Stanford’s VanDerveer pondered season pause

  • ACC reporter.
  • Joined in 2010.
  • Graduate of the University of Florida.

SAN ANTONIO — Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer has her team playing for a national championship on Sunday against Arizona. But she admitted for the first time Saturday she wondered how the Cardinal would even get to this point after enhanced COVID-19 guidelines in Santa Clara County forced them on the road for nine weeks.

The odyssey started in early December and lasted through early February, taking them through six states and a temporary “home” in Santa Cruz before they were given clearance to return home to Stanford to play out the regular season.

“There was a point where — I don’t even know that I should admit this — but I was like, I don’t know that we can keep doing this, in terms of going to Santa Cruz,” VanDerveer said on a Zoom call with reporters. “Testing like we were testing. There were some days where I just said, ‘Whoa, this, might be too much. We might have to just take a pause, ourselves.

“But we have great leadership. We have, competitive motivated, talented, really strong women on our team, and they have dug deep. I think that off the court experience has made us tougher, stronger and more determined. We’re not going to let COVID get us down, whether it’s testing or Zooming. We’re going to be the best Stanford basketball team we can be, and I’m proud of our team for that.”

There was nothing perfect about the scenario. Stanford forward Cameron Brink detailed a few times where the power went out at a gym they managed to practice in.

“We were practicing in the dark,” she said. “It was freezing in that gym, but we’re thankful we had a gym to practice. It made us tougher. We had some really hard practices in that gym, and I feel like those practices are a big reason why we’re here today.”

She also attributes the bubble Stanford created for itself during its extended road trip has helped the Cardinal manage the bubble they have been in during the NCAA tournament in San Antonio.

“I feel like it’s kind of an advantage for us,” Brink said. “When we were on the road for almost two months straight, other teams were kind of at home and when they came to the bubble in San Antonio, they didn’t really know what to expect, and we kind of knew like what being stuck in hotels like for weeks on end, so I think we’re lucky to have experienced that.”

Beyond the bubble experience, there also is familiarity with the opponent Sunday: Arizona, a team the Cardinal beat twice this season. This is the first all-Pac-12 championship basketball game matchup in history — both men’s and women’s.

Stanford is trying to win its first title in 29 years, while Arizona is playing for the first national championship in school history. No matter who wins, it would be the first Pac-12 women’s basketball championship since Stanford last won it in 1992.

“This is honestly a dream come true for us in the Pac-12 because for so long, the conference has not gotten the respect that I feel it deserves,” VanDerveer said.

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