Sports

Plenty at stake for Stanford women in NCAA hoop opener

 

For milestone events, the opening rounds of the NCAA women's basketball tournament this weekend at Maples Pavilion have to rank near the top. There are individual, as well as team achievements, on the line when fourth-seeded Stanford (24-9) hosts No. 13 Cal State Northridge (23-9) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Fifth-seeded Oklahoma (20-11) meets No. 12 Quinnipiac (31-3) at 1 p.m., with the winners vying for a spot in the Sweet 16 in Oklahoma City on Monday at 3:30 p.m. in Maples.

"The Pac-12 has gotten us ready for the NCAA and we expect to do well," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It is time to take on the rest of the country."

VanDerveer will be going for win No. 800 as Stanford's coach and the Cardinal will be going for win No. 500 in Maples Pavilion when it faces off against the Matadors.

VanDerveer currently owns a 799-165 record at Stanford, and is 951-216 overall. Winning would make her the 10th college basketball coach, men's or women's, with 800 victories at a single Division I school.

Stanford is 499-87 (.852) at home since the varsity program was instituted for the 1974-75 season, and 120-5 (.960) since 2007-08.

The Cardinal has shown the ability to beat the best, including overall No. 1 seed Connecticut, and also lose to a pair of teams with sub .500 records.

"Once you go out there, we need people to remember how well we have played," VanDerveer said. "To focus on our positive games and positive things people have done."

Stanford ended the regular season beating Pac-12 regular-season champion Oregon State in Corvallis, and then losing two days later to host Oregon, which finished in a ninth-place tie in the conference. The Cardinal also lost to Arizona, which finished in a last-place tie with Utah.

"Our team knows anything is possible," VanDerveer said. "But you have to do it on the court."

VanDerveer has made a career of finding what is possible. She came to Stanford in 1985 following successful stints at Idaho, where she led the Vandals to the AIAW championship in 1980, and Ohio State, which reached the NCAA Elite Eight in her final year there.

VanDerveer struggled through her only losing season in 35 years as a college coach her first year at Stanford, and has said in the past that year taught her a valuable lesson in preparation. It was either get a lot better or find a new profession.

She also turned recruiting into a strength. Stanford admission policies are so strict, that it has led more than one coach to leave for other schools. VanDerveer, of course, never left.

Her first major recruit was a point guard out of Oak Ridge, Tenn. and Jennifer Azzi, a freshman in 1986-87, became the face of Cardinal women's basketball.

The Cardinal went 13-15 in her first year, finishing fifth in the Pac West. Her first game was a 68-65 victory over Hawaii and she also endured a nine-game losing streak, something that has never been repeated under VanDerveer.

Her top players were Jill Yanke (13.0 ppg), Evon Asforis (8.4 rpg) and Virginia Sourlis (139 assists). They were the pioneers who helped blaze a magnificent trail of success. Azzi helped line it with gold.

Stanford reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in 1988, Azzi's sophomore year. Stanford won the national title two years later.

Current assistant Kate Paye was a member of the 1992 national championship team.

VanDerveer took a year off to coach the 1996 U.S. Olympic team that went 60-0 during her tenure, earning the gold medal. Associate coach Amy Tucker helped guide the Cardinal to a Final Four appearance in her absence.

This year, Stanford earned its 28th consecutive and 29th overall NCAA tournament bid by winning the conference tournament to earn the Pac-12's automatic berth.

The first, and only, other time Stanford and Cal State Northridge have met was over 36 years ago, on Jan. 6, 1979, when the Cardinal beat the Matadors, 98-69, in Maples Pavilion, which will host NCAA games Nos. 60-62 this weekend.

Only Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena has hosted more, with 63 entering the weekend.

The Cardinal is 30-4 all-time in NCAA tournament games at Maples Pavilion and has won its last 10 straight. Stanford is 7-7 against this year's NCAA field.

Since its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1982, Stanford has won two national championships (1990, 1992), reached 12 Final Fours (1990-92, 1995-97, 2008-12, 2014), 17 Elite Eights, 21 Sweet 16s and compiled an NCAA Tournament record of 75-26 (.743).

Cal State Northridge recorded its best season in program history regardless of division, winning a school record 23 games.

The Matadors own a road victory at NCAA qualifier BYU and lost at USC in overtime. CSUN also lost to NCAA qualifier Florida Gulf Coast at a neutral site.

"We are extremely excited to challenge ourselves against one of the most storied programs in the history of our game," Matadors' coach Jason Flowers told the team's website.

The Matadors, who also beat Long Beach State twice, enter the postseason on a nine-game winning streak. The 49ers won more than 20 games on the year.

"Everyone keeps the same mindset, focusing on the team in front of us," Stanford senior Taylor Greenfield said. "We live in the moment in that."

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