By Angie Wang
The Stanford women’s basketball team begins pre-season training with momentum after a strong season under coach Tara VanDerveer. Last season, the Cardinal finished second in the Pac-12 tournament, losing to Oregon in the title game. In the NCAA tournament, the team defeated Gonzaga and Florida Gulf Coast and reached the Sweet Sixteen for the eleventh consecutive time, but ultimately lost to Louisville in the round of 16.
Graduating seniors Brittany McPhee ’18 and Kaylee Johnson ’18 were crucial to the Cardinal’s success this past season. Both were starters; McPhee often led the team in points and Johnson consistently grabbed rebounds.
“Besides their on-court contributions, [McPhee] and [Johnson] were our captains as well,” assistant coach Lindy LaRocque said. “I think that what our team will need to make up for and re-find is its leadership.”
“Every year, we go through this ‘identity crisis,’” Alanna Smith ’19 said. “But we have the pre-season training and exhibition games to figure that out.”
Smith said that the team’s depth and ability to run should make for fast-paced games. The roster shows last year’s young team maturing. The team is now led by a group of eight upperclassmen.
Smith is one of three returning starters who hopes to have another strong season. Last season, she was voted as All-Pac-12. Point guard and starter Marta Sniezek ’19 should also bring abundant on-court experience as well. Sniezek was named Pac-12 All Defensive Honorable Mention last season.
The third returning starter, Kiana Williams ’21, had a stellar freshman season as a shooting guard, scoring double digits in 19 of her last 28 games. Last season, she was named the Pac-12 freshman of the week twice and voted to the Pac-12 All Tournament team. Williams should continue making an impact.
“Our team last year was really resilient,” LaRocque said. “We played a really tough schedule, had some injuries … We never got too high and never got too low. It’s something that’s hard to teach, and I’d like them to carry that forward.”
The Cardinal welcome a strong recruiting class — wing players Lexie and Lacie Hull and guard Jenna Brown. Brown was selected to play on the U18 National Team that will represent the United States in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in early August. The freshmen are using the summertime as an opportunity to adjust both academically and athletically.
Both Smith and Williams say that in addition to a more experienced team, staying focused will be crucial for having success. Williams noted last season’s strong start to the Pac-12 tournament but not playing their best toward the end.
“We lost to some teams that we definitely should’ve won against [last season],” Smith said. “It’s studying the game, watching film, making sure everyone is on the same page.”
The Cardinal play their first exhibition game on Nov. 1 against Vanguard in Maples Pavilion.
Contact Angie Wang at 19awang ‘at’ castilleja.org