Adding a champion to the mix
Northwestern grad Spencer added to Stanford coaching staff
Sticking with the old philosophy of "If you can't beat them, join them," the Stanford women's lacrosse program brought in what it hopes is the missing piece to boost the Cardinal into the elite of women's collegiate lacrosse.
Stanford added Danielle Spencer, a two-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion at Northwestern, to its coaching staff as an assistant to coach Amy Bokker.
"We think it's a great benefit for us," Bokker said. "She's a proven champion in what she has done as a player, so we're really excited for her to bring that to our program."
The Cardinal is coming off their second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, but both trips ended in the first round. Last May, Stanford stayed with No. 4 Florida before succumbing, 13-11.
"We're just hoping with that enthusiasm and experience she has in the tournament, it can really help us to get to where we want to go," Bokker said.
Spencer said while she wasn't too familiar with the Cardinal before Northwestern faced them her senior year, that one meeting was enough to convince her of the program's potential. Stanford forced a 10-10 tie in the second half before Northwestern rallied for an 18-11 victory.
"I remember thinking that they were just a really tough team and I didn't expect that," Spencer said. "I knew about Stanford obviously just because it's a well-known school across the country but didn't know much about Stanford lacrosse (before the game)."
After graduating from Northwestern in 2010, Spencer moved to the Bay Area to do marketing for a software company. However, Spencer kept herself involved with the game, coaching several club teams and offering private lessons while playing for the national team as well. She also attended Stanford's games this past season.
"That was pretty exciting for me when I was interviewing for the job because I knew the potential that Stanford had," Spencer said.
She was also familiar with Bokker, who coached her as an assistant on the national team.
"It really helped with my relationship getting to know her a little bit better," Bokker said. "That definitely factored in to things from a relationship standpoint and knowing her character and her work ethic."
Having coached her and against her during Spencer's collegiate days, Bokker knows what the 6-foot-2 midfielder can bring to the table.
"She's a total presence on the field," Bokker said. "I'm hoping that she'll be that as a coach as well."
Still, given that this is Spencer's first coaching job beyond the club level, an adjustment period is to be expected.
"Playing and coaching are kind of two different animals," Bokker said. "We're looking forward to helping guide her in that way and bring her field play experience to the sidelines."
Spencer said that though she is only two years out of college and still playing, she believes that gives her an upper hand.
"Even though I'm young, I think that gives me an advantage in that I am still playing, so I'm with the most modern game, the most cutting-edge piece of the sport," Spencer said.
Spencer's youth may also allow her to better connect and communicate with Stanford's players.
"It's real beneficial to have somebody that role that can maybe see the field a little bit more through their eyes," Bokker said.
With the Cardinal's eye on competing for a national championship, Spencer said she believes the team is not far off and that maybe her winning ways at Northwestern can translate to Stanford.
"I hope that I can bring a lot of knowledge of what I went through as a player at Northwestern, which led us to our success," she said. "Sometimes it's the intangibles or just the little things that you tweak to a certain drill that you do in practice."
Spencer, whose 110 draw controls her senior season rank third in NCAA history, even has her first coaching task lined up. A rule change to draws taking place next year will allow only three players from each team inside the restraining lines.
"That's something that we'll probably lean on Danielle a little bit to be in charge of," Bokker said.