more home runs, faster players, and a statistic for every concept that can possibly be quantified, but the fundamental architecture of the game is still the same, and you can still imagine Xander Bogaerts running the same bases that Ted Williams circled so many years ago.

Suffused with immortality, Stanford baseball is all the more beautiful because while LSU and Texas may play in grander venues, Stanford plays in the very best one. Stanford might not be replicable, but – athletically and academically – it was the perfect place for a sports fan like me. It has nice athletes and perfect grass and clean white uniforms and the freshest air in the world. Like Stanford, Sunken Diamond is immaculate, and while there are things you could conceivably add to the place, it’s hard to imagine it being better.

What a time to be alive.

 

Contact Winston Shi at wshi94 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Mather: What I’ve learned about sports writing http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/30/mather-what-ive-learned-about-sports-writing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mather-what-ive-learned-about-sports-writing http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/30/mather-what-ive-learned-about-sports-writing/#respond Tue, 31 May 2016 02:20:30 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115945 Two years ago, I somewhat tentatively signed up to be a sports writer for The Stanford Daily. I was a Cardinal fan who had been radicalized by two years on this campus, and I figured that The Daily might be a good way to put my interest in Stanford Athletics to good use.

Two years later, I’m amazed at how far this experiment of mine has come. I can hardly count the hours I’ve poured into writing, editing and producing this newspaper. Before I started, I probably pictured myself writing no more than 30 or 40 articles for The Daily. My final count, barring any future amendment, stands at 138.

It wouldn’t have been this way if I hadn’t enjoyed every minute of it. It has been a real privilege to follow around each of the various Cardinal teams, whether in the Levi’s Stadium locker room or out on the Stanford golf course. I’ve appreciated each and every word that all of you have sent me about my work, whether in nicely worded emails or in quickly jotted tweets. I didn’t even mind that much when a bunch of people on a USC fan forum called me a nerd.

These two years have changed my view of sports in a number of different ways. I came into The Daily as a fan, supporting the teams I did without too much additional thought. Now that I’ve seen more behind the scenes, I’ve become a little bit more shaken by the realities of the modern athletic scene. It’s kind of incredible how many ways ethics are bent to bring us the stunning performances we watch on TV.

Stanford is, generally speaking, one of the good guys when it comes to athletic integrity. Though no multi-million dollar program is immune from mistakes, at least with Stanford you get the sense that everybody is trying to do the right thing. In a lot of places, this isn’t nearly as much the case.

The two years I’ve written about athletics have seen an almost immeasurable number of scandals – and a good deal of additional incidents that really should have been. There’s the massive corruption case levied against FIFA. There’s the ever-increasing amount of evidence that playing football skyrockets your risk of a traumatic brain injury. There are the cases of pay discrimination between men’s and women’s sports. Each of these is a massive problem that was largely neglected by a multi-billion dollar industry, yet this list is, in reality, little more than the tip of the iceberg.

The challenge for the sports writing world in the coming years will be finding ways to respond to these challenges. The way that so many publications handle sports writing is kind of analogous to riding a roller coaster over and over again: It’s fun and all, but eventually you start to notice that you’re always running down the same track. You can’t necessarily blame them – the recap/preview cycle is the reader-chosen way of digesting sports journalism – but at the same time I wonder how well-suited it is to making the sporting a more just place. So much energy is invested in getting these articles out that it’s hard to design, write and promote coverage that deals with more serious issues.

I think it’s time for a reader revolution in the world of sports journalism. It’s easy to view sports a pure leisure, but the fact of the matter is that they possess huge financial, ethical and personal ramifications. We don’t necessarily have to dwell on all of these at length, but it is our responsibility to give them the light of day. Without our attention, the incentive structure for athletic leagues and systems can never really change.

The last thought – or suggestion, rather – I leave you with is to take a closer look at the various forms of reporting that focus on these issues in the modern sporting community. Scandals shouldn’t, and can’t, be cyclical, so reporters are usually sticking out their necks a little when they highlight something that isn’t strictly speaking about what happened on the field. It’s easy to ignore these things after games and seasons conclude, but by doing so we miss the opportunity to make the world a little bit better.

 

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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Road to Rio 2016 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/road-to-rio-2016/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=road-to-rio-2016 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/road-to-rio-2016/#respond Sat, 28 May 2016 10:11:45 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115871 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/road-to-rio-2016/feed/ 0 The most comprehensive coverage of Stanford sports at the 2016 Olympic Games. A different track: Steve Solomon finds his way to Rio 2016 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/a-different-track-steve-solomon-finds-his-way-to-rio-2016/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-different-track-steve-solomon-finds-his-way-to-rio-2016 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/a-different-track-steve-solomon-finds-his-way-to-rio-2016/#respond Sat, 28 May 2016 09:05:33 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115827 Steven Solomon’s leg can’t stop shaking.

It’s not a particularly uncommon habit for most teenagers, but Solomon isn’t most teenagers. After all, the 19-year-old is just minutes away from racing in the semifinal of the 400m at the 2012 Olympic Games.

“I was nervous to the point where I couldn’t even get my shoe on,” he recalls with a laugh. “I had to walk around a bit and give my leg a couple slaps to get going.”

Solomon eases into his starting blocks on the starter’s signal, slapping his hamstrings as he prepares himself in the sixth lane. The Aussie native has every right to be tense — he’s by far the youngest athlete in his heat and is surrounded by veterans of the sport on both sides.

“It’s amazing to be in a stadium filled with screaming people, but once the gun went I had no recollection of the crowd,” says Solomon, as he reflects on that exact moment.

“All I remember is how I ran the race.”

And it was one to remember, as Solomon came tearing down the final 100 meters in the race of his life, recording a personal-best 44.97 to qualify for the finals — the first Australian to do so in 24 years.

***

At 6-foot-1, 161-pounds, Steven Solomon isn’t particularly physically imposing; his wide smile gives him a happy-to-be-here look more apt for the face of a schoolboy than an elite sprinter.

And yet, Solomon is an absolute freak of an athlete.

“Growing up, I played every sport imaginable,” he says. “If you grow up in Australia, it’s a very strong sporting culture, and I remember my parents would be carting me from soccer to cricket to rugby to tennis practice and back to swimming lessons; just about everything.”

As a late bloomer, Solomon struggled to keep up with his bigger, faster and stronger peers, making it difficult for him to compete in his favorite sports of soccer and rugby at a high level.

Seeking something new, Solomon entered himself in the the New South Wales state championships in the 400m and 400m hurdles when he turned 16, with no proper training beyond, as he says, “a bit of athletics stuff at school for about six weeks a year.”

Out of nowhere, he won both titles — setting a state record in the hurdles — and qualified for the junior Australian championships in the process. A couple weeks later, he went on to win those as well.

“From that point on, I was like ‘Wow, this is something that I’m good at,” he says.

***

As I converse with Steve, I have to remind myself that he’s a three-time national champion in his home country, an NCAA title winner and an Olympian. His friendly Australian drawl has a way of making you forget that there are only a handful of people on this planet that can run a lap around a track faster than him.

There’s also a theme I notice repeatedly as we talk: I ask Steve a question about track, and while he answers it thoroughly, his responses always seem to converge towards the people around him who make him who he is: his friends, family, mentors, mentees.

I ask him about the best moment of his career, to date. He briefly mentions the Olympic semifinal and final — in which he placed eighth with a 45.14 time — but his dearest memory isn’t under the bright lights and in front of the 60 thousand-plus screaming fans at London’s Olympic Stadium.

“My favorite moment was actually at 3 a.m. the morning after the final race, when I finally got out of drug testing,” he reveals. “I got back to the Village, was able to get changed and met a whole lot of family and friends that had made the trip to London to support me at this little bar — the only thing we could find that was open. That was probably one of the most special moments of my life, and that was something that the sport gave to me, so I’m very grateful for that.”

When I ask Steve about his training, he talks more about his coaches and teammates than the training itself.

His sudden development as a teenager prompted his high school coach to put him in touch with Fira Dvoskina, a 76-year-old refugee from the Ukraine with an abundance of experience coaching athletics. A few years later, he began working with Dvoskina’s daughter, Iryna, whom he describes as the best technical coach in the world.  

Most surprisingly, however, is the fact that the Dvoskinas work with Paralympic athletes — Solomon is their only able-bodied disciple.   

“I train with two blind runners, a leg amputee and an athlete with cerebral palsy,” he says. “It’s been a completely new training environment, but also a real privilege, and the last year has been incredibly educational in terms of understanding how different people navigate life.”  

Solomon’s story is incredibly unusual — in a sport in which athletes typically train with the best competition they can find in order to push themselves to the next level, he finds value in his unique training circle, which humbles him regularly.  

“One of my close training partners is Scott Reardon, who lost his leg at nine years old in a tractor accident on a farm,” he says. “Seeing how he has to climb stairs, how he uses his body when he runs and swims and walks, it’s been amazing and it’s only really when I think back about it and how much I’ve learned from him, do I realize how special it is. I’ve been really fortunate — it makes you really appreciate the little things.”

Steve and I share a moment of elation when we discover that we share a favorite athlete in Roger Federer, and it’s no surprise to me that he idolizes the Swiss maestro.

Like Federer, he’s incredibly thoughtful, respectful and humble to a fault.

***

Ask Steve what his favorite thing about Stanford is, and his answer might surprise you.

“The random freshman roommate process,” he tells me earnestly. “It introduced me to my best friend, Dylan Moore.” Jaded by the standard answers involving California weather or Stanford’s pristine campus, Steve’s answer takes me aback — it’s not at all what I anticipated.

Dylan and Steve were paired together in Cedro their freshman year, although their upbringings could not have been more different. Dylan grew up a short drive from Stanford in a family of artists, before deciding to pursue both undergraduate and master’s degrees in Computer Science from Stanford.

He’s a senior on campus, already beginning his master’s degree, while Steve — who sheepishly told me he’d never heard of CS before coming to Stanford — is halfway across the world, training for the biggest sporting event in the world.

Despite their differences, the pair balance each other perfectly, indulging in each other’s wild plans and adventures. When Steve asks Dylan to come visit Australia, having planned a scuba-diving expedition, Dylan obliges, even though he’s terrified of the deep ocean; when Dylan asks Steve on a whim to run for junior class president with him, Steve’s all for it, despite already carrying the tremendous burden of being a student-athlete (their slate would go on to win the presidency).

The pair hopes to reach the peak of Mount Shasta next year — they’ve already tried and failed twice, which Dylan admits won’t be well-received news by Steve’s coaches.   

He laughs as he reenacts one of his first conversations with Steve:

“Oh, you went to the Olympics, cool! I watched on TV.”

“I mean, like I was there…racing.”

“Oh, shit.”

The initial shock wore off, however, as the pair quickly became inseparable — the excitement at being reunited next year is palpable in both of their voices.

“I think from my relationship with Dylan is where a lot of my interests grew,” Steve says. “We just both have a similar level of energy and enthusiasm towards adventure.”

***

Had it not been for Michael and Lucille Solomon and a little bit of luck, Steve Solomon may have never stepped foot on Stanford campus. As a high-school senior in 2011, he was ready to pursue an undergraduate degree in medicine in Australia, until he realized that the Australian university system would not afford him the flexibility of taking time off to train and compete ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

“It wasn’t really a mid-life crisis, given that I was only 17 at the time, but I was still pretty worried, given that everything I thought was the path I was taking seemed to lead to nowhere,” he admits. It was only when Lucille, his mother, happened to look through his bag one day after school that she discovered dozens of letters of interest from American universities.

“I had never told my parents about the letters because I was so set on what I wanted to do, and I didn’t think that it warranted much of a discussion. And then we looked into them; I looked into the US system and the NCAA and was fascinated about how strong track programs were there. I looked into the student-athlete balance and was like, ‘Yes, this is exactly what I’m looking for.’

“We don’t know too many of the US colleges down here in Australia, but when Stanford and Harvard approached me, that’s when my eyes kind of opened.”

An injury kept Steve from visiting Stanford in the spring, but his father, Michael, happened to be in California for a lecture. He came back and said, “Steve, if you get accepted into Stanford it’s a no-brainer; this place is unbelievable.”

Steve signed his letter of intent without stepping foot on campus and showed up on The Farm in September of 2012.

Steve’s Stanford track career has been somewhat limited — he took this entire year off from school to go home and train — but one moment sticks out from the rest: the 2014 NCAA indoor distance medley relay championship race.

Having qualified for the 400 on his own, he faced a decision to make: Either run for the individual title, in which he would be entirely accountable for winning or losing, or put his trust in teammates in the DMR. Never one to put himself first, Steve chose the relay, running a scorching 45.75 400m leg to help Stanford win the title by nearly three seconds over second-place Oregon.

“When you get the opportunity to run relays, which is quite rare, and the opportunity to run with a team of friends, and to do that for a school that I love so much it became quite an easy decision,” he says. “I knew I would have further opportunities to represent myself ahead.”

“To come away with the win in quite an emphatic style was really special, and it unbelievable to be able to share the feeling with Marco [Bertolotti], Luke [Lefebure] and Michael [Atchoo]. That was my first major relay win at Stanford and beyond, and it was a lot of fun.”

***

Steve hasn’t officially qualified for the Rio Olympics yet — he missed the 45.40 cut-off by a 10th of a second in a recent race — but he still has several chances in the next few months as he prepares his body for peak form come August.

After achieving his goal of reaching the final in London, Steve allowed himself to take in the moment and enjoy the experience. Having dealt with nagging injuries since then, he has had to prepare much harder and smarter in order to get his body ready. This time, his own expectations will be set much higher.

“Part of the reason the Olympics is the Olympics is because of the excitement of the unknown. Now that I’ve got a little bit more of a grip over that, I hope I can put some good performances in on the track and pick up from where I left off in London, and run really well for myself, my country and all those supporting me.”

An Aussie man hasn’t won a gold medal in a running event in 48 years. As sports like rugby, cricket and tennis continue to dominate the Australian sports scene, Steve is part of a small, elite group that seeks to keep the nation relevant in the sprinting world.  

I’m curious as to why Steve loves the 400 so much — it seems like a grueling race, long enough to require a high level of stamina and endurance, yet short enough to still be a flat-out sprint. When I ask him about it, it’s the first time during our conversation I hear his voice take a more serious tone.

“I love the 400 because it’s not a soft man’s race. To run the 400 you know you’re going to go into pain and you’re going to put your body through a lot of unpleasant things,” he says matter-of-factly.

“Knowing that draws a certain type of athlete to compete in it. I love pushing myself hard. I’m not someone who’s going to go for a run and stop running when I can say I hit 15 miles. I want to run fast. I want to run to the point where my body wants to throw up to get rid of the waste products its producing.”

In that brief moment, 400-meter Olympian Steve Solomon switches on, and he’s sure as hell not someone I’d want to mess with on a running track.

***

Track and field is a fascinating sport. It boils athleticism down to the most simple physical tasks: Who can run the fastest, jump the highest, throw the furthest. And yet, it struggles to stay relevant in today’s social media age, when slam dunks and big hits are prioritized over pole vaults and hurdles.

Track and field — at least in the US — has become a sport where only the brashest and fastest short sprinters are likely to receive any media attention. Ask the average Joe to name a track athlete apart from Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay or Lolo Jones, and you’re likely to come up empty-handed.

That suits Steven Solomon just fine. When I ask him about his goals in the sport, he doesn’t speak of medals, championships or fame, instead answering simply, “I want to be able to finish my career knowing that I couldn’t have gone faster.”

His thoughts wander past track and field, to life after the starting blocks and finish lines. Steve went on an aid trip to Tonga when he was 15 with his dad, who is an orthopedic surgeon. He describes how the instant he scrubbed into his father’s operations, he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. As a human biology major at Stanford, he intends to go to medical school after he calls it quits on his track career.

“I’ve really enjoyed the detour that sports has taken me on, but I’m also very much looking forward to my dream of becoming a doctor and helping my community,” he says.

For though Rio looms large ahead, Solomon’s course extends far beyond the finish line.

 

Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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The great equalizer: Brickelle Bro finds her niche at Stanford http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/the-great-equalizer-brickelle-bro-has-found-her-niche-at-stanford/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-great-equalizer-brickelle-bro-has-found-her-niche-at-stanford http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/the-great-equalizer-brickelle-bro-has-found-her-niche-at-stanford/#respond Sat, 28 May 2016 09:04:24 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115784 Odds are, Brickelle Bro’s legs are cooler than yours.

“They won’t bite,” Brickelle Bro reassures the children who stare at her.

“They don’t shoot lasers. Wanna touch them?”

Brickelle’s legs are prosthetics – metal poles stuck to skin-colored feet crafted from plastic and carbon fiber. If you accidentally drop them on the floor of the Olympic training center, the rubber feet make them bounce higher than you, according to her teammate Leah Stevens.

Time after time again, those legs wait patiently and without complaint on the Avery Aquatic Center’s pool deck, while the legs of her teammates get ready to enter the pool.

While their rotational mobility might be somewhat limited, their experience in international travel is certainly not: Brickelle’s feet have walked the streets of the Olympic Village in the London 2012 Olympics and will most likely do the same in Rio for the 2016 Olympics this summer.

“But I think the biggest challenge is honestly that people notice first that you’re different, and then define you by that and only expect certain things from you.”

“So I’ve kind of lived my life in a way that’s like, ‘you think I can’t do this? I’m gonna do it. Oh, you think I can’t swim? I’m gonna swim.’”

When Brickelle refers to her disability, she is talking about her legs, which are amputated below the knee due to birth defects. She got her first prosthetics when she was 2 and a 1/2  years old, so it makes sense that she has grown to recognize them as a part of her body.

“I mean, sometimes it’s a little weird when I leave it on the side of the pool deck or when coaches are running it down to the other end of the pool for me because it’s like, that’s a part of me, in somebody else’s arms,” she giggles. She gestures down to her sneakers.

“I mean, that’s my foot.”

While Brickelle has lived her entire life with this disability, she has never let it limit her.

“I have a disability, but I’m not disabled,” she points out. “It’s not who I am and I’m not limited by anything.”

She is dynamic and eloquent, humble and powerful – both inside and outside the water. Her parents have played a big part in defining her relationship with her disability.

In accordance with preschool social norms in Castle Rock, Colorado, she got into sports early, starting with the classic gateway drugs of soccer (“but I don’t like running at all”) and ballet (“which I loved, until I could no longer point my toes”).

She says she finally got into swimming as a result of her mom’s encouragement.

In the Bro family, there are two things you must know: how to play the piano and how to swim.
Brickelle recounts her first swimming lessons with her brother, and how she loved swimming almost as much as her brother hated it.

There’s a reason paralympians call water “the great equalizer.”

“While I can’t walk on land, I can do this in the water and no one can even tell that I’m different,” she says. Swimming was different for her from other sports because Brickelle didn’t feel like she was immediately disadvantaged due to her inability to run.

She first joined a summer swim team and eventually began swimming on a year-round club team. By the time she got to high school and began swimming with the Rock Canyon Swim Team, Brickelle had found a second home in the pool.

While she swam against able-bodied classmates on both her swim teams, it was the Paralympic meets that really meant everything to her, though she only competed once or twice a year. Her talent and drive within that field put the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic games on her radar even before she was 15 years old.

It was natural, then, that Brickelle’s coaches would want bring her to the 2012 London Olympic Trials, to, you know, test the waters.

She would get a taste of what Olympic-level competition meant and be back in four years to try again. Her coach prepped her for what he thought was coming – a “don’t get your hopes up, this is just a fun meet” speech, according to Brickelle.

“My coach was like, ‘there’s no way you’re going to make it,’” she says.

She made it, of course.

“My parents didn’t even have a hotel room for that night because we were just going to go to the meeting, see who made the team and then leave. But I made the team, and then we had to stay for a bunch of meetings, so that was a surprise.”

So, in 2012, high school freshman Brickelle took a plane to London for her first Olympics.

“There are not even words,” Brickelle says when I ask her about the Olympics. “It’s … I mean … give me a second. Because it’s … ”

She trails off again.

“There’s just not words.”

She’s smiling at something — a memory that jumps to mind.

“My favorite story was when I was walking to the dining hall, and a guy from Italy fell off the curb in his wheelchair and fell over and was, like, on the ground sideways. A coach from Russia and a coach from Spain rushed over to help him up,” she says.

“We [the Paralympic athletes] don’t even speak the same language, but you feel like a family because you’ve gone through so many of the same things, even though they weren’t together.”

Brickelle ended up placing fifth in the 2012 Paralympic Games in the 400 freestyle. By the end of her high school career, she had set the S8 Paralympic American records in the 1,000-yard free and the 1,650 free. She gets stronger and faster with each day of training; just this year, she broke the S8 Paralympic 1,650 free record for a second time.

London was definitely a surprise.

Rio, on the other hand, is a different story.

Brickelle’s eyes were fixated on Rio before the London Olympics had even happened, and they’ve been deadlocked on Rio ever since. She’s got five Mondays until Olympic trials, and she’s looking for a medal.

Knowing that she was going to be training for Rio for freshman year, it was important to Brickelle to go to a college that allowed her to practice with their swim team. Because Brickelle wasn’t recruited like most swimmers, she has had to fight for the resources to succeed.

The second after sending in her Common App, Brickelle emailed Stanford head women’s swimming coach Greg Meehan – a polite letter saying, “hey, I just applied to your school, and I really want to talk to you about training with your team.”

Brickelle applied to seven schools and got into six, but Stanford was the only school that would gave Brickelle an audience for a trial.

When she got her acceptance letter, Meehan emailed her about joining the team before she even got the chance to tell her grandma the news. Brickelle’s spot as a Cardinal swimmer was solidified when she met Meehan and the team over Admit Weekend and charmed them into what Meehan describes as an “pretty easy decision.”

While he admits he was reluctant to commit to Brickelle over electronic communication, Brickelle’s competitive drive and thoughtful nature swayed him when they met in person.

Yet, as Brickelle would soon realize, walking onto a team at Stanford is not easy, especially a team as competitive (and arguably cultish) as the Stanford swim team. The girls eat, sleep, breathe, stretch, cry and win together –  forming a rare bond that is difficult to share in as an outsider.

“I was terrified about fitting in,” Brickelle says. “Everyone knew each other. I was afraid, because it felt like I had to beg to get onto the team and I was worried that people would be like, ‘oh, she’s not fast enough, blah, blah, blah,’ because that was the kind of response I’d gotten from other people in other colleges.

“But getting here, no one has ever treated me like that, and it’s a blessing.”

Actually, it turns out that Brickelle’s teammates were just as scared of her as she was of them.

I ask freshmen Leah Stevens and Kim Williams, two of Brickelle’s best friends on the team, what it was like to meet Brickelle for the first time.

“I was a little nervous,” Kim admits.

“Yeah, she seemed like a badass. Like, she sounded so cool,” Leah said.

“Our coach had sent us a SwimSwam article, which is like a swimming blog, about her, saying ‘this is your new teammate, read about her – ’” Kim begins.

“What? I didn’t know that.” Brickelle interjects, looking dumbfounded while sandwiched between her two friends on the couch.

“So we actually emailed her before we met her,” Kim continues, turning back to me, “because she was going to the Paralympic World Championships in Scotland or something, so we emailed her good luck.”

“But yeah, we were a little intimidated. I remember we met at the Marriott across from Stanford, and we still hadn’t decided how to pronounce her name either, so that was an immediate stressor for us,” Kim said with a laugh.

Before school each year, Stanford women’s swimming takes a pre-season trip to Maui. This trip is part of the secret to the close-knit nature of the swim team. It was also when Brickelle’s teammates really got to know who they were dealing with for the first time.

“One thing about Brickelle is that you forget there’s anything different about her,” Kim says. “You don’t know she’s disabled, like she doesn’t act like that at all.

“The moment I realized that, we were in Maui, going into the ocean. She took off her prosthetic legs to get into the ocean and I was like trying to help, like, ‘oh, do you want me to carry you in?’ I think I was trying to hold her hand.

“And she said, “no, you can get away from me, I got it.’

“I was like, ‘woah, okay,’” Kim says.

“Oh, was I that mean?” Brickelle’s brown eyes widen, and so do mine. I literally can’t picture her saying anything mean, ever.

“No, it was just sassy, like ‘that’s the way it’s going to be, and that’s the way it’s going to be for the next four years.’”

“It’s awesome how strong and independent she is. She’s like, ‘nope, I’m good, I don’t need you. Maybe as a friend, but I don’t need your help with anything.’ And we’re good with that.”

Seriously – mention Brickelle’s name to anyone who knows her, and they will start raving.

Her teammates paint a word picture of Brickelle doing pull-ups with a huge weighted plate, and her coach mentions that she thanks him every time she gets out of the pool at practice.

Kim, who’s proud to say that her locker is right next to Brickelle’s, says that she can’t imagine doing as much free stroke as Brickelle does.

Leah, a fellow distance swimmer, even gets a little emotional telling Brickelle how much her extra “let’s go, you got this” means to her during those hard sets, when it’s just the two of them doing a workout together.

But even with her distinguished international record, ask Brickelle what she’s most proud of in her life and you’ll get an answer you might not expect.

It’s not London. It’s not her All-American records. It has nothing to do with the way she absolutely crushes life despite the fact that she was born without real legs.

It was getting into Stanford.

“I think it was hard for her at first,” Meehan says. “I think any student that comes to Stanford is immediately … overwhelmed by how many smart and successful people are walking around campus on a daily basis.

“That’s hard for everybody … I think for her, it’s even more so, because she’s part of this Division I program, knowing that there are not many Paralympic athletes doing what she’s doing.”

But it’s clear now that that Brickelle has found her niche at Stanford.

If her record-breaking swims, inseparable friendships and infectious laugh weren’t telling enough, one needs look no further than the Pac-12 Championships, where Brickelle completed the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle alongside the most talented, able-bodied Division I swimmers in the country.

Outside of swimming, Brickelle assures me that she is “a normal person – sometimes.”

“I eat a lot, and I like to watch movies and read books. I really, really enjoy filming and editing videos.”

But at the end of the day, Brickelle is one of those genuine human beings who does what she does because she loves it.

It’s clear, now more than ever, that Brickelle has found an identity in swimming – her passion for it defines her far more than her disability ever has.

“For me also the pool has always been … ” she lets off.

“I don’t know … home?” she says.

“No matter where you are, the black line always looks the same at the bottom of the pool, the water always feels the same, and it’s how I relieve stress a lot of the time.

“It’s always been a part of my day, and it’s where my team is and where I know what I’m doing. The disability never comes into play.”

 

Contact Kit Rampgopal at kramgopa@stanford.edu.

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One with the wind: Marion Lepert goes all in on Olympic dream http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/one-with-the-wind-marion-lepert-goes-all-in-on-olympic-dream/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-with-the-wind-marion-lepert-goes-all-in-on-olympic-dream http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/one-with-the-wind-marion-lepert-goes-all-in-on-olympic-dream/#respond Sat, 28 May 2016 09:03:21 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115767 If there’s such a thing as an average Olympian, it probably isn’t Marion Lepert. America’s premier female windsurfer has dedicated much of her life to a sport which she describes as like “playing chess while running a marathon.”

Since she was 11 years old, Lepert has been racing her board under sail number 143, a digit that was chosen without her knowledge but has come to define her career. With this number, she’s posted top-10 performances at international regattas, frequently contended for the top spot at youth events and, most recently, qualified for the 31st Olympic Games.

Lepert’s path hasn’t been straightforward, and her progress has been anything but incremental. By clearing each obstacle, however, she’s gained an impressive level of mastery in a sport that has not often been known for having strong American competitors.

“This last year has been absolutely incredible for me in terms of improvements I’ve made … Our trials were in January and March of this year, and it worked out.”

A family business

The elite windsurfing community in the United States is a bit of an exclusive unit. Most Americans learn to race on more traditional types of boats, like the Laser and the 420, and, as a result, the competitive landscape within the country generally emphasizes these classes above of the high-performance windsurf board.

For Lepert and many other junior windsurfers, the inspiration to try out their sport actually came from abroad. Lepert spent her early years in France and has considerable family ties to the country, where the sport is quite popular as a form of recreation.

“For most people in the U.S., if you ask them how they got into windsurfing, they say their dad. When I was 8, my dad offered to let me try windsurfing, because it’s something he did when he was in college in France. I [tried it], and I absolutely loved it. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Lepert quickly mastered the basics of this new activity, and eventually decided to try things out on the next level. When she was 11, she joined up with a small racing fleet that windsurfed by the entrance to San Francisco Bay, an area infamous for providing harsh wind conditions to even the most seasoned sailors.

“There a group of 10 to 15 guys ­– middle-aged men ­­– who would race every other Friday right by the Golden Gate … I definitely was way too small to hold down my board in the waves and the wind compared to these guys. But it was so much fun, and I would come back every other Friday to do it.”

The difficult conditions forced Lepert to learn fast, and, by 2009, she was already beginning to outgrow the local windsurfing community. Without a clear next step in domestic competition, Lepert began to travel to Europe to compete against more people her age and fine-tune her racing skills.

“There [would be] 50 or 60 kids on the [start] line. It’s just a whole other kind of adrenaline. Ever since I’ve been doing two or three international events a year.”

Road to the top

Being one of the few Americans with the motivation and skills to compete against international competition, the Olympics were less of a huge jump for her and more like the next step in her progression.

Windsurfing is more of an amalgamation of different disciplines than it is a cohesive sport, with different sails and boards being used in events that each fall somewhere on the spectrum between conventional surfing and conventional sailing. Lepert learned to windsurf in the formula discipline – which most closely mirrors sailing with its long, open courses – and using the Techno 193 board, the junior version of the Olympic RS:X.

From this point, getting onto the Olympic path was as much of a challenge that she’d grow into as it was something she would need to learn in its own right.

“Traditionally, Olympic windsurfers start on the youth board and then graduate to the senior board, and then a couple years later might start an Olympic campaign. I had a positive finish on the youth board ­– I finished in the top three at [the 2011 under-17 world championships] – so I was super pumped to start [in the Olympic class.]”

At the same time as she was making this jump, Lepert’s life was going through another transition – her high school graduation and enrollment in college. When she was admitted to Stanford in 2013, Lepert jumped at the opportunity, even if it meant putting windsurfing on the back burner while she pursued life as a full-time student.

“2013 was when I first stepped foot on [the Olympic board]. But 2013 was also the beginning of my freshman year at Stanford, and I was equally pumped [for that]. I didn’t want my aspirations for windsurfing to prevent me from enjoying Stanford [for] what it is. So I decided that I would try to do both as much as I could.”

After arriving on campus, Lepert joined the sailing team and took the first steps toward a degree in mechanical engineering. For someone as seasoned on the water as Lepert, sailing was actually quite difficult, as she had almost no experience in the slower collegiate racing vessels and wasn’t as familiar with the immense tactical considerations that they required.

Lepert developed considerably on the team, but eventually realized it wasn’t making her as much of a better windsurfer as she hoped. She quit the team after six months, doubling down on her preferred class and absolving to hone her strategic understanding of the sport while practicing directly on her board.

“It’s quite unusual, because a lot of people in Europe originally started in dinghies and Optimists [a small, one-person boat popular widely sailed in Florida and on the East Coast], and then kind of saw windsurfing as this cool other thing to do and then changed to windsurfing. But I consider myself a pure windsurfer.”

From student to athlete

By June of her sophomore year, Lepert had decided to go all-in on a campaign for Rio 2016. She opted to take a year off from school to practice full-time, optimizing her fitness and technique in order to compete with the best opponents from around the world.

Already one of the “five or six” American windsurfers on the international circuit, Lepert mostly had to beat out one other elite competitor in order to become the U.S. representative in the games. Unfortunately, her efforts hit a snag when she didn’t do as well as expected at the Sailing World Cup Miami, falling to 19th and finishing two places behind another American, 35-year-old Farrah Hall.

Lepert had just five weeks to turn around her on-the-water performance and move ahead in the second leg of the U.S. Olympic qualifier, the Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia Regata in Palma de Mallorca.

“Those five weeks I will remember for the rest of my life. Every hour that I didn’t have on the water, I would have my coach on Skype or be on video trying to figure out what I could do to fix my problems.”

Lepert’s effort paid off, and she ended up qualifying with relative ease after breaking the top-10 in Spain. “Since then I’ve kind of kept the same mentality, that I have a lot of things to work on and not very much time. I do feel kind of stressed sometimes and it doesn’t come so easy, but the excitement of going to the Olympics is definitely carrying me through.”

Even with more than a full year to race and practice full-time, Lepert’s campaign started out later than many of her competitors. To make up for lost time, she’s had to make compromises, often finding creative ways to help accelerate the pace of her improvement.

Lepert spends between three and four hours on the water during her practice sessions, which occur on five or six days of each week. She often speed tests with teams from France and Mexico, comparing her progress with theirs to better contextualize how she’s doing.

When she’s not on the water, Lepert spends a lot of her time watching film and otherwise finding ways to make her training sessions as effective as they can be. Since conditions can be so variable, each moment for Lepert is intense, as she has to plan and execute her sessions almost simultaneously based on how the wind looks on any particular day.

“I’m trying to train as much as possible into what those conditions will be like, so whether I am in Rio or in another place in the world, we spend a lot of time behind our computers trying to look at forecasts and deciding when to go out on the water.”

Flying over hurdles

One of the ways in which Lepert has gained an advantage over her competitors, she thinks, comes from her background in the sciences. While watching video of her form, Lepert frequently uses her knowledge of physics to understand and visualize what she could be doing better.

“Some might say it’s a strength and some might say it’s a weakness, because a lot of the windsurfers on the circuit do it a lot more intuitively via feeling, but I really [like to] break it down [with physics]. I’ve created my own simulations to kind of figure out the numbers behind it and get an idea as to which positions are better. It’s also a reason why I[‘ve enjoyed] my campaign so much; it’s been kind of a scientific project for me.”

Rio’s sailing venue has presented Lepert with its own set of unique set challenges, notably headlined by a bay that is contaminated by sewage and trash. Lepert admits to having been “grossed [out]” by the bay, but doesn’t think she’s been too affected by the less-than-ideal conditions.

“I’ve been lucky enough to never have been sick from it, so realistically, it has not that impossible to deal with. For me, I feel like everybody has to sail on the water, so I’m not at a disadvantage due to it.”

As she approaches the 60-day mark before the beginning of the games, Lepert hasn’t yet considered what lies for her beyond the Olympics. She knows that she’ll return for her junior year of college, but her racing future will largely be determined by her results and the other opportunities she gets when September rolls around.

For now, the one thing that is certain is that, come August, USA-143 will be out on the water yet again attempting to cross the finish line first.

“I definitely know that I will take my education seriously and graduate without putting that in jeopardy because I want to do Tokyo. But I never like to close doors.”

“I’m [just] going to keep windsurfing and see where it takes me.”

 

 

Contact Andrew Mather at amather@stanford.edu.

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Q&A with the Bryan Brothers, tennis’ best duo http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/de-nr-qa-with-the-bryan-brothers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=de-nr-qa-with-the-bryan-brothers http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/de-nr-qa-with-the-bryan-brothers/#respond Sat, 28 May 2016 09:01:23 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115753 In the world of professional men’s tennis, there isn’t much that former Stanford standouts Bob and Mike Bryan haven’t achieved together. The identical twins have won every major doubles title in the sport — 16 Grand Slams, 36 Masters Tournaments, four World Tour finals, a Davis Cup and an Olympic gold medal. The duo began their careers at Stanford  in 1996, winning two NCAA team titles and a doubles title (Bob would also win a singles title, completing the rare “Triple Crown”) before leaving Stanford in 1998 to pursue professional careers. Eighteen years and 112 ATP titles later, the brothers are undoubtedly the best doubles team to ever grace a tennis court. At 38 years of age, they will likely compete in their last Olympic Games this summer. The Daily spoke with the Bryan Brothers about their twin rivalries, renowned musical talents and (somewhat) impending retirements as part of its Road to Rio Olympic coverage.

 

The Stanford Daily (TSD): Tell me a little about what it was like coming to Stanford — a mecca of college tennis — as freshmen back in 1996.  

Bob Bryan (BB): Of course we were very excited. We had dreamed of coming to The Farm and playing for the famed Stanford tennis team since we were little kids.  

Mike Bryan (MB): Yes, there was a big tournament about 30 minutes from our home at Ojai and it always has featured the Pac-12 tennis teams. Since we were 5 or 6, we always attended that tournament and saw Stanford stars like Martin Blackman, Scott Davis, Jeff Tarango, Dan Goldie, Jared Palmer, Alex O’Brien and Jonathan Stark.  

BB: We went to the NCAA Championships that were held in Los Angeles in 1990 — we idolized the Cardinal team, and we rooted like crazy for them as they won the title over Tennessee.  We even wrote a little rap poem and gave it to them. When Coach Dick Gould was recruiting us in 1996, he took out the Stanford scrapbook from that year and pulled out that very little tune we came up with.  

MB: That amazed us. And it brought back a great memory.

 

TSD: Presumably you were in different dorms — what was it like being away from each other for the first time?  

MB: Yes, we were kind of shocked to not be able to live together as we had for the past 18 years. We tried to get in the same room, but the University was very firm on that.

BB: We both liked Mike’s roomie, James, and he remains a close friend to this day. And truth be told, within two weeks, I got an extra mattress on the floor and moved in with Mike and James in a very tiny dorm room. We all had a great time that year. Please don’t tell any of the Stanford officials that we broke that rule.  

MB: And another funny thing: After we turned pro in 1998, we were playing the U.S. Open in late August and we got a call in our hotel room in New York from the Collins twins — Jarron and Jason — who were then basketball stars at Stanford and would go on to play in the NBA. We enjoyed talking to them and telling them about Stanford and of course, they said, “Hey, what’s the deal about us not being able to room together?! We’re twins like you guys and we don’t like that.”

BB: We’re not sure how they worked it out, but we are still good friends with those guys. They’ve come to some of our matches through the years and we always have a good time. They always yell out from the stands, “Hey, we’re the all-time greatest twins that went to Stanford, not you two!”

 

TSD: What are your best memories from your days at Stanford?  

BB: We had a wonderful two years on The Farm and we have so, so many great memories — from the classroom, from the campus, from our fraternity (SAE), from going to watch all the other sports on campus and getting to know the other athletes — like Kerri Walsh Jennings on the women’s volleyball team and so many of the football and baseball and basketball guys and gals.  We went to their games and many of them came and rooted us on in our matches.

MB: We made so many friends there, and, of course, that is what you remember.

BB: And, without a doubt, all our tennis practices with the legendary coach Gould and assistant coach John Whitlinger were great, as were the trips and the matches. Without a doubt, the best memories we have are winning the NCAA team title our freshman and sophomore seasons before were turned pro. Those are moments we will never forget.  

MB: We were blessed with the two best coaches you could have, and we were lucky to have great teammates like Paul Goldstein, Ryan Wolters, Grant Elliott, Kevin Kim, Geoff Abrams, Misha Palecek, Charlie Hoeveler and Ali Ansari.

 

TSD: What is your relationship with coach Gould and former teammate/now coach Goldstein like?

MB: Our dad had always been a friend and fan of coach Gould’s and he told us before we went to Stanford to watch him and learn from him.

BB: He said that you’ll learn more from coach Gould than any professor that you have. Our dad admired his people skills and his inspirational coaching.

MB: We had so much fun, and, of course, learned so much about tennis and winning and losing and about life from coach Gould and coach Whit.

BB: We consider Coach Gould not only a leader and great coach, but he has also become a wonderful friend and supporter through our post-Stanford days.  We still hear from him most every week.

MB: We love the guy.

BB: As for Paul, he was two years older than us and was a junior when we came in as freshmen. He took us under his wing and showed us the ropes around campus and with our classes and the fraternity, and, of course, with the team. He helped us in so many ways and we’ll always be appreciative. He was our captain and our leader. We learned lots from him too.

MB: Paul is a great guy and he is a winner. We are happy to see him as the head coach now and we think he is doing a great job. The team upset No. 14 Northwestern to reach the Sweet 16 this past season.

BB: Paul set all kinds of records at Stanford and he did well on the pro tour. I agree with Mike that he is a winner and also a great speaker and overall class act. We remain close friends and would do anything for him.

 

TSD: What’s it like to play for your country at the Olympics and Davis Cup — any different from when you’re on tour playing for yourselves?  Are there any parallels with what it was like to play for your school?

MB: We love the team thing. We were on over 25 teams before coming to Stanford. We were very proud to play for Stanford and we knew coming in that the bar was set high — the expectation was to win the NCAA Team Championship each of our two years there, which we were able to accomplish.

BB: We really both feel that our two years at Stanford were the best two years of our lives.  Of course, we have loved being on the United States Davis Cup team for the past 14 years are always proud to play for and represent the United States and we were so happy to win the Davis Cup for the USA in 2007 with our teammates Andy Roddick and James Blake.

MB: By the way, our captain was Patrick McEnroe, who also played for Stanford and who also admires coach Gould.

BB: And we’ll never forget how after we clinched the last match in winning the Davis Cup title against Russia in Portland in December of 2007, all the guys on the bench came running out and jumped over the net and we all got in a big circle and started jumping up and down. And that lasted for about 20 to 30 seconds. Now compare that to winning the NCAAs — when Mike clinched the NCAA title in the finals against Georgia in Athens, the whole team mobbed him out on the middle court there, and, in no time, there were 200 guys from Stanford in a huge and high dog pile, and the celebrating went on for several minutes.

MB: Nothing can compare to the thrill of winning the NCAAs.  We love the team thing, and we’ll never forget that day at the UGA Stadium.

 

TSD: Take us back to the 2012 Games in London. You guys had some incredibly close matches, especially in the early rounds, on your way to the gold medal. What was it like to finally break through and win the gold on your third try, completing the elusive career Golden Slam? The Olympics aren’t often considered as highly as the Grand Slams in tennis, but where does that win rank for you?

BB: Our whole goal for 2012 was to win the gold.  We had been so disappointed to only reach the quarters in Athens, and only get the bronze medal in Beijing, and we were totally focused on that gold medal.

MB: It was the only goal we had set as little boys that we had not achieved.  

BB: And the fact that the tournament was to be held at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon made it even more special. We were slated to play the Swiss team of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka early, but they lost to a team from Israel — Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram — and in the quarters we beat the Israelis in straight sets. In the semis we beat the French tandem of Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet, 6-4, 6-4.

MB: We had a tough match in the finals against two big servers and, again, a French team — Jo-Willie Tsonga and Michael Llodra.  They, of course, were tough on grass too. We’ll never forget that 6-4, 7-6 score and the huge thrill of winning the gold. On match point, Bob climbed halfway up the scoreboard to send a lob back and we ended up winning the point after a long and tough rally. We played well, and we were jacked about it.

BB: You know, tennis fans think that Wimbledon or the U.S. Open or the Davis Cup are the biggest titles to win, but to the average man on the street, winning an Olympic Gold seems to be the biggest thing.

MB: And for the next three months, we took those medals everywhere with us and kept ‘em in our tennis bags. Thousands and thousands of people came up to us and wanted to see and hold the medal and get their picture taken with it.

 

TSD: Your run of success is unparalleled.  How have you guys kept it going so long?  And how do you stay motivated when there really isn’t much in the sport you haven’t done?  

BB: Yes, we have reached every single goal that we set for ourselves on our list on the refrigerator when we were little tiny boys.

MB: Our parents always had us print our our short-term and long-term goals each year.  They were big believers in that and so are we, and we still do it.

BB: We are passionate about the great game of tennis, and we love playing and competing to this day — even though we have been playing for over 33 years now. And we just really like playing doubles together.

MB: We appreciate all the support we have received from the fans — not only in the U.S., but all over the world.  We have done our best to give back. Our parents and coach Gould certainly instilled that in us. We love what our Bryan Brothers Foundation has done to help deserving kids and kids programs through the years. We are proud to have donated over $700,000 to help youngsters in SoCal and across the nation.

BB: And we still like doing junior clinics and interacting with kids and their tennis and their music and their dreams.

 

TSD: Do you ever get tired of each other?

BB: Sometimes, but very not often. We actually get along pretty well. And if we are separated on different parts of the country, we end up calling each other about three or four times a day.

MB: The media is always trying to get a story of the Bryan Brothers not getting along, but it is very rare indeed.  

BB:  And not only do we like playing doubles together, but we also love playing music together. Our Bryan Brothers Band plays at about 15 big charity events and tournaments throughout the year. Jim Bogios, the famed drummer of the Counting Crows plays with our band lots. We have a blast doin’ it and have drawn some pretty huge crowds over the past few years, and we are blessed having some amazing musicians and singers in our group.

 

TSD: You said in 2013 that you’d like to retire after Rio … has anything changed in that regard? Will there be one last U.S. Open?

BB: Yeah, we said after we won London that we’d like to play Rio and then maybe call it a day. But now that it is just around the corner, we might like to stay on a big longer. Maybe one more year?

MB: Maybe two.

BB: We have been pretty fortunate to be injury-free most of our careers. We have hardly ever had to default a match.

 

TSD: What are you most excited for upon retirement?

MB: I don’t think we can say we are excited about retirement. We are having too much fun and we love what we do.  Look, nobody likes all the travel and all the time you have to spend on the road and in airplanes, airports and hotels, but all in all, it has been a great journey.

BB: And once again, we owe so much to Stanford and coach Gould and coach Whit.

 

Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Click here for more stories from our Road to Rio Olympic coverage.

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Gymnastics alums look back on Olympics http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/gymnastics-alums-look-back-on-olympics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gymnastics-alums-look-back-on-olympics http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/gymnastics-alums-look-back-on-olympics/#respond Sat, 28 May 2016 09:00:16 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115820 REBECCA WING ’15 HELPS BRITAIN TO 9th PLACE FINISH

As the starter on beam and bars for Great Britain’s women’s gymnastics team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Rebecca Wing ’15 knew her job was to set the tone for the rest of the team.

“You just couldn’t even hear anything because it was just so loud,” Wing said describing the atmosphere in the stadium. “It was actually amazing because when I competed our team was in the same rotation as China so it was packed.”

Rebecca Wing '15 competes on the bars for the GBR at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Rebecca Wing ’15 competes on the bars for the GBR at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, helping lead her country to ninth place.

Despite what would have been for most a pressure-packed competition, Wing was able to stay calm and consistent.

“Walking out into the arena, I was super nervous…this is what you’ve trained for your whole life,” Wing explained. “And then it hit me – this is it, I have nothing to lose anymore, I can’t get any higher than this so I’m just going to enjoy it. It was a really cool feeling.”

Drowning out the noise and maintaining her newly found composure, Wing did her job, posting a 14.1 on bars and a 14.575 on beam helping lead Great Britain to ninth place, the country’s highest ever finish in the event up to that point.

“I just had to hit my routine and I did it,” Wing said. “I was just really proud with how I did.”

Immediately following the Olympics, Wing thought that she wanted to make a run for London in 2012, but it wasn’t long before she realized she had new goals. Wing left any shot at a second Olympics behind when she accepted an athletic scholarship to Stanford and instead focused on helping the team to the National Championships in 2014 and 2015.

KRISTINA VACULIK ’15 MAKES HISTORY WITH CANADIAN WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS TEAM

In 2012, four years after Wing made history in Beijing, Stanford teammate Kristina Vaculik ’15 took the floor in London as a member of the Canadian Team.

After having not even qualified a team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Canada was ecstatic when it secured a seventh-place finish in the qualifying round, good enough to take one of the eight spots in the team final competition.

When the last scores trickled in to cement the final results, Vaculik and her teammates were in shock. When the scoreboard displayed Canada in fifth place, the country’s highest-ever team-finish, the five members all embraced each other and began crying.

“It was unbelievable,” Vaculik said, remembering the event nearly four years later. “I just kept being like, ‘No, that can’t be. No, there’s a mistake.’”

The United States, Russia, Romania and China – all historic gymnastics powerhouses – were the only teams to place ahead of Canada.

“A lot of times people are like, ‘Oh you went to the Olympics, did you medal?’ But it’s so much more than just medaling. It’s a lifetime worth of work and the whole team of people that you have behind you and the team of people that you have with you there.”

Vaculik’s road to London was anything but ordinary for an Olympic gymnast.

After just missing the cut to be named one of the two Canadian gymnasts headed to Beijing in 2008 (Canada only sent two gymnasts in 2008 because they didn’t qualify as a team), Vaculik originally wasn’t sure if she wanted to try again for the 2012 Games.

After accepting an athletic scholarship to Stanford, Vaculik decided to compete in college for a year on The Farm before taking a year off of school to prepare for London.

“I decided to continue the sport out of just pure enjoyment…because I did actually enjoy gymnastics just for the fun of it and I did just enjoy competing.”

On top of perfecting her college routines and taking on an intense collegiate competition schedule, Vaculik had to put in additional training to keep up her elite-level skills. At times, it was difficult to meet the demands and expectations of her teammates and coaches while still reaching for her own personal goal to compete on the biggest international stage.

“But in the end I’m really happy I stuck it out with Stanford because the experience there was invaluable and working through the struggles and learning how to work with people and how to trust in one and other and gain other people’s trust. I grew so much as a person.”

 

Contact Laura Stickells at lauraczs ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Click here for more stories from our Road to Rio Olympic coverage.

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http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/gymnastics-alums-look-back-on-olympics/feed/ 0 beckywing013 Rebecca Wing '15 competes on the bars for the GBR at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Timeline: Stanford at the Olympics http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/timeline-stanford-at-the-olympics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=timeline-stanford-at-the-olympics http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/timeline-stanford-at-the-olympics/#respond Sat, 28 May 2016 08:09:21 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115840     Contact Laura Stickells at lauraczs 'at' stanford.edu and Neel Ramachandran at neelr 'at' stanford.edu. Click here for more stories from our Road to Rio Olympic coverage. ]]> http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/28/timeline-stanford-at-the-olympics/feed/ 0 La Dow, sailing prepare for championships http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/26/la-dow-sailing-prepare-for-championships/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=la-dow-sailing-prepare-for-championships http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/26/la-dow-sailing-prepare-for-championships/#respond Fri, 27 May 2016 05:01:29 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115791 For Stanford sailing’s coed and team racing squads, the next week will offer them a chance to get a crack at their first ever program national title.

For sophomore skipper Will La Dow, the regatta also means a trip back home. La Dow grew up sailing at San Diego Yacht Club — the championship host venue — while a junior sailor and as a member of Point Loma High School’s sailing team, and he will launch his boat yet again from the club as an integral part of both Cardinal squads.

“I’m really excited to be back home,” La Dow says. “I feel really comfortable in the area and can’t wait to spend some time in my favorite city. I have only sailed at the specific venue a few times, so local knowledge won’t be an incredible advantage. With that being said, I have sailed well there in the past and have a pretty good idea of what to expect.”

La Dow is far from the only member of the “hometown crew” who will compete for the title at the championship. Just two of the top-10 sailing programs in the country are without a San Diego area native on their roster (none in the top-7), and many of the locals, including La Dow and Georgetown’s Nevin Snow, will play an integral role in determining which team is able to capture each of the titles.

“Every regatta feels like a reunion and that’s one of the coolest things about competitive collegiate sailing,” La Dow says. “A lot of my best friends sail at various schools around the country so events like this are a great opportunity to see everyone. On top of that, it will get to see my friends from home so I get the best of both worlds. However, when it comes down to it I’m there to win, so sailing comes first.”

La Dow has been a major reason why Stanford sailing has remained amongst the best teams in the nation this season. Together with senior skippers Antoine Screve and Axel Sly, La Dow has helped form a formidable team race squad that has easily become the best on the west coast.

La Dow has also been one of the skippers of choice in fleet racing, winning five of eight races in the A division of the conference championship with junior crew Nikki Obel.

While La Dow would love to cap his strong season with a top-rate performance at home, he knows that, in the deep championship field, nothing is a given.

“Doing well feels so much better at home. I’m definitely putting some pressure on myself, but, at the end of the day, there are a ton of talented sailors in the mix so it’s anyone’s game. I can promise we will put up our best fight and I’m excited to see how it ends up.”

Stanford began its championship campaign at the team race finals on Saturday and will continue on to the coed finals on Tuesday.

 

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Women’s golf falls barely short of repeat national title http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/26/womens-golf-falls-barely-short-of-repeat-national-title/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-golf-falls-barely-short-of-repeat-national-title http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/26/womens-golf-falls-barely-short-of-repeat-national-title/#respond Thu, 26 May 2016 13:11:54 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115727 For every unbelievable comeback story, there are inevitably at least a few that fall short. That was the case for Stanford women’s golf on Wednesday, as the team turned the almost worthless cards they held in the NCAA Championship into a real shot, only to end up leaving empty-handed.

A spectacular approach shot from Washington’s Julianne Alvarez in the second hole of a playoff turned out to be the final blow when senior Lauren Kim’s 15-foot putt to halve the hole landed just a hair to the right. This minuscule error handed the Huskies their first national championship and left Stanford’s title defense effort, quite literally, off by an inch.

The near miss concluded a wild saga that saw Stanford shift from being on the brink of elimination to a tentative position in the driver’s seat and then right back again. The Cardinal seemed neck-and-neck with the Huskies for most of the afternoon, until Washington’s Ying Luo chipped in a birdie on the 18th hole from 51 yards out, earning her a crucial win over junior Casey Danielson and putting her team just a single point away from securing the title.

Stanford senior Mariah Stackhouse, who achieved a level of recognition in the golf community for her clutch finals performance in 2015, still appeared in control of her match, but Kim, the team’s top-ranked golfer, faced an improbable climb to even her match and force Alvarez into a playoff.

Though the senior had made a 20-foot putt on 15 to extend the match and, minutes later, another match-saving birdie on 16, she still had to win both of her final holes just to continue her match beyond the 18th.

“I was hitting my approach in [on 15] and I happened to get a glance at the scoreboard, and I think we were down in three matches, so that motivated me to turn on some heat,” Kim said.

Kim made another long birdie on 17, then took advantage of a three-putt by Alvarez on 18 to complete her comeback from three down with three to play. Stackhouse was already in a playoff of her own after losing her lead on 17, meaning that both the Cardinal’s senior leaders found themselves in sudden death situations with the team needing both to come through reclaim their title.

“I had control for the majority of the day, and then on 15 she birdied and I kind of let my emotions get to me a little bit there for a second, just because I was disappointed with the result I got on my second shot,” said Stackhouse.

“I tried to turn it around, but her putter got hot. She just started making everything. But I was able to hold her off once we went into 18, and we halved that hole and continued.”

Stackhouse appeared to regain her composure on the extra holes, forcing a tough par from Washington’s Sarah Rhee on the first playoff hole before finally coming out on top with a well-played par on 18 after Rhee could do no better than a bogey. Kim still seemed in control as well, making a seven-foot par putt to halve the first playoff hole after another spectacular Alvarez approach shot and bringing the match back onto the 18th, where she had just recorded her key victory.

Unfortunately, Kim couldn’t replicate the quality of her fairway play from her first take of the hole, leaving herself with the long par attempt that ended her near-perfect run of form.

The putt will be the last in the college career of Kim, a four-year run that saw her help lead the Cardinal to their first national title in program history and position herself as one of the top collegiate golfers in the country. She and Stackhouse, who also leaves with the Stanford women’s course record, have played a major role in reshaping the program from a mid-tier power to a perennial contender for the NCAA championship.

Both Stackhouse and Kim are likely to move on to the professional circuit, leaving the team in the hands of the likes of Danielson, sophomore Shannon Aubert and freshman Sierra Kersten. Aubert secured the first Cardinal point in the finals on Saturday after leading from the second tee, while Kersten dropped her finals match but still played a major role for the team in the playoffs with a key win against Duke.

The team will have to look for additional contributors during the offseason, either through new recruits or through players reemerging from their current ranks. While it will be impossible to replace Kim and Stackhouse, if the team can find any new stars, it appears prepped to remain at the top of the game for years to come.

 

Contact Andrew Mather at amather@stanford.edu.

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Miller: Beware the Bad News Bears http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/miller-beware-the-bad-news-bears/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=miller-beware-the-bad-news-bears http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/miller-beware-the-bad-news-bears/#respond Thu, 26 May 2016 06:45:01 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115719 Heads have started to roll in Waco.

With Tuesday’s news that the Baylor Board of Regents intends to remove university president/chancellor Kenneth Starr from his post, it is clear the axe sharpened by the steady drip of sexual assault and violence incidents allegedly committed by members of the school’s football team – and the efforts to conceal them – has begun to fall.

And it may yet fall again. And it should.

To be clear: Ken Starr (who, ironically, was the chief investigator into the Monica Lewinsky scandal) presided over an institution whose judicial affairs process for handling cases of sexual misconduct between students was laughably inadequate, resulting in an unsafe campus environment certainly not conducive to higher learning. A well-respected jurist who was once a federal judge and a Supreme Court favorite, Starr should have known better. He should have done better. And for those shortcomings, he should no longer be the leader of what is supposed to be one of the nation’s premier Christian universities.

His legacy of public service, however unfortunately, will be forever tainted by both the actions of his institution’s football team during his chancellorship and the inaction of his administration to redress claims against players. Those are the consequences when your institution compromises its core values for the sake of on-field success; Baylor is not the first to sell out, and, sadly, will not be the last, either.   

But the responsibility for the current state of affairs in Waco is not Starr’s alone to shoulder. Though he is the scapegoat (for now), the axe wielded by the Regents should also come down on those with more direct control over a clearly out-of-control football program. Namely: head coach Art Briles. He is, at the very least, just as responsible as Starr for contributing to an unsafe campus environment, one that should have many families asking themselves: “Would I allow my daughter to attend Baylor?

To be clear (again): Art Briles’ tenure in Waco has been nothing short of a miracle, as he’s resurrected a moribund program into one of the nation’s most exciting and consistently successful. Since Briles assumed the reins in 2008, the Bears have gone 65-37 (including a 50-15 record from 2011 on), made six straight bowl game appearances (including two BCS berths) and have finished in the final AP top 15 in four out of the last five seasons. This recent boon came on the heels of a long era of embarrassment for Baylor football, whose last bowl victory and winning season prior to Briles’ arrival came in 1992 and 1995, respectively.

Under Briles, however, the list of his players either accused or found guilty of violent acts, including sexual assaults, has grown just as quickly as the program’s successes. One tally put the number of women alleging sexual misconduct by Baylor players since 2009 at nine – and that only counts those cases reported to the authorities. Given what we know about the rampant underreporting of sexual assaults on college campuses, that number could be, and likely is, higher.

Briles and his staff recruited those players. They brought them onto campus, awarded them scholarships and handed them uniforms. Two of those athletes – Sam Ukwuachu and Shawn Oakman – had already shown violent tendencies at their previous schools, and yet were still welcomed into the Bears’ program. In the case of Ukwuachu, Briles was “thoroughly apprised (by then-Boise State coach Chris Petersen) of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.” For the record, Ukwuachu’s previous girlfriend claimed he was “violently abusive with her.”

Not only that, Briles was aware of other incidents allegedly perpetrated by his players, but failed to remove them from the team and, unsurprisingly, allowed them back on the field. A sexual assault report was filed against Oakman in early 2013 (which, according a Baylor judicial affairs officer, Briles was informed about), but the star defensive end faced no public, team-issued punishment, eventually becoming the program’s all-time sack leader. In a predictable twist, Oakman was arrested last month for assaulting a Baylor graduate student.

The most egregious example, though, is that of Tevin Elliott, who was accused of sexually assaulting no fewer than six women from 2009-12. Briles, evidently, had knowledge of Elliott’s record, yet kept him on the team – likely because he led the Bears with eight sacks in the 2010-11 seasons. Elliott is now behind bars, serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted of one of the rapes.

At the end of the day, Briles is his players’ boss, and he shares responsibility for their on- and off-field conduct. He recruited, retained and protected players whom he knew or reasonably should have known were threats to the Baylor community. For that, he should suffer that same fate as Ken Starr; he won’t because the program has been on a hellacious tear with him at the helm. Such is the moral compass of big-time college football.

Bottom line: Football players certainly are not the only students on campus to commit crimes (whether sexual in nature or not), but what has occurred at Baylor University is unconscionable. The athletic department, like any other campus unit, is tasked with upholding the institution’s values, furthering its mission and, above all, ensuring the campus environment is safe and thus conducive to learning. Baylor Athletics – its football program in particular – has blatantly abrogated that responsibility.

That’s not just Ken Starr’s problem. There’s an axe to grind against Art Briles, too.

 

Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6@stanford.edu.

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Women’s tennis edges Oklahoma State for 18th national title http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/womens-tennis-edges-oklahoma-state-for-18th-national-title/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-tennis-edges-oklahoma-state-for-18th-national-title http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/womens-tennis-edges-oklahoma-state-for-18th-national-title/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 09:45:00 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115680 Down a set and facing match point, junior Taylor Davidson and the Stanford Cardinal’s hopes of an NCAA title were quickly fading.

On Court 2, Oklahoma State’s No. 44-ranked Vladica Babic had a formidable 6-3, 5-4 lead over Davidson, who found herself having to rely on a serve that had been shaky throughout the tournament. At 40-40, no advantage, Babic was just a point away from securing a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead for the Cowgirls.  

Davidson hit a big first serve, winning the 16-shot rally, and ultimately the match, as the Cardinal (20-5, 9-1 Pac-12) mounted an improbable comeback to win the 2016 NCAA Championship.

“Especially when it’s been three years since the last one, it’s very satisfying,” said head coach Lele Forood of the team’s first title since 2013 and its 18th in program history.

The nail-biting final ended a wild tournament run in which Stanford repeatedly defied the odds to stay alive. Despite their lowly 15th-seed, the Cardinal had snuck their way through the tournament with a series of close victories over Texas A&M, No. 2 Florida, No. 10 Michigan and No. 6 Vanderbilt. Stanford had suffered bouts of inconsistent play, but in every round, key players stepped up to lead Stanford to the NCAA final.

On the other side of the draw, 12th-seed Oklahoma State (29-5, 9-0 Big-12) seemed to be enjoying a nearly perfect tournament run. The team was riding an 18-match winning streak and had upset No. 5 Georgia, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 1 Cal on the way to the final.

Oklahoma State also had a massive home-court advantage in Tulsa, just an hour east of the Cowgirls’ home in Stillwater. Approximately 700 locals, proudly sporting traffic-cone orange fan gear, filled the Michael D. Case Tennis Center to support the local favorite’s attempt at a program-first NCAA title.

When Stanford dropped the doubles point, it seemed like the Cardinal would be limited to solid but not outstanding play yet again. In the semifinal, Oklahoma State had vanquished No. 1 Cal’s doubles, and their doubles strength was on full display again in the final.

After a quick win on Court 3, Oklahoma State jumped to an imposing 4-1 lead on Court 1 and thwarted a late comeback from Stanford’s junior duo of Davidson and Caroline Doyle, ultimately winning 6-3 to secure the always-crucial doubles point for the Cowgirls.

Oklahoma State came out on fire in singles play, dictating points and keeping Stanford players running corner to corner on the defensive. Stanford claimed only two out of six first sets, as Doyle and Hardebeck each took the first set 6-4 on Courts 3 and 4, respectively.

No. 100 Hardebeck stayed in control to defeat Oklahoma State’s Kelsey Laurente 6-4, 6-4, tying the dual match score at 1-1.

The only remaining starter from Stanford’s 2013 title run ended her illustrious career on a high note, winning 21 of her last 24 matches for the Cardinal.

“She’s had a phenomenal season,” said Forood of Hardebeck’s final year. “It was such a pleasure to see that we were going to get such an incredible performance by her this year, because it started to make things more possible for us seeing ourselves as potential champions…Today she was first on the court with a win for us, and that was really important.”

While Hardebeck played at the high level that has made her a major contributor this season, the rest of the Cardinal’s matches were full of ups and downs.

No. 25-ranked Zhao, the 2015 NCAA singles runner-up, was poised to force a third set after breaking Oklahoma’s Katarina Adamovic for 5-5, saving two match points in the process. However, Adamovic, ranked No. 47 nationally, closed the match 7-5 to put Oklahoma State up 2-1 in the dual match tally.

On Court 2, Davidson had trouble stepping forward during rallies and seemed fatigued from over a week of intense play. However, she found a way to break Babic at 5-5 and held for 7-5 to force a third set.

“We had lost first sets at Nos. 5 and 6 at that point, but I really felt good that we were going to get ourselves back into those matches,” said Forood. “We needed to find some other wins. That was very pivotal, Taylor’s match.”

Stanford’s shot at victory remained in doubt as Oklahoma State’s Viktoriya Lushkova forced a third set and won in convincing fashion against No. 67-ranked Doyle on Court 3. Lushkova, ranked No. 66 in the country, had amassed a 17-match winning streak coming into the match, while Doyle was mired in a downturn and had struggled to only one singles win in the NCAA tournament so far.

Though Doyle’s 6-4, 4-6, 1-6 loss made the score 3-1 in favor of Oklahoma State, the tides of the match had begun to turn. Davidson, Caroline Lampl and Melissa Lord had all gained early breaks of serve in their respective third sets, with Stanford needing all three matches for the victory.

On Court 5, freshman Caroline Lampl seized the momentum after being edged 4-6 in the first set. Lampl rediscovered her characteristic aggressive shot-making in the second, taking the set 6-3.

In the final set, Lampl worked her way to a 5-3 lead, going up 40-15 on her opponent’s serve to earn three match points. She would need just one, however, as Stresnakova’s final backhand flew wide to make the match score 3-2 in favor of the Cowgirls.

The win concluded a perfect 5-0 postseason for Lampl (her first match was uncompleted), including three-set wins over Michigan and Vanderbilt. The freshman was a phenomenal presence for the Cardinal at the bottom of the lineup all season, amassing a 30-5 record, 10 three-set wins and seven match-clinching wins, all team-bests.

With just two matches left, Stanford seemed to be in a promising position, as both Lord and Davidson took the court to serve for their respective matches.

After losing a tight first-set tiebreaker, Lord subsequently dominated the Cowgirls’ Carla Tur Mari to take a 6-2, 5-2 advantage in the second and third sets on Court 6.

Lord pieced together a brilliant final service game for the Cardinal, hitting two cross-court forehand winners to go up 40-15 and seal the match with an unreturnable first serve up the tee that evened the dual match score at 3-3.

The ever-calm freshman was clinically efficient throughout the postseason, going 6-0 and dropping just two sets en route to the final.

A mass of fans shifted to Court 2, where Davidson and Babic were locked in a third-set battle that would decide the national champion. Having already squandered a break, Davidson found herself up 5-4 with a second chance to serve for the match.

Unforced errors coupled with patient play from Babic quickly put Davidson in a 0-40 hole, as she dropped the game on a netted backhand to hand Babic her third straight game.

Having to regroup quickly under immense pressure wasn’t a foreign situation for Davidson, however. The junior had battled through four consecutive three-set matches in the tournament to help her team reach the final. Against Florida in the quarterfinals, Davidson had thrown away match points on consecutive double faults at 5-2 before coming right back to break at 5-3 and send Stanford through to the semis.

“It’s happened plenty of times now this tournament,” said Davidson of being the last out on court. “I kind of had a feeling that it was down to me.”

Physical exhaustion was also a factor, given the grueling postseason schedule that had the team play six matches in the span of 11 days, including the semifinal against Vanderbilt less than 24 hours before.

“I started cramping a little bit [at 5-2], and things didn’t feel as good,” she said after the match. “I knew if I could just stay in the match and make [Babic] hit a lot of balls, I was tougher than her.”

That was exactly the strategy Davidson adopted in the final games, playing superb defense at 5-5 to earn the break of serve and a third opportunity to serve out the match.

The final game was not lacking in drama, as Babic got ahead early and threatened to step in on Davidson’s second serve at 15-30. However, a perfectly placed Davidson kick-serve up the tee that clipped the inside of the line and could not be returned into play by Babic evened the score at 30-30. It was one of the most pivotal points of the match: Had Davidson — who had seen ups and downs on her serve all day — lost the point, her opponent would have had three chances at sending the match to a tiebreaker.

Instead, after a backhand that sailed long from Babic, Davidson found herself up 40-30 with two championship points on her racquet. A forced error evened the score at 40-40, making the most pressure-filled moment of the match (which switched to no-ad scoring for the first time this year).

After a sharp return from Babic, the players exchanged a back-and-forth rally during which Davidson found herself on the defensive for nearly the entirety of the point, hitting a number of slow slices and daring her opponent to miss. The tactic finally paid off when Babic sent a short, low Davidson slice wide on the 26th shot of the point, as Davidson collapsed and was mobbed by the entire Stanford team.

Davidson’s win was all the more remarkable considering her comeback in the second set: Had she not battled back from down 1-4, and saved a match point at 4-5, the Cardinal would have very likely been the ones clapping politely as Oklahoma State hoisted its first title.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking, ‘OK, I need to come back and try to win this match,’” said Davidson.

“I was thinking, ‘Stay on the court and maybe [Zhao] can split sets…Maybe it will help someone else relax a little bit and play better.”

It was a fitting end to the season for Davidson, who unexpectedly anchored the team at the No. 1 spot early in the year while Zhao competed on the professional circuit. In the NCAA Tournament, she stepped up yet again as Stanford battled its way to victory.

Stanford’s 18th title — more than all other programs combined since the tournament was introduced in 1982 — further cements the program as the winningest team in the sport.

 

Contact Alexa Corse at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu and Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Anatomy of a title: Zhao’s return helps ignite championship run http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/anatomy-of-a-title-zhaos-return-helps-ignite-championship-run/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=anatomy-of-a-title-zhaos-return-helps-ignite-championship-run http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/anatomy-of-a-title-zhaos-return-helps-ignite-championship-run/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 09:40:46 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115674 On a Saturday night late in February, Stanford head coach Lele Forood called her team together for a special announcement. It had been a rough start to the season for the Cardinal, whose two matches against top-25 teams had resulted in losses. Having started the season ranked seventh in the country before quickly falling to 16th, the team was getting ready to take on arch-rival No. 7 Florida the next day.

If the Cardinal did not feel at full strength, there was a reason: Carol Zhao, Stanford’s No. 1 player, had taken a break from collegiate play for the professional circuit during winter quarter. Zhao was not expected to rejoin Stanford’s lineup for another month. Meanwhile, the Cardinal had to contend with the Gators in just over 12 hours.

Forood surprised the team with welcome news: Zhao — who that day had finished as doubles runner-up at a $25,000 professional tournament in Rancho Santa Fe, California — was hustling back to the Farm to join Stanford’s lineup versus the Gators.

“We were all super fired up, because we found out the night before [that Zhao would rejoin the lineup],” junior Taylor Davidson said. “I think that momentum carried a lot into the match, because all of sudden our lineup was shifted and we were really confident.”

Zhao defeated Florida’s No. 12 Brooke Austin 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, and the Stanford squad notched its biggest win yet, joining forces to pull off a dramatic 4-3 upset.

Zhao, a junior, established herself as an “X factor” for Stanford since her arrival on the Farm, playing primarily at the No. 3 spot as a freshman during the 2013-14 season. Zhao reached a final national ranking of No. 22 in her freshman season.

As a sophomore, Zhao notched a 21-2 dual match record while playing at Stanford’s No. 1 spot and was the 2015 NCAA singles runner-up, earning a final national ranking of No. 2. Playing as Stanford’s No. 1 for latter half of this season, Zhao defeated six top-25 collegiate opponents and notched an 11-3 record. (Zhao is currently the No. 25-ranked collegiate player nationally, although that ranking may have been impacted by her absence for the first half of the season.)

Zhao arrived on the Farm in 2013 — along with blue-chips Davidson and Caroline Doyle — as part of one of Stanford’s best recruiting classes in recent history. The trio became the team’s core over the past three years, taking over the top three spots in the lineup their sophomore year.

In junior tennis, she rose to No. 9 in the world and won the Australian Open junior doubles in 2013. She is poised to extend her tennis success beyond the Farm as well: Zhao has notched wins over three top-100 WTA players and made her Fed Cup debut in doubles play on Canada’s team versus Belarus in February.

Although she is a junior, Zhao plans to pursue a professional tennis career and will not return to Stanford for the 2016-15 season.

While Zhao’s individual results are outstanding, she has distinguished herself by her ability to support the success of the team as a whole. This season, Stanford went 14-1 when Zhao was in the lineup.

“Having Carol back is awesome,” freshman Caroline Lampl said. “We were doing pretty well throughout the season, but honestly having her back is like having another family member back.”

It’s a testament to Stanford’s team ethos that Zhao’s return to the lineup was so successful. Early in the season, local journalists asked head coach Lele Forood if she worried about Zhao’s return upsetting the team’s dynamic: What about possible tension between teammates, since Zhao’s return inevitably knocked another Cardinal out of the six-person lineup? Who would partner together in doubles, since Zhao’s former doubles partner Taylor Davidson was now enjoying an outstanding doubles streak with teammate Caroline Doyle?

Those doubts were silenced when Zhao made her surprise return to the Farm for the dual match against top-ranked Florida — and the Stanford squad showed the first sign of momentum that culminated in a national title.

“Getting her back, we were able to get the wins we needed to get in the top 16, finally,” said head coach Lele Forood. “She’s a great player. She’s a great leader.”

Zhao suffered a rare loss, 6-4, 7-5, to Oklahoma State’s No. 46 Katarina Adamovic in the NCAA final. However, her ability to keep constant pressure on Adamovic until the very end helped keep Stanford in the match. Despite Zhao’s loss, her Stanford teammates rallied to clinch the program’s first NCAA Championship since 2012 in a thrilling 4-3 victory.

Stanford’s ability to clinch a national title, even without a win from Zhao, indicates the well-roundedness of the team which Zhao and her cohort of fellow juniors have styled over the last three years.

“She is such a role model,” Lampl said of Zhao. “As an underclassman, and for everyone in general, can learn from her. She’s just a great person to have around. We love her.”

 

Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Anatomy of a title: Freshmen Lord and Lampl earn key wins http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/anatomy-of-a-title-freshmen-lord-and-lampl-earn-key-wins/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=anatomy-of-a-title-freshmen-lord-and-lampl-earn-key-wins http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/anatomy-of-a-title-freshmen-lord-and-lampl-earn-key-wins/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 09:38:34 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115682 Stanford women’s tennis had more questions than certainty regarding its lineup going into the 2015-16 season, an unusual situation given the Cardinal’s long-established role as the standard-bearer of the sport.

The issue of openings in the lineup was made particularly acute by the temporary absence of Carol Zhao, Stanford’s usual No. 1, for the opening half of the season.

With as many as three spots up for grabs (out of a six-person lineup), the incoming class of freshmen was situated to play an outsized role in the team’s performance this season. The team could draw confidence from the fact that three of its freshmen were blue-chip recruits, among the top-25 in their high school senior classes: Melissa Lord, Caroline Lampl and Kimberly Yee.

“I think we knew as a team that we were a little young,” head coach Lele Forood said. “We had tremendous confidence that [our freshmen] were going to be to be really outstanding players for us.”

The freshmen rose to the challenge. And as Stanford claimed its 18th NCAA title in a dramatic 4-3 victory over Oklahoma State on Tuesday, it was the freshmen’s contributions that made it all possible.

“We needed our freshmen,” Foorod said after Stanford had claimed the NCAA Championship. “Their learning curve had to go up substantially this year, and clearly that happened.”

With Zhao’s return to the team’s lineup leaving two spots open for freshmen, Lampl and Lord ultimately assumed the roles of Stanford’s usual No. 5 and No. 6 respectively, as the regular season wound to a close. In the postseason, the duo took their already impressive play to a new level.

Lampl and Lord were the only Cardinal players who went undefeated during the title run. Lampl went 5-0 at the No. 5 spot (her first round match was uncompleted), while Lord followed suit with a 6-0 record at No. 6. Given that Stanford’s NCAA tournament run included four nail-biting 4-3 victories, every win was crucial.

Lampl thrived in the spotlight in the semifinals against defending NCAA champion Vanderbilt, when she clinched Stanford’s victory with a dramatic 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3 win at the No. 5 spot. The win over Vanderbilt’s Fernanda Contreras (a fellow freshman standout) marked the seventh time Lampl clinched a dual match for Stanford — twice as many as any of her other teammates.

“We had a rough start to the year,” Lampl said after Stanford defeated Vanderbilt and secured its spot in the NCAA final. “It didn’t look good at first, but we worked so incredibly hard. We used those two losses against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss at the beginning of the year to motivate us.”

Lord handily dispatched her opponents in straight sets in three of six rounds during the NCAA tournament, including her 6-1, 6-0 rout over Michigan’s Teona Velehorschi in the quarterfinal.

Lord’s three other NCAA matches went to three sets, but Lord never lost more than two games in the third set during the tournament.

In the Round of 16 against No. 2 seed Florida, Lord defeated No. 63-ranked Anna Danilina 3-6, 7-6 (0) 6-2, which evened the dual match score at 3-3, and thus made possible junior Taylor Davidson’s clinching singles win. Lord’s win over Danilina further demonstrated that the young Cardinal brought forth her best game for the postseason, since Lord had fallen to Danilina twice during the regular season.

In the NCAA final, both freshmen forced third sets and notched victories that evened the dual match score at 3-3, rendering moot Oklahoma’s State early 3-1 lead. Forood said that, despite the deficit, she was always confident that the two freshmen would yet again find a way to win.

“We had lost the first sets at Nos. 5 and 6, but I really felt good that we were going to get ourselves back into those matches,” Forood said.

Throughout the season, Stanford’s freshmen laid the groundwork for the team’s victories. In the NCAA final, the youngest Cardinal players did so again — on their biggest stage yet.

 

Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Women’s tennis: a season in review http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/womens-tennis-a-season-in-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-tennis-a-season-in-review http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/womens-tennis-a-season-in-review/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 09:36:51 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115690 Miss out on Stanford women’s tennis’ wild 2015-2016 season? Relive some of the team’s most notable moments here…

  • Dropped under .500 for the first time in program history, at 1-2 in February
  • Dropped to a season-low fifth in the Pac-12 standings midway through the season
  • Dropped to a season-low ranking of No. 23 nationally in March
  • Turned the season around with a 4-3 upset over No. 7 Florida in late February, which marked Zhao’s return to the team
  • Beat No. 1 Cal 4-3 in the final match of the regular season to rob the Bears of a perfect season and throw the Pac-12 standings into chaos
  • Beat USC in a winner-take-all match to clinch the Pac-12 title
  • Finished the season on a 10-match winning streak
  • Successfully defended match points against Michigan (quarterfinals) and Oklahoma State (finals) in the NCAA tournament— had the team lost either point, there would be no NCAA title
  • Taylor Davidson played five consecutive three-set matches in the tournament and provided three clinchers (Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma State)
  • Won 14 of last 16 tournament matches when seeded lower than opponent
  • Became the lowest seed, at No. 15, to ever to win an NCAA Championship, breaking the record set by the 2013 Cardinal team (No. 12)
  • Only two Stanford classes have graduated without an NCAA title since the championship was introduced in 1982
  • Marked their 33rd quarterfinal appearance, 30th semifinal appearance, 24th final appearance and 18th title in program history — more titles than all other teams combined

 

Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Women’s golf to face Washington in NCAA Finals http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/womens-golf-to-face-washington-in-ncaa-finals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-golf-to-face-washington-in-ncaa-finals http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/womens-golf-to-face-washington-in-ncaa-finals/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 09:34:48 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115652 For the No. 12 Stanford women’s golf team, the past two days could hardly have gone better.

On Monday, the final day of the NCAA individual championship, the team moved up three spots into second after collectively posting a tournament-best round of 9-under 279. Junior Casey Danielson played herself into a tie for the sixth-best individual in the country, while sophomore Shannon Aubert nearly broke the top-10 herself after her -3 round moved her up 16 spots.

Then, on Tuesday, Stanford progressed through the first two rounds of match play in relatively comfortable fashion. The Cardinal topped No. 18 South Carolina in the morning and No. 5 Duke in the afternoon, paving their way into the NCAA finals for the second time in two seasons.

“We feel very fortunate to have played some wonderful golf,” said head coach Anne Walker. “I couldn’t be more pleased with this group of student-athletes. I really think it will come down to the last hole, and I’m looking forward to being in that position with these guys.”

Danielson has proved crucial to the Cardinal’s title-defense efforts. In addition to being the top-performing Stanford golfer in both the regional tournament and the individual championship, Danielson won both her head-to-head battles in match play, including a crucial clincher against the former top-ranked amateur in the world, Duke’s Leona Maguire.

Danielson’s wins have added to her 5-0 career record in match play, a figure that shows how crucial she’s been to both the Cardinal’s recent playoff campaigns. It’s been a true team effort for the Cardinal thus far, however, as every golfer has stepped up when they were called upon.

Senior Mariah Stackhouse also went 2-0 on Saturday, coming up big on the 18th hole against South Carolina to secure Stanford’s final point. Senior Lauren Kim dominated her morning match as well, winning in just 13 holes after she built a 6-point lead with five to play. Meanwhile, sophomore Shannon Aubert hung with the NCAA individual champion, Duke’s Virginia Elena Carta, to give Stanford a safety valve and take some pressure off Danielson against Duke. And freshman Sierra Kersten, who has only played with the top squad for a fraction of the season, came up with a huge point in the Cardinal’s afternoon match to help send them to the finals.

The last remaining task for the Cardinal is to win their battle against No. 13 Washington. The Huskies appear to be built for match play to a large extent as well, surviving a pitched battle against top-seeded UCLA in the semifinals to make the championship.

Stanford and Washington have each come out on top of the other twice in the four tournaments in which both teams have played, though these results don’t necessarily translate all that well to the head-to-head format employed in the finals. The Cardinal will hope to utilize their experience in high-stakes situations against the Huskies without feeling the pressure to repeat the results of last year.

“I think it’s important for us to realize that it’s not about defending, it’s about winning the 2016 title,” Stackhouse said. “When we step on the tee tomorrow, that’s our goal.”

Stanford will tee off against Washington at 2 p.m. Wednesday, with live coverage available on the Golf Channel.

 

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Mather: What’s fanatical about fandom? http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/mather-whats-fanatical-about-fandom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mather-whats-fanatical-about-fandom http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/25/mather-whats-fanatical-about-fandom/#respond Wed, 25 May 2016 09:33:06 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115633 When I was 13 years old, my dad took me to a Lakers game which happened to be against the Miami Heat. Though it wasn’t quite as thrilling of a matchup as it sounds – both teams would get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs that year – it still seemed pretty tense because of who had suited up for each side: Kobe Bryant for Los Angeles and his former teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, for the visitors.

Our tickets were always right on the edge of away-fan territory, and even before the tip-off you could tell that it would be an especially lively place to be this time. Many of the people around us were dressed from head to toe in Heat gear, and that “playoff feel” that the Staples Center was so famous for during those years (sigh) was in full effect as the pregame festivities began to wind down.

It took only until the national anthem for one of the Heat fans sitting next to us to officially earn the label “obnoxious.” As the organ was finishing off the penultimate line of the song, the man in the seat next to me yelled out “Yeah, yeah” in a still-quiet stadium that hadn’t yet begun cheer for “the land of the free.” We eventually learned some complicated justification for this utterance that vaguely explained some tradition that apparently only a few guys and Shaq himself were privy to but, however you dress it up, it was weird.

Still, one line of this guy’s half-apology to us during the first quarter stuck with me much more than anything else about the game that day. In one way it was a quote and in another it was a definition, but mostly it was kind of just some words that sort of seemed make sense: “Sorry about this,” he said, “but after all, fan is short for fanatic.”

I don’t think I’d ever thought about what it meant to be a fan before that point, but something about this random Heat apologist’s phrase stuck. The three or four years that followed were the only ones of my life in which I haven’t loved sports, in part because I think I started to realize just how much fanaticism was involved in blindly supporting a handful of athletes just because they went to my parents’ alma mater or happened to play in the vicinity of my house.

In truth, I didn’t totally become a “fan” again until I went to a college of my own, where I share tons of unique experiences with the players on our teams. Even now, however, my claims to logical support of the Cardinal’s programs seem a bit tenuous. I’ve poured dozens of hours into watching, studying and covering Stanford football, for example, yet I can honestly only say I know a handful of players on the team on anything more than a casual basis.

Considerations like these haven’t ever stopped anyone in history from caring about different athletic events. The Romans didn’t flock to the Colosseum because they had some sort of direct connection with the poor souls clashing beneath them. In a recent article about the politics of Tunisia, George Packer indicated that being a Tunisian soccer fan used to mean subjecting yourself to beatings, insults and all kinds of personal harm for a team that didn’t really even care that you existed. That didn’t stop thousands of people from doing it.

Part of this may have been for the communities that develop around sports, but totally using that as an explanation is really trying to fit a black-and-white solution on an extremely colorful problem. I know plenty of people (myself included) who have gone to various Stanford games when they had no guarantee of companionship in the stands just because they enjoy watching the sport. This explanation also doesn’t really explain some of the nastier aspects of fandom, like why we hate our rivals so much or why we throw around so many insults when game day comes around.

If any part of fandom borders on the fanatical, it’s that last point. I can’t explain why, as a longtime Clippers fan, I hate the Golden State Warriors so much. Everything about the team bugs me, from their stupid on-the-court celebrations to their hard fouling to the intolerable hordes of fair-weather fans that suddenly adore them. Is this just me adopting the personality shared by all Clipper fans? Are we really that invested in seeing our guys avoid failure that everything is distilled to good versus evil? Both explanations sound crazy, but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

When Stanford reached the Rose Bowl this year, it added yet another twist to my understanding of fandom. Iowa was the alma mater of my dad’s entire side of the family (even I have a one-class transcript from the school), and I’ve watched them play on TV since at least 2002, probably earlier. Of course, I still bled Cardinal, but for once I was cheering for a game in which the enemy was merely defeated and not destroyed. The reactions to the on-the-field massacre, coupled with flak that Stanford media poured on to the state of Iowa for a senate bill that everyone in the world knew was the stupidest attempt to grab votes seen by mankind (aside, maybe, from a post about the same game from one of our alums) made me feel like something in my voting interests was amiss.

I do partially blame the sports media for some of the more extreme cases of ridiculousness. Every saga is written with so much fervor these days that it’s hard for any reader to remain unattached. I realize reporters are largely responding to market trends, but that’s not a justification so much as an unfortunate reality. It’d be great if we didn’t have to write polarizing articles to get page views, but that’s just how the world works.

I’ve tried to be a “better” sports writer since I started to understand these notions, a little less dramatic in victory and a little more reasoned in defeat. I think it’s a balance that comes with time. It crosses my mind that the real objective for anyone at any athletic event I attend is just to have fun, which probably works better if I don’t write a Greek tragedy for every single storyline. By the same token, however, “better fanatic” sounds sort of like an oxymoron, and being one or writing for one sounds a little dull.

For now, my personal sports loyalties remain as strong as ever. I’m not sure I can totally justify why they haven’t changed, but I’ve thought up an explanation that works for me: I buy in because of how much everyone else is invested. There’s something special about being able to feel sympathy for our friends who see their teams fall, or share in the triumphs of those who win.

This system has led me into plenty of weird situations, but I’m not sure it’s more illogical than anything I’ve tried before. I was generally happy when the Thunder beat the Warriors in Game 4 last night, but part of me held back because of the few long-time Warriors fans I know who I genuinely felt for. The biggest realization of my exploration process is that it’s hard to really care about something, even if it’s something silly like a sports team, but people who do deserve our respect. On the flipside, it’s easy to punish someone for getting too invested in something, but at the end of the day, it is what it feels like: a cheap shot.

I think this is something that I – and almost every sports fan, really – could afford to take a little more to heart.

 

If you’ve read any of Andrew Mather’s stories you might remember how they are often packed with dramatic lines and exaggerated metaphors. If you think Andrew should take some of his own advice, send him an email at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Men’s tennis comes up short against No. 2 UCLA in round of 16 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/23/mens-tennis-comes-up-short-against-no-2-ucla-in-round-of-16/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mens-tennis-comes-up-short-against-no-2-ucla-in-round-of-16 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/23/mens-tennis-comes-up-short-against-no-2-ucla-in-round-of-16/#respond Tue, 24 May 2016 06:38:18 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1115582 The No. 29 Stanford men’s tennis team (16-11, 4-3 Pac-12) went into the NCAA championships with plenty to prove. Although the team was making its 37th overall NCAA championships appearance, this year’s squad had managed both moments of brilliance and moments of immense struggle. At one point in the season, the Cardinal sunk to become the No. 43 ranked team in the country before rebounding to No.29 ahead of the NCAA championships.

Maciek Romanowicz. Photo by Sam Girvin

Senior Maciek Romanowicz (above) was a bright spot in Stanford’s season-ending 4-2 loss to UCLA, clinching both his singles and doubles matches. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

It was in this landscape that Stanford entered into the tournament, ready to work past this season’s struggles against higher ranked opponents. It partly accomplished this in the second round against No. 14 Northwestern, when it emerged victorious in a 4-3 upset led by the bottom of the lineup and sophomore Tom Fawcett in the No. 1 position.

However, the team found itself unable to once again flip the script against Pac-12 rival and national powerhouse No. 2 UCLA (25 – 3, 7-0), losing 4-2. The Bruins proved to be too big an obstacle four times this season, beating Stanford twice during the regular season and knocking it out of the Pac-12 semifinals and again in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament on Friday.

The Cardinal captured the doubles point to start the match, something they had done in each of their three previous matches against UCLA. The No. 3 doubles team of junior Yale Goldberg and freshman Sameer Kumar quickly took control and captured their set in a 6-1 victory. Senior Nolan Paige and sophomore David Wilczynski would not be so fortunate, falling 6-4 to UCLA in the No. 2 position. This left the always-crucial doubles point up to both teams’ top doubles players, who were locked in a tightly contested match.

Fawcett and senior Maciek Romanowicz stepped up their play and managed to come from behind and clinch the doubles point in the No. 1 position in a 7-5 battle. This was the high point for the Cardinal in the match, who moved into singles ahead on the scoreboard.

That lead was quickly erased as No. 15 Fawcett was quickly toppled by UCLA’s No. 1 singles player and the No. 6 player in the nation, Mackenzie McDonald, 6-1, 6-2. The No. 2 and No. 3 matches also ended in UCLA’s favor, with freshman Michael Genender and No. 87 David Wilczynski losing 7-5, 6-2 and 7-5, 6-3 respectively.

With Stanford quickly losing three singles points, the team found themselves down 3-1 in the match and on the verge of being knocked out of the tournament. With three matches left to play, the Cardinal would need to win all three in order to advance.

Maciek Romanowicz briefly provided a burst of momentum as he fired back with a 6-3, 7-6 victory at the No. 6 position. However, the moment would be brief, as UCLA’s Karue Sell outlasted Nolan Paige in a gritty three-set match. Paige had managed to stay tough in the first set and claim it in a tiebreak, but he proved unable to close out the match and fell 6-3, 6-0 in the second and third sets.

While UCLA clinched the match 4-2, this was still an improvement on their meeting with Stanford in the Pac-12 Championships, when the Cardinal lost 4-1. This was also Stanford’s best finish in the tournament since 2012 and its best finish under second-year head coach Paul Goldstein. While the team graduates two starting seniors in Paige and Romanowicz, a core of young players led by Fawcett should prove to be powerful building blocks for next season and the future.

 

Contact Amanda McLean at ammclean ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/05/23/mens-tennis-comes-up-short-against-no-2-ucla-in-round-of-16/feed/ 0 Maciek Romanowicz. Photo by Sam Girvin Maciek Romanowicz. Photo by Sam Girvin