Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer sounded a little nostalgic Friday when discussing her two seniors, Brittany McPhee and Kaylee Johnson, on the eve of the NCAA tournament, in which the Cardinal serves as first and second round host through Monday.
"It's bittersweet to think of them being here since freshmen year to their senior year," VanDerveer said. "I've seen their growth. I can see them as high school players and now to see them as senior leaders, it's something special."
Johnson enters Saturday's 3 p.m. game against Gonzaga (27-5) with 968 rebounds, eighth on Stanford's all-time list and eight behind former teammate Erica McCall for seventh. Johnson's 160 career blocks are three shy of Kristen Newlin for fifth overall.
"At this point it doesn't matter who you play or what the seeding is,"Johnson said. "All that is going to matters is how you're going to go out and perform that night when the time comes. We were disappointed in the outcome of the Pac-12 tournament. It didn't feel good."
Brittany McPhee is one of 39 players in program history to surpass 1,000 points. She currently sits 30th overall with 1,207 and would need the Cardinal (22-10) to play at least two more games for a chance to move up.
"I'm just excited and gratified for any extra game we get," McPhee said. "I'm going to soak up every minute, have fun and give it my all."
Junior Alanna Smith, with 948 points and 141 career blocks, is on the cusp of reaching a few milestones. She has 56 on the season, the 13th-best single-season in Stanford history. She's two blocks from joining the top 10 and six from matching Chiney Ogwumike for seventh all-time.
Kiana Williams and Maya Dodson are also moving up single-season lists. Williams is a 3-pointer away from matching Lindsey Yamasaki (65) for second and Dodson is a block away from matching Smith (24) and joining the top 10.
Stanford is 34-4 at home during the postseason (34-3 in the NCAA tournament) and is riding a 14-game home winning streak, with the last loss in the second round of the 2007 tournament.
The last postseason game played at Maples Pavilion was two years ago, when the Cardinal held off South Dakota, 66-65.
"I'm excited to what we can do this tournament," VanDerveer said. "We have to play very well in order to make a deep run."
Stanford is the fourth seed of the Lexington regional. Gonzaga is seeded 13th and playing in its 10th NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs are no strangers to Maples Pavilion, beating Stanford last year and playing their first NCAA game there in 2007.
Gonzaga is on a seven-game winning streak and has won 21 of its last 22 games.
Jill Barta leads Gonzaga with her 18.8 scoring average and 8.4 rebounding average. She scored 26 points on 8 of 10 shooting against the Cardinal in the last meeting.
"She's a great post player and has a good outside shot," Johnson said. "It will be a challenge and I'm looking forward to stepping up for it."