Tomorrow the No. 7 ranked women’s basketball team opens its regular season at home against UC Davis. This will also mark the start of Coach Tara VanDerveer’s 40th season as a collegiate head coach. After throttling Vanguard 87-36 last Thursday at home in an exhibition game with 12 players scoring, the Cardinal is ready to begin their season.
While Stanford didn’t play UC Davis last year, in 2016 they beat the Aggies 68-42. Stanford is 11-7 against UC-Davis overall, but all seven of these losses were before 1980. The Cardinal has also won their last 19 straight home openers.
They may not be U-Conn, but UC Davis could be a tougher opponent than expected. While they aren’t ranked, they had a strong exhibition game showing as well, beating Cal State East Bay 94-41. They return their leading scorer Morgan Bertsch, a redshirt senior who averaged 20.1 points per game last season. Bertsch was also the team leader in blocks, almost doubling the number of the second-leading blocker.
On the Stanford side, keep an eye out for senior forward Alanna Smith and sophomore guard Kianna Williams, both of whom were on the John R. Wooden Award Women’s Preseason Watch List. This is a list of 30 players who are seen as early front runners to be on the all-American team and/or winners of the Most Outstanding Player award. Smith was the team leader last season in total points scored, with an average of 13.5 per game, and rebounds, with an average of seven per game. She also played on the Australian national team in the FIBA World Cup this past summer, helping them win silver. Williams averaged 10.4 points per game last season and was named to the Pac-12 All Freshman team.
Based on the exhibition game, this could be a big season for sophomore forward Maya Dodson and freshman forward Lexie Hull. They scored 10 and 11 points, respectively, against Vanguard. Hull and her twin Lacie Hull also both recorded two steals, showing defensive dominance that could be on display throughout the season. Another freshmen to watch out for is Jenna Brown, a 5’10 guard who was named the 2018 Senior Girls’ Basketball Athlete of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association.
Between the strong returning core and exciting new freshmen, Stanford women’s basketball again appears to be one of the top teams in the nation. The continuation of the team’s recent dominance starts at 7 p.m. at Maples.
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu