Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19th- Stanford Women’s Soccer V Santa Clara

With Stanford Women’s Basketball still a world away, C and R have been enjoying other women’s college sports, most notably volleyball and soccer. So when C saw that number one ranked Stanford soccer team was playing number 18th ranked Santa Clara at Santa Clara’s Buck Shaw Stadium, which is a mile away from R’s house, well, she knew they had to go.

The game was set for 8 PM on Sunday, September 18th, which happens to be a school night and late for a soccer game, but since the stadium was only a mile from R’s house, as she likes to point out every time we think about going to see Santa Clara, we were still in. When we heard they would retire Brandi Chastain’s number at half time, we knew were would be there early to get a good seat!

It was a beautiful balmy night, the day having been warm for our Bay Area neck of the woods, and we go there to watch both teams warm up. Now, C’s only dilemma was who to root for. See, when she, okay me, hate the pronoun thing, when I was coaching my daughter in recreational soccer, there would be special Santa Clara Women’s Soccer games where tix would either be inexpensive for groups or free for youth if you wore their soccer shirt. So we would pile the whole team in a few minivans and spend the glorious fall afternoons in the bleachers cheering on the Broncos and making up creative cheers for them! The girls loved it. One year I caught a T-Shirt flung into the stands and got it autographed by the whole team after the game. That year they went on to win the National Championship!

When we were going to those games, there was one Santa Clara player that did a throw-in in a crazy way. She would run to the line, then bend and place the ball on the ground, then place her head on the ball and flip herself over the ball, landing back on her feet. As she came upright bringing the ball from way behind her head she would fling it forward. The extra strength would make it sail halfway across the pitch. It was an amazing feat to behold and the girls loved it. “Look, look, she’s going to do the flip again!” they would nudge and tell each other.

One year, an opposing coach placed her defender an inch inside the boundary line, lined up just where the flipping throw-in player would land. She was to stand there and see if she could either disrupt the throw or get collision and a foul called on the player. The girls and I stared with horror as we realized what she trying to do as the throw-in player began her run. With hands over their mouths, we all held our breath, the flipper came upright and threw the ball and stopped her body from colliding with the other player. The girls sighed relief. I was more interested in the other player. Would she flinch or duck when the ball came around? (I know I would!). Amazingly, she held her ground and didn’t move, the only exception was she closed her eyes when the flipper went upright and threw it over her head, as if preparing for a crash. Do you know what kind of muscle control it would take to tell your body to not move a muscle when perceived danger is coming at it? Well, a lot! Just try not to flinch or protect yourself if someone is throwing a hard baseball at you! I dare you. So, I give that player huge kudos for braving that!

Anyhoo, the stadium and C have a long history of rooting for the Broncos. When C and R took their seats, a Stanford fan was trying to get the Stanford troops fired up by starting the “Go! Stanford!” chant. Then we saw Brandi Chastain right before the game started and nudged each other like the little girls! Also, big kudos for Santa Clara for getting a lot of students to walk over to the stadium and cheer loudly for the team.

So to solve our cheering dilemma, we tried to stay neutral, which was easy to do because both women’s soccer teams feature amazing athletes. It is such a joy to watch women compete at such a high level. Both teams played a similar possession-type game, although Stanford was more patient in holding the ball and waiting to pick their time to attack. They were rewarded with a goal in the 30th minute. Then Stanford did a quick free kick to a streaking player and got another goal at the 36th minute. It was 2-0 at the half.

Brandi came out at half time. They announced her number was retired, and listed her accomplishments, and dang, she is accomplished as a player! Then back to soccer.

The half resumed (with no rain and thunder and lightening of the Notre Dame game) and, we are sorry to report, Stanford got sloppy, making mental mistakes and unforced errors, and getting the ball stolen. So different from when we saw them play Notre Dame a few weeks ago where they played about as technically perfect game as you can imagine. With about 10 minutes left in the match and Santa Clara still down by 2, they started hustling after every ball and pressuring Stanford. The result was Santa Clara winning a lot of balls, or Stanford making mistakes to give them the balls. And, Stanford looked tired and just stopped chasing down balls. Santa Clara didn’t, so you got to admire them for never quitting. Unfortunately, SC’s plan of attack was speed, and Stanford could counter that on defense, so Santa Clara remained scoreless, with the game ending 2-0. We were also glad to see Stanford goalie Emily Oliver back in goal, when the last time we saw her vs. Notre Dame, she had banged her knee on a ND goal and was removed from the game.

Santa Clara is playing again this coming Saturday, and their opponent is NOT Stanford. Hmm, we might have to go and cheer for them outright, especially since the stadium is a mile from R’s house! Let’s just take a peek at the opponent…it’s Cal! Oh, now we really have to go!

Follow C and R on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stanford Women’s Basketball News

Stanford Women’s Basketball Coach Tara VanDerveer, who was recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, received the Phyllis Bailey Career Achievement Award from Ohio State's Varsity "O" Women's Alumnae Society, as reported by Stanford’s Official Site.

Phyllis Bailey holds a special place in Tara VanDerveer’s heart. Bailey was the first one to give Tara a position as an assistant basketball coach fresh out of college, as well as helping to advance women’s collegiate athletics. In fact, the award is in part given to someone who advances women’s athletics, which we all know TVD has done throughout her career.

In other Stanford news:
Stanford is inducting nine members into their Athletic Hall of Fame, most notable (to C and R, anyway) are beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh and Women’s Basketball players Trisha Stevens. Kerri Walsh led Stanford to two National Titles in indoor Volleyball and won back-to-back gold medals in beach volleyball in 2004 and 2008. Trisha Stevens was a member of Tara VanDerveer’s first National Championship in 1990. She led the team in scoring.

And oh, Stanford Women’s Soccer is playing Santa Clara at Buck Shaw Stadium, about a mile from R’s house, on Sunday, September 18th at 8 PM. You know C and R will be there! If you can’t, follow our live updates about the game on Twitter.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Super Stanford Sports Day Recapped!

C and R just had the most enjoyable Friday night at Stanford that didn’t involve women’s basketball. What we did see was the Stanford Women’s Volleyball team beat four-time defending champs Penn State and the Stanford Women’s Soccer Team beat defending champs Notre Dame. Glorious weather on campus, supporting two women’s sports teams and two victories, what could be better? Let’s recap, shall we?

When we got to the Stanford campus, as we mentioned, it was a warm sunny Nor Cal day. (And we discover women’s field hockey is also playing, but there are only so many games we can see! They beat Indiana 3-2 in their home opener). A long line was waiting to get in the soccer stadium for two games in the Stanford Nike Invitational. We love so many were here to support women’s soccer. Local team Santa Clara was getting ready to play UC Irvine, then the second game of Stanford and Notre Dame. The Stanford men’s played in a game right before and as it was ending, we talked to an usher who said that game was free, because there wasn’t any demand for the men’s tickets, but the women’s games were sold out, so they had to clear the stadium to let in the paying customers. Wow, we never thought we would see that day coming!

We saw the Santa Clara team warming up outside the stadium, and our first thought was, “Look for Brandi Chastain!” She is married to the Broncos head coach and is an unofficial coach for the team. We thought we saw her helping the team warm up, but she still has her playing day physique, and most of the players have the blonde pony tails, so we couldn’t tell if it was wishful thinking on our part or not. So we tweeted we saw her anyway!

While we were marveling at that fact, we met the proud dad of the goalie for UC Irvine, the team getting ready to face Santa Clara. She was a true freshmen and the dad was so nervous he said he wasn’t sure if he could watch. After wishing him good luck, we made our way to Maples and settled in for our first non-basketball event as Maples, women’s volleyball, also tweeting to give them exposure, too.

Both Stanford and Penn State looked good in warm ups, and both teams were nervous hitting some balls out of bounds early on in the match. Volleyball uses the rally scoring method, and we won’t tell you just how old C and R are, but when we both played high school volleyball, they used “side outs” and you could only score when your team served the ball. Nowadays, your team scores a point if the other team makes an error, regardless of who served, and games go to 25 points.

Penn State takes an early lead in the first game but Stanford battles back, mostly on the strength of hitter Rachel Williams. Stanford gets to game point but can’t put it away. Then Penn State has game point and they make an error. It’s Stanford’s serve, and they serve it into the net giving Penn State the point that wins the game. Devastating!

Stanford comes out strong the next game, and both teams trade leads and it goes down to the wire but Stanford prevails. It becomes apparent to C and R, who revert to coaching mode, and therefore critically assess the team rather than enjoying their athleticism, that Stanford has Rachel Williams to kill and Carly Wopat to block, and do not rely on much else. So if Rachel is off, the whole team is off, hence allowing Penn State to stick around.

Plus, Stanford had a hard time covering the dink! (We would drill and drill on that in high school). The dink is a soft shot hit just above the blocker’s arms and falls almost directly behind them. Usually a player is assigned to be behind then for this very reason. But Stanford did not have a dedicated player to cover this, so Penn State took advantage. In the second game, when Penn State did a dink, the space was still empty so three Stanford players would throw themselves at the floor. They either missed, or if someone got a hand on the ball, no one was on their feet to get the second hit up. Finally in the third game Carly just blocked the heck out of them and Penn State stopped dinking.

Don’t worry, Penn State was not without fault. Their Achilles Heel seemed to be net play. If the ball was close to the net, Stanford usually won that battle. And some of Penn State’s hits were into the net and the setter couldn’t adjust in time to make the play. There were a lot of points off of that for Stanford.
So with each having won one game, the match continued to the best out of five. The third game was indeed another nail-biter, with Stanford having multiple game points but not being able to close it out. Finally Stanford prevails 27-25. Now they are ahead two games to one, but it is nearly time for Stanford soccer, so we bid Volleyball and Maples ado and head back outside.

The night is still gloriously warm and when we get to the stadium and ask who won between Santa Clara and UC Irvine. We are told they are in a 1-1 tie and they are starting a ten minute overtime period. Darn, we could have stayed and watched volleyball after all! After a restroom and food break and seeing the Santa Clara – UC Irvine game was still scoreless and were starting another 10 minute overtime period, (And that poor dad of the UC Irvine goalie!) we decide to head to Maples. We see people coming out and we are told the beat Penn State in the fourth game, to win it 3-1. Yay!

So finally Stanford and Notre Dame take the field for soccer about an hour late. The stands are sold out and everyone is cheering. We are over in the new stands right above both teams that put us practically on top of the action. While at the top of the stands, we can see lightening off in the distance in the East, a rare sighting in the Bay Area. C remarks if we were back East, they would cancel the game because of said lightening. We are so close to the field that we get to hear the player’s on field chatter all night long and Stanford Coach Paul Ratcliffe yell instructions to his team. And these women are so amazing!

Each half is 45 minutes long with a running clock. In the first 10, 15 minutes, Stanford plays a ball control offense and keeps the ball on Notre Dame’s side of the field. Then around 20 minutes in, Notre Dame goes in the offensive and tests goalie Emily Oliver. About 25 or so minutes in, with the game scoreless, it starts to rain! What, rain in September in Northern California? We are under a metal awning so are safe from the drops, but most of the fans think they might melt and start moving. Then the drops get BIG and some say it is hail! The field and ball are slick, and Notre Dame gets off some good shots. Then we hear thunder, and Notre Dame is making their own thunder getting off shots, but luckily none have gone in the net. Then actually flashes of lightening and thunder. Hmm, we think, we are under a metal awning, and the stadium is surrounded by big metal light poles, this is not good. Others agree and the game is stopped with 1:07 left in the first half and we are told the game will start again in half an hour.

We retreat to R’s car and think they should just forget the one minute and 7 seconds left and call it half time and let this be the half time break. Finally, about 49 minutes later, the rain has cleared, no more lightening and the teams take the field. For the minute and 7 seconds. Then a 15-minute half time. Sigh. Most of the crowd has left.

The game resumes and in the 66th minute, Notre Dame gets a shot to the far post. Stanford goalie Emily Oliver bangs her left knee getting to the post to stop the ball but is too late. Notre Dame is on the scoreboard and she is removed from the game, carried back to the sidelines, in obvious pain. The back up goalie, Ali Gleason, does not look prepared, just has on her gray T-Shirt. Notre Dame wisely takes advantage, running after any ball she touches to try to rattle her. They also launch some hard shots, but they either go wide or she corrals.

Then in the 80th minute of a 90-minute game, Lindsey Taylor for Stanford is left alone in the box and she blasts a rocket between the goalkeeper and right goal post to tie the game. Tied 1-1 and everyone is thinking, don’t let this already late game go into overtime! Minutes later, Notre Dame makes a great shot and the back up goalie Gleason does her best Hope Solo imitation and dives left for the save. Then in the 88th minute of the 90-minute game, Lindsey Taylor launches a corner kick to the far post and Mariah Nogueria does her best Abby Wambach imitation and heads it home for the second score!

One-minute left, Stanford is trying to stall, and keep the ball away from Notre Dame and any shots on their goalie. Thirty Seconds left, Stanford clears it to the opposing goal. Ten seconds left, Stanford clears it to the sideline. Three seconds left, Stanford clears it out of bounds as the horn goes off. They beat Notre Dame 2-1, exacting revenge for the loss to them in the championship game. Not many are left to see it, but it was a wonderful game. Epic!

Wow, we are glad we were able to bear witness and now really can’t wait for the drama of women’s basketball!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Super Stanford Women’s Sports Day!

Well, Stanford Women’s Basketball has not started yet but there are other women’s sports we can watch, and this Friday, September 9th there is a perfect storm of Stanford Sports on the Farm. The Stanford Women’s Volleyball team is taking on defending champs Penn State and the Stanford Women’s Soccer team is taking on defending champs Notre Dame.

First up, the Stanford Women’s Volleyball team takes on defending champs Penn State in the annual Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic. And not just any defending champs. Penn State has won the title four times in the last four years. They are the UConn of basketball. In 1997, Stanford beat Penn State in the final for the title. In 1999, Penn State got their first title with a win over Stanford in the finals. In 2007, Penn State won the title in a close match against Stanford and met them again in 2008, Penn State once again prevailing. To say these two have history is an understatement.

Stanford and Penn State have met each other 12 times. Six victories to Stanford and six to Penn State. Someone is walking away with bragging rights. Game starts at 5:30 PM at Maples Pavilion.

Next on the bill is Stanford women’s soccer playing on Cagen Stadium as part of the Stanford Nike Invitational. They are meeting last year’s champs, Notre Dame. Who did ND beat in the championships game? Oh, only previously unbeaten STANFORD! Could this get any better? Stanford is coming off a rout of Northwestern in the tournament, beating them 6-0.

So remember, Friday, September 9th:
-Stanford Women’s Volleyball 5:30 PM at Maples against defending champs Penn State.
-Then Stanford Women’s Soccer against defending champs Notre Dame at 7:30 at Cagen Stadium, right near where we park for basketball, at 7:30 PM.

Perfect storm for Stanford women’s sports.

If you can’t make it to the fields of play, go the Stanford website and you can view it online on God-awful Gametracker. Look for the two nuts cheering their heads off. Cuz that will be C and R! Oooo maybe some Stanford Women's basketball players might be there, too!