Stanford battles to the end
Cardinal falls short of national title -- again
Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer knew Texas A&M would pose a physical challenge for her team, and although the Aggies ended the Cardinal’s season with a 63-62 defeat, they battled to the very end.
“We knew this was going to be a very tough match-up for us, and it proved to be too tough,” VanDerveer said.
The Cardinal outrebounded the Aggies 39--29, and was the better shooting team by almost 15 percent, but Texas A&M’s pressure defense caused 22 turnovers resulting in 21 points.
Seniors Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen did all they could to will the Cardinal to the national title game before coming up short. Pedersen grabbed 10 rebounds, while Pohlen contributed 11 points before leaving the game with three seconds left after going down with an apparent ankle injury during a scrum following Texas A&M’s final shot.
“They stayed poised,” VanDerveer said. “They worked as hard as they could. We had it … and then we just really needed one more stop.”
“I’ll lose with this team any day over winning with another team,” Pedersen said.
It was not only Pedersen and Pohlen’s last chance at a title after four straight Final Fours. After playing just 17 minutes in Stanford’s first four NCAA Tournament games, redshirt senior Melanie Murphy added eight points and three steals in 27 minutes of action after entering the first half with 11:52 remaining. She also started the second half for Lindy La Rocque.
“I especially thought Melanie Murphy came in the game and did a great job for us, kept us in the game, made great plays,” VanDerveer said. “She made some free throws down the stretch and knocked down a perimeter shot … I thought she came in and handled the pressure very well.”
Diving for a loose ball, Murphy fouled out with 53 seconds left in the second half, less than two minutes after hitting a jumper with 2:41 left to put the Cardinal up 58-52.
“It being my last foul, I didn’t want to leave the game,” Murphy said. “And it was the last game of my career.”
Murphy was one of two Stanford players to foul out in a game of physicality. Freshman Chiney Ogumike fouled out with 4:31 remaining.
VanDerveer was proud of her team’s toughness throughout the season, especially Pedersen and Pohlen in their final game.
“For me personally, it's not about me,” VanDerveer said. “It's about them. They get I can have another chance, but this was I feel bad for Kayla and Jeanette. They wanted this. They worked hard. They dedicated themselves and committed themselves to this team and this program. And I can't say enough positive things about them and what they've brought to Stanford and how proud I am of them.”
“They’re warriors, and I love coaching them,” VanDerveer said.
• Head coach Tara VanDerveer was one of three head coaches to share Associated Press National Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Cardinal to their fourth straight Final Four. She shared the award with Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Miami’s Katie Meier.
• With 10 rebounds in the loss to Texas A&M, senior forward Kayla Pedersen became Stanford’s all-time leader in rebounds. Pedersen (1,266) moved past Jayne Appel on the school’s career list.
• Stanford has never played in consecutive national title games.