SAN FRANCISCO – Winning the national championship during the pandemic may have been a major achievement for Stanford University coach Tara VanDerveer, the best women’s college basketball coach of all time. But she was in no mood to remember Tuesday’s Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day.
“We’re not driving down the road looking in the rearview mirror,” VanDerveer said. “It would be a ruin. We’re looking ahead. ”
In the case of VanDerveer, it helps that the road ahead looks smooth. Stanford is bringing back 12 of its 13 players last year and adds a national recruiter class in sixth place.
Senior defender Lexi Hull said the win did not affect the team’s motivation.
“After going through this experience, we really yearn to re-experience the emotions that we experienced after that victory in the championship match,” said Hull.
Stanford is trying to become only the fourth school to win titles in a row since the NCAA began in 1982, and the first since Connecticut won four in a row in the 2013-16 season. Tennessee (2007-08) is the last school outside of Connecticut to repeat its championship titles.
Hull is one of only two returning players from all Cardinal conferences alongside Hayley Jones, NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player of the 2021 Tournament.
“I think this season is definitely a different vibe,” Jones said as she entered her junior season. “We have a goal, but I think we welcome it. This is where we want to be. I don’t think we feel that much pressure, but there are definitely certain expectations, so it only fuels our motivation to achieve and exceed all these goals. ”
But Stanford is not the only team seriously pursuing a return to production. First, Connecticut and South Carolina are also bringing back all of their starting lineups and adding five-star recruits.
And VanDerveer knows how subtle is the difference between winning a championship and failing. The Cardinal was the first NCAA champion to win both the semi-finals and the final by a one-point lead, which VanDerveer joked could be karma for many of her teams who lost after previous Stanford titles in 1990 and 1992.
“We probably had 10 teams that could win,” VanDerveer said. “And this team really won, because they really stayed together, we played in a smaller segment that we needed to do, but it was not a given. It was really good that we were wearing these masks because you don’t want to know what I’m talking about. ”
The only player who did not return was point guard Kiana Williams, the record holder in the three-point program, who led in points and assists last season and took on much of the leadership responsibility.
But the Cardinal welcomes South California All-Americans 6-3 with Brooke Demeter of Mater Dei and 6-3 striker Okikiolu Iriafen of Harvard-Westlake with the two McDonald’s. Demeter was 11th and Iriafen was 19th in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100. Jordan Hamilton, 5-8-year-old quarterback and four-year Northwestern player, will also join the team as the program’s first alumni transfer.
At the bottom of the Pac-12 women’s basketball, Hull had knee bruises, which she says indicates the team is not giving up after winning the championship.
“Practitioners are super competitive,” Hull said. “If you don’t dive on the ground, you cannot play. So you really need to get up before every workout, and my knees need to be exposed for that. ”
NOTE: Stanford was unanimously selected to win Pac-12 among 11 other coaches at the conference, Pac-12 announced Tuesday. The coaches could not choose their team, so VanDervere’s vote was given to Oregon. Cal was chosen to finish last.