Last weekend, in the exhibition game against UCSD, head coach Tara VanDerveer gave Alexa Romano her first career start. The sophomore scored 11 points, converting three of her six attempts from deep. Can Romano step up even more against top-ranked defenses in the nation and attempt to help fill the void left by Karlie Samuelson?
Laura Anderson (LA): I think we could see Romano have a breakout season. It will be difficult to replace Karlie Samuelson, who was such a force last season, but the duo of Romano and junior guard Marta Sniezek can step up to run the new offense this year. Add in freshman guard Kiana Williams, a top-10 recruit, and the Cardinal could see a dominant fast-break offense this season.
Gregory Block (GB): Romano’s performance on Saturday was big for the Cardinal, who need another guard to pair with Sniezek in the backcourt. Whether it’s Romano, Anna Wilson or freshman Kiana Williams, Stanford’s guard play may be by committee, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be one of the more explosive backcourts in the conference. The Cardinal should be able to stretch the floor, play fast and shoot from the perimeter, and this combination will help fill the large void left by Samuelson and the other senior leaders from last year’s team.
Ellie Chen (EC): It was amazing to see Romano play so well on Saturday. She is a stellar athlete. In high school, she won the state championship in the 400 meters, high jump and long jump; she definitely has the athleticism to excel against top-ranked defenses. Karlie Samuelson was the heart of the team, and Romano will need to step up as an emotional and vocal leader to help fill that gap. I’m very excited to see Romano play this year.
Against UCSD, the Cardinal lacked a heavy presence in the paint in the first half before freshman Maya Dodson, sophomore Nadia Fingall and senior Kaylee Johnson played more aggressively in the second half. Who, if anyone, will replace Erica McCall as the dominating force in the key for Stanford?
LA: Junior Shannon Coffee, the only center on the team, will get more minutes this season and could be a force by the basket. What’s really exciting about Coffee as a player is her ability to shoot from deep, which could spread the offense and allow for more versatile looks. Another player who might get looks in the key is freshman forward Maya Dodson. Dodson can use her size to play a forward/center hybrid role. Senior forward Kaylee Johnson is another aggressive rebounder for the Cardinal. Johnson averaged 5.1 rebounds per game last year.
GB: Maya Dodson is a force in the paint and by midseason, she will be a dominating presence for the Cardinal. Dodson is only a freshman, but she had three blocks and seven rebounds against UCSD and showed flashes of her defensive potential. She was one of the top recruits in the country and her coaches and teammates have praised her play so far this preseason. Coffee is more experienced, and will also assume a larger role this year, but I think Dodson will quickly become the star of the frontcourt.
EC: I would love to see Fingall step up inside. She is an outstanding athlete, with not only a great mid-range jumper, but also a strong post presence. With more minutes and more confidence, I think Fingall has the capacity to excel inside. Alana Smith should also establish an inside presence, especially because she can take advantage of driving to the basket/posting inside as teams will have to guard her upfront on the perimeter. Maya Dodson will have to use her length and strength to rebound and score inside as well.
Last year, Alanna Smith and Brittany McPhee had breakout seasons, drastically improving their stat lines. The Aussie was the team’s best scorer during the NCAA tournament, while the senior was second most improved conference player. Who do you see having a similarly improved season this year?
LA: I’m excited to see what Nadia Fingall does this season. The sophomore forward started eight games when then-junior Kaylee Johnson was out with an injury, and she also came in off the bench throughout the year. With more playing time, Fingall could fill gaps left by McCall and Briana Roberson, pulling down rebounds and blocking shots with her height.
GB: I think Anna Wilson could have a surprising year for the Cardinal. She wasn’t able to stay healthy last year, missing 22 games due to injury, but she’s a talented scorer who is hungry to get back on the court. She may not start many games due to the emergence of Alexa Romano, but she could definitely provide a spark off the bench and be a critical piece of Stanford’s likely tournament run.
EC: Marta Sniezek has already been an amazing point guard for the Cardinal, but I expect her to look for her own shot more this season. She’s an assist machine, but she has the potential to score more than she has in the past, and I know Coach VanDerveer has given Sniezek the green light. Without the offensive threat of Roberson and Samuelson on the perimeter, Sniezek will have to seek out her own shot more. I think she will become much more of a scoring presence this season, which will be fun and exciting to see.
OSU scored 135 while UConn put up 119 points in their respective exhibition wins last week, how can the Cardinal contain these two very prolific offenses?
LA: The key for Stanford this year will be well-rounded team play. With the loss of three star seniors, the Cardinal need to rely their versatility on both offense and defense in order to be successful. Sophomore guard Dijonai Carrington could step up as an aggressive force as she did mainly off the bench last season. Carrington earned 80 rebounds and had 19 steals in 35 games last year. Stanford has a group of multifaceted forwards including Johnson and freshman Estella Moschkau that will chip in on defense to hold off top teams like OSU and UConn.
GB: Defense is always a team effort, and the Cardinal will need contributions from everyone if they want to match up to two elite opponents. Dijonai Carrington is the defensive leader of this team, but Marta Sniezek will have to hold her own in the backcourt, especially against the Buckeyes, who are led by standout guard Kelsey Mitchell. This early in the season, though, it is rare for teams to have solid defensive chemistry, so it will be a challenge for the young Cardinal against a couple of high-octane and experienced offenses. Stanford probably won’t be able to completely contain the Huskies and Buckeyes, but if the underclassmen can come off the bench and play tough defense, they may be able to slow them down.
EC: Versus UCSD, Stanford was out-rebounded 39 to 42. This is not good considering that Stanford had a huge size (and athletic) advantage over the Tritons. To contain more dynamic teams like UConn and OSU, the Cardinal must do a better job rebounding on both ends of the court. With their athleticism, UConn and OSU would capitalize on offensive boards, so Stanford must minimize number of second chance opportunities by consistently boxing out. Rebounding wins games, and Stanford will have to be a much better rebounding team this weekend than last weekend to contend with OSU and UConn.
Contact Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu, Gregory Block at gblock ‘at’ stanford.edu and Ellie Chen at ellie170 ‘at’ stanford.edu.