Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pitching Our Way Back into the Olympics

Today's blog is a guest post from high school student Lydia Dunbar. She had a high school assignment to write about something important to her. She chose softball, specifically why it should be brought back to the Olympics. And unlike C and R, she even provides the links at the end where she got stuff. And unlike C and R again, she actually edited it carefully and there are NO typos! Such a change of pace! And really unlike C and R, she listens to All Things Considered on low volume instead of watching reality TV.

Okay, here's more from Lydia.

"The reason I wrote an article about softball in the Olympics and why it should be reinstated is because softball is a topic that is very important to me. I have been playing since I was six years old (I am seventeen now) and I remember how exciting it was to watch the USA Olympic team execute perfect plays in the infield and make spectacular throws from the outfield. I just think that Olympic softball players provide an inspiration for younger girls to become better softball players. Jennie Finch, the starting Olympic pitcher, is a phenomenal player and I remember when I was growing up I really wanted to pitch like her. I don't pitch anymore, but I still love watching how fast she throws the ball."

After removing all her nice MLA formatting, here is her article in its entirety:

Pitching Our Way Back into the Olympics

Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman are two of the best pitchers on the United States Olympic softball team. Of course that was not always the case. Like many other celebrities, they grew into fame by becoming increasingly better athletes. These two women inspire many people by their admirable dedication to the sport of softball and how they represented their country when softball was an Olympic sport. For that reason, softball should be reinstated back into the Olympics because it provides opportunities for females, life lessons, and an occasion for equality in the Olympics.

Softball
Softball, which was an Olympic sport from 1996 to 2008, was full of the best athletes during its time in the Olympics. The US team for example, won the Gold Medal every year except when Japan won Gold in the 2008 Olympics. The dedication these women put into the sport is admired by many young girls who dream of playing the sport as well. It gives girls and women opportunities to participate in a sport they love and want to compete professionally. In some countries such as Afghanistan where female inclusion is less common, softball “has been instrumental in allowing women and girls to play a sport in some of the most restricted countries” (Zinser). Without softball in the Olympics, there is less inspiration spreading to younger generations of girls who dream of playing professionally. Softball in the Olympics has been proven to be motivation for thousands of girls to participate in the sport, therefore it should be returned to the Olympics.

Like any other sport, softball requires good sportsmanship, teamwork, and dedication. The US Olympic softball team is full of athletes who exemplify these qualities. The coach of the US Olympic softball team drilled into the athletes’ heads that they were going to dominate. “That’s all we were going to do is dominate. And that’s what we did” Crystal Bustos says in an interview on All Things Considered. The fact that the US team had the determination to win the Gold every year from 1996 to 2008 is admirable, and lots of girls and women look up to the “dream team” of the Olympic Sport. Softball is an inspirational sport for many athletes determined to play for their country.

Softball and baseball are two very similar sports with just a few differences. Both were in the Olympics at some point in time, which offered an opportunity for minor league athletes of both genders to play in a world event. If for instance the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to put only one of the two sports back into the games, that would draw back from gender equality, which is one of the focuses of the IOC, according to Kelly Whiteside in her  article Why 3 Key Sports Will (or Won’t) Make Games. By having one sport, baseball or softball, reinstated back into the Olympics, that would draw attention to the lack of the other one. If that is the case, the IOC should strive to reestablish both sports to the 2020 Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games consist of sports that do not seem as popular as the American past time. There is synchronized swimming which does not seem nearly as well-liked as Softball. Other female sports, such as tennis, gymnastics, track and field, volleyball, and more are a big deal for girls and teenagers who dream of representing their country. People love watching these sports because they are a competition of the best female athletes. Whether it is a team sport or individual, it is still an exciting event, therefore softball, a team sport, should be put back into the Olympics because it is another one of those sports that is exciting to watch and aspire to be.

In conclusion, softball should be added back into the Olympics because it is inspiration for athletes to try to play and represent their country in a world event. Softball is a sport that motivates women and girls to participate in extracurricular activities, and it strives for gender equality and teaches people life lessons. One way for the IOC to see the impact of such sport in the Olympics is provide programs for children to work on their skills and encourage them to continue to their best of ability.

-Lydia Dunbar

Bio
My name is Lydia Dunbar, I am a high school junior. I am currently enrolled in AP English 11 which focuses on the English language. I do enjoy English very much, but my favorite class is science. I enjoyed writing this article because it is a topic very close to my heart. When I was younger, I wanted to be an Olympic softball player and I always admired Jennie Finch, the starting pitcher for the United States Olympic team. I hope people are inspired by my article to see the importance of reinstating softball back into the Olympics.

Works Cited
"Baseball, Softball Still Taking Swings for 2020 Olympics." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/2014/05/31/Baseball-softball-still-taking-swings-for-2020-Olympics/stories/201405310115

Baseball Softball Hopeful of Reinstatement to Olympics." FOX Sports. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/story/baseball-softball-hopeful-of-reinstatement-to-olympics-012314


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Friday, April 10, 2015

What’s in a Number? Turns out, Everything for Lauren Hill

Numbers are very important to athletes. You could say they are superstitious about them, even. It is on their back and sometimes the front. It is their identity.

Now starting, number 22…

Foul on number 10…

Hey 12, good game…

Oh, did you see what number 45 just did?

I’m coming for you number 7…

Number 22 was special for Lauren Hill. At the age of 18, she found out she was diagnosed with Diffused Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a nasty, inoperable brain tumor, shortly after declaring she would play college basketball at Mount St Josephs in Ohio.  She accepted the terminal diagnosis it as best she could.

However, Lauren, after going through all the stages of grief and make a wish trips, decided she really wanted to wear that number 22 one more time. To wear it on a bigger stage, to say her time was not done. She stated she wanted to hear the roar of crowd, the bouncing of the ball, and the squeaking of the shoes, to put on number 22 one more time. “…I just can't wait to be standing on this court in a basketball uniform, with the No. 22,” she said.

Sometimes you are dealt a bad hand in life, like Lauren. Or you can look at it that you got a tighter deadline than most. What will you do with it is up to you. Lauren decided to make the most of her short time on earth. She wanted to raise awareness for childhood cancer and be a voice for DIPG sufferers specifically. Usually small children are diagnosed with the fatal tumor and don’t even get half the years she got. Maybe they never get to wear a special number on their small backs. She wanted to be their voice, raise awareness, and raise necessary money to find a cure and end this suffering. And, maybe, wear number 22 one more time.

Lauren got her wish. Doctors sad she likely would not survive until December. The NCAA moved her team’s basketball game up earlier to November. More people heard. The game was moved to an arena that housed 10,000 people. The tickets sold out in minutes. She donned the jersey. She heard it announced, she felt through her feet the floor vibrate with the applause.

Lauren hill
She heard.

She felt.

She played.

We cheered.

We were inspired.

The other team was in on the special “layup for Lauren" play, a play that involved Lauren using her non-dominant left hand for a lay up because her right was too weak. She nailed it the first time out. The first basket of the season scored by number 22. She scored the closing basket in that game, too. By that time her plight and word of her courage had spread and she had raised just under a million dollars for the cure. She would go on to play in four games, finally wearing  number 22 on the home court of Mount St Joseph’s, the college she committed to on her 18th birthday. She scored 10 points for the season, but for once, that wasn’t the number that mattered.

It is always said when someone young dies. We mourn their loss and the loss of their future life,
family, memories, perhaps children. Lauren Hill passed away April 9th, 2015 at the age of 19. She lived longer than the doctors said she would. At this writing, she has raises over 2 million dollars and lived a memorable life. Her courage will not be forgotten.

Did you see what number 22 just did?

Turns out it was a lot.

Please donate to Lauren Hill’s cause, the Cure Starts Now Foundation.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Stanford’s Season Ends in the Sweet Sixteen

So the Stanford’s Women’s Basketball Team lost to a very good Notre Dame team 81-60 in the Sweet Sixteen. Not every team can win a championship, and Stanford, Pac-12 Tournament Champions, sure showed those nay-sayers who did not even think they would get this far.

Oddly, it was the first time Stanford’s head coach Tara VanDerveer and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw have coached against each other in the post season. They are usually on opposite ends of the bracket with one of them running into the buzz saw that is UConn. Even more oddly, it was only the third time the two teams have met (Stanford won both in the 90’s).

Erica McCall
Stanford's Eric McCall went up against a tough and tall Notre Dame Defense (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
The lack of a strong post player who can bang around and score definitely hurt against Notre Dame, although hats off to Erica McCall for scoring 12 and grabbing 10 boards for a double double. Our freshie rebounding Phenom Kailee Johnson had a tougher time when she was in. She finished with zero points and one rebound. She would be wise to work on finishing around the basket for next year.

Also hurting us was when guard Lili Thompson pulled up short with a knee injury. Stanford was only down by five with about nine minutes left in the first half. Replays didn't show her having a traumatic event, just crumpled when running, but she was in a lot of pain. She went to the locker room for most of the first and Notre Dame made some runs. She was never really herself after that and not very effective in the second. She finished with two points.

The third thing hurting us was Notre Dame guard Lindsey Allen. She scored a career high 24 first half points, and made four 3-pointers. I know Stanford was keying on Notre Dame’s other guard Jewel Loyd, and limited her to six points in the first, but you have to at least get a hand in the face of Allen. To illustrate her hot hand, she made 16 threes all season long. Stanford gambled she would not keep hitting, but they also should have gotten to her faster on defense.

Stanford bomber, Bonnie Samuelson tried to keep Stanford in it hitting her threes in the first, but not much production from everyone else.

In the second half, Stanford finally stopped Allen (or she got cold) but then Jewel Loyd got hot. With Lili being limited in minutes, Bri Roberson was in and got into foul trouble, playing with three for most of the game. She was tentative on defense on Loyd and it showed.

However it was nice on the other end of the floor to see Bonnie to continue hitting her threes. When she hit her fifth of the game, she made ND’s Coach take a time out and take out her big player to put a smaller guard on Bonnie. It worked. Bonnie was then ineffective. She finished the game with 17.
Once Lloyd took over, and ND got a few fast break points, all the wind in Stanford’s sails was gone, and that’s all she wrote. Except Imma gonna write more!

It was not how Stanford or their fans wanted it to end, but if any coach did more with less, it was Tara VanDerveer getting great production out of her guards with a completely new offense. Stanford will miss all their seniors, none more than steady guard Amber Orrange and dead-eye Bonnie Samuelson.

Thank you all for a great season!

Now, to see if anyone can knock off UConn (no one gave us a shot in November!)

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Stanford Going to the Sweet Sixteen

So C and R like to get prepare for Stanford games kinda like how Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer does. Study, study, study. We read anything we can get our hands on about The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team and then about the opponent (Tara does the hard job of watching tape after tape of teams).

Going into round 2 of the NCAA tourney, Stanford was playing Oklahoma University. What C and R read about them is they like to foul. Well, not so much they like to foul, but they do foul, over 20 a game. That could mean two things for Stanford. It could mean that if Stanford could draw fouls, they would get lots of free throws and free points and OU players to sit. Or if the refs did not call fouls, big trouble for Stanford.

In the first half, it looked like the latter, as the refs were not calling hard fouls. And I don’t think I have ever seen anyone tear off Erica “Bird” McCall’s super goggles, but it happened not once, but twice (Bonus drinking game, replacing when an Ogwumike lost a contact). Lots of bodies flying, and then a whistle when there was hardly any contact.

Oklahoma came out in a zone, and with their athleticism and long reach, the Stanford guards could not penetrate very well, and the three point line was well guarded. Three point specialist Bonnie Samuelson scored zero points in the first. Hats off to OU, they had quick hands and knocked the ball out of Stanford’s hands a lot. Stanford was lucky to only be down 36-32 at the half, thanks to a Lili Thompson three to make it respectable.

However the master preparer, Tara VanDerveer is also a master adjuster at the half. She found a way to get her guards some penetration and maybe OU was a little bit tired as they couldn’t get out to the three point line as quickly. Result: Stanford went six for nine on 3-pointers in the second half, eight for the game. Bonnie hit three of them, and scored all 19 of her points in the second half, including going 8-8 from the free point line when OU finally got into foul trouble. BTW, Stanford attempted 38 free throws, making 30 of them.

Speaking of the second half, Stanford played better defense and only allowed OU six points in the first ten minutes. By comparison, Stanford went on a 12-2 run to open the second half. Lili Thompson helped fire Stanford up by hitting some key threes of her own. And Stanford senior Amber Orrange will surely be missed next year, because she is clutch. Whenever Stanford needed a basket, whenever the offense stalled (as it did a lot in the first) she would hit a timely shot to keep Stanford in it (Even if most of it was drive left!).

Amber Orrange
Amber Orrange driving left!
(Photo By: StanfordPhoto.com)
And what about Stanford lock down “D?” In the first half, Oklahoma's Gioya Carter opened the game with 12 points and four steals. VanDerveer put Orrange on her at the defensive end. She finished with 16 points at the half and scored just two baskets in the second half. Wow.

Couple OU’s poor shooting, especially for the 3-point line (2-14 in the second) with the toughened Stanford D, and the refs finally calling fouls for the second half resurrection. Several OU players had to sit in the second while Stanford shot. Final score 86-76.

Stanford had four players in double figures, which is great as Stanford has struggled to get everyone involved in the offense. It was so great, Stanford did not need “Tournament Taylor to help out, as Greenfield finished with only four points. Amber finished with 24. Lili Thompson and Bonnie each scored 19 points. Erica McCall added 10 and 11 boards, for a double-double. Briana Roberson provided a spark with 13 points and some tough defense. In fact, once Tara put in Bri and went to a three guard set, Roberson didn’t come out.

Next, Stanford has a date with #1 seed Notre Dame Friday. Funny, Stanford and Notre Dame have met only twice, with Stanford enjoying a 2-0 lead. And they have never played each other in the NCAA tournament.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stanford Survives First Round of NCAA Tourney

They say this time of the year survive and advance. They say a win is a win is a win. They say it is okay to win ugly.

C and R say we are very worried for round two.

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team, a number 4 seed played Cal State Northridge (CSUN), number 13 seed, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Stanford won 73-60, but not before squandering a 20-7 first-half lead. It will be hard to survive and advance when your team goes eight minutes without scoring, as Stanford did in the first, and be behind at the half 29-28 at the half. Stanford offense stalled big time, looking disjointed and jerky. The usually smooth guards kept picking up their dribble, severely disrupting the flow of offense.

Granted, Stanford went on a 24-4 run early in the second, handing CSUN their own seven minute draught, but again Stanford let CSUN come back within six with two minutes left. The next game, two days away is with an Oklahoma team that scored 111 points in their first round victory. No, C’s cat did not sit on her keyboard, Oklahoma scored 111 in a regulation game, no over time needed. (Fun fact, Stanford BBall alum Lindy LaRoque, is a graduate assistant coach for OU). Some defense will have to be played and some shots made by Stanford if they want to survive and win this one. But as R said, if anyone can study the opponent and come up with a good game plan, it is Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Lili Thompson
Lili Thompson has her game face on!
(Photo By: StanfordPhoto.com)
Hats off to “Tournament Taylor,” that being Taylor Greenfield, the one person who could create her own offense and score. Taylor scored 19 points and was joined in double figures by Lili Thompson with 17, Bonnie Samuelson with14 points (she made three out of four 3-pointers) and Erica McCall added 10. And believe C and R, they will need more points against OU.

More fun facts, this victory gave Tara VanDerveer her 800th victory at Stanford. She became the 10th college basketball coach -- men's or women's -- with at least 800 victories at a single Division I school ... And, Stanford won their 500th game at Maples Pavilion (with just 87 losses).
See ya Monday at Maples.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Stanford WBB Pac-12 Champs

They were calling her “Tournament Taylor.” The can now call her MVP. Taylor Greenfield helped propel the Stanford Women’s Basketball team over the semifinal hump from an ASU team that beat them twice, and helped them knock out Cal to win the championship. She, of course, was named the tournament MVP. (Curious she was not on the All-Pac-12 Tournament team, though Stanford’s Amber Orrange was). She is also the first non-starter to win the Most Outstanding Player in Pac-12 tourney history.

In the semifinal game vs Arizona State, Greenfield's driving basket with 44 seconds left gave Stanford the lead for good and hold off ASU 59-56 (although Stanford had built a 12 point lead and again failed to stop ASU). The last minute was filled with wild plays, fouls and non-called fouls. Boy it gets rough in the Pac-12. Taylor finished with 17 points (one off her career-high) including a key offensive rebound and free throw with 10 seconds left.

Wearing their road uniforms for the first time in Pac-12 tournament history, Stanford leaned on senior guard Amber Orrange and her 18 points, and Greenfield all game. How bad was the Pac-12 officiating? With about 5 minutes left in the game, Stanford had been whistled for 17 fouls, ASU just one. Finally ASU had to play the foul game in the closing minute.

In the finals vs Cal, Stanford once again leaned on Taylor. Could lightning strike twice? It could. Taylor G came off the bench and went off for 20, breaking her career high and winning the afore-mentioned MVP honors.

Stanford Women's Basketball wins Pac-12
Stanford beats Cal for Pac-12 Tournament Championship.
(Photo courtesy of Pac-12 Official site)

Unfortunately, at the 15:32 mark or so in the first, Stanford’s Brittany McPhee went for a rebound against Cal’s Brittany Boyd. McPhee hit Boyd in the face (certainly not intentionally) and cut her cheek. Boyd left the game, and we were told stitched up in the locker room. She came back with a bandaged cheek about 2:22 minutes left in the first and it was clear she as not herself the rest of the game.

BB’s stat line was seven points, two rebounds and three assists. Matters were not made batter when a Stanford player, I think Taylor Greenfield, also accidentally hit Boyd on the other cheek in the second half. That is a shame. We hate to see an athlete injured in the course of a game, and you always want to beat your opponent at full strength. Cal was also affected by the super center Reshanda Gray getting in foul trouble early in the first half and limited her minutes. Her stats were six points and three rebounds, although other CAL players (Cowlings and Range) stepped up in their absences. Cal lead at the half 25-23.

Stanford took the lead with 12:53 minutes left in the second on a Taylor G jumper. Cal wouldn’t go away, and it was a four point Stanford lead with a minute left. That gave Stanford some breathing room to let Cal score. Cal hit a three at the buzzer, but were down by four. Stanford won 61-60.
More importantly, Stanford wins the automatic bid in the NCAA tournament and is placed in the part of the bracket away from UConn. They also have chance at hosting the first and second rounds, too. Home court is so huge come March.

Congrats on Stanford persevering in the Pac-12 tournament!

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Pac-12 Tourney, Round 1

The Stanford Women’s Basketball team took advantage of the first round bye to beat UCLA 67-62. However, Stanford floundered on offense for long stretches and let UCLA come back several times. UCLA was able to tie the game at 56 with five minutes left, but Amber Orrange (Ms. Clutch) made a three and Stanford hung on for the win.

UCLA came in with a game plan to stop the Stanford guards and let the Stanford bigs have the ball in their hands. They also didn’t believe the Stanford bigs could hurt them. The Stanford bigs of Erica McCall, who scored 10 and grabbed eight boards, and Kailee Johnson, who had eight points and seven boards did wound them. Plus the Stanford guards weren’t’ really stopped, Amber Orange had 18 and Lili Thompson had 14.

Erica McCall
Stanford's Erica McCall, left, and UCLA's Kari Korver battle for a loose ball
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Bad/sad news, Karlie Samuelson is out for the tourney (and probably for the year) with a broken pinkie. She recently had surgery and that was one humongous cast for a busted pinkie.

This just in, Colorado upset Oregon State and knocked them out of the tournament. Now Stanford just needs to beat ASU to make it to the finals. ASU beat them twice, so you know what C and R always say, third time’s a charm. See the game for free on Pac-12 channel Saturday at 6PM, even if you don’t get it. Stanford will be wearing their black unis, something Tara VanDerveer does not remember them even earing in the torunet, as they are never the underdog. TVD says she likes that.
Crossing fingers and pinkies for Stanford! in the next round.

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