Jeanette Pohlen: Leading on an Even Keel
By Brian Price
On December 30, all anybody wanted to talk about was the Stanford Cardinal's 71-59 win over UConn in women's basketball, and how the 90-game win streak was ended for UConn and a 24-game home win streak was preserved for Stanford.
However, it was really only an hour or two later that, at least for the Cardinal, the focus had shifted to Cal and preparing for the beginning of the Pac-10 regular season schedule.
"To end our preseason, with a win [over the Huskies], gave us a lot of confidence going into conference play. However, we don't get too high and we don't get too low, no matter what happens," explains tri-captain Jeanette Pohlen, who led all scorers against UConn with 31. "That's the philosophy of Coach VanDerveer: keep the mentality on an even-keel."
Indeed, an undisciplined team might have still been soaring following a tremendous win, like the one against UConn, but this Cardinal squad is led by veterans like Pohlen and Wooden Award Midseason Top-20 players, Kayla Pedersen and Nnemkadi Ogwumike (who leads the Cardinal and Pac-10 in PPG with 17.3).
"Kayla and [Nnemkadi] are just solid players and who knows where we'd be without them?" says Pohlen. "They bring great leadership on and off the court and offer a great support system for the other players."
Together, these leaders know it's important not to get too excited, even after a historic win.
"It was only December [at the time of the UConn win]," notes Pohlen. "So it's important for us to remember that it's a long season and we have to preserve ourselves throughout."
Thus far, the Cardinal, at 16-2, are leading the Pac-10 in 3-point shooting at 37.5 percent, FG% at 49.2%, and scoring margin with 24.9.
However, as Pohlen points out, the 2010-2011 season hasn't been all positives.
"When we lost two in a row, of course we were disappointed, but again it was Coach VanDerveer who kept our mindsets in check," Pohlen says. "We stayed focused, didn't get too down on ourselves and returned to our winning ways. We also made changes in our approach to the game by getting more aggressive. We knew we couldn't let their best players do their favorite move. Don't give the opponent what they want."
Pohlen, referring to a two-game losing streak against DePaul and Tennessee on the road, constitutes the Cardinal's only two losses on the season, but were still opportunities to grow as a team.
"We came away a stronger and more aware team," adds Pohlen.
Pohlen, the daughter of a coach and the younger sister of two brothers, was brought up around sports. As she puts it: "I've always had a basketball in my hand."
Pohlen's parents, out of superstition, have never sat together at any of her games. "My mom gets very excited and worried throughout the game and my dad just likes to sit and focus on what's happening," Pohlen says. "As a coach, he watches games from a more analytical standpoint and doesn't want to necessarily get involved in how emotional my mom is during the game."
Additionally, she cut her teeth early on having to play two-on-one against both brothers, which helped prepare her for play at the collegiate level.
In addition to being a tough-nosed guard who can drive the lane, Pohlen has proven extremely effective from behind the arc. She is currently in second place on the all-time Stanford three-point list with 216. According to Stanford athletics, she'll need 79 to tie Candice Wiggins' all-time record of 295, which, given the track Pohlen is on, is doable.
Pohlen also draws much of her success from her travels over this past summer when she and Pedersen were teammates for the World University Games team that played in Serbia.
"It was an honor to be picked for that team and it was a great bonus to be there with Kayla," Pohlen says. "When I came back with a gold medal I had better confidence knowing I could perform against some of the top players in the world."
As a Catholic, it was also a thrill for Pohlen to see the Vatican during her travels.
"Basketball was what put me in a position to see something that I'd always wanted to see. We had everything set up for us and I was so grateful to be able to go the Vatican and see all the things I had learned about. I also got to share it with my parents, so that made it even more special," she says.
Despite taking the season game by game, Pohlen is also well aware what her final year with the Cardinal is all about. She's made it to the Final Four the past three seasons, but has yet to get over the hump with her team and win a national title. As a senior, Pohlen is eager to answer the call.
"[For the seniors] it's our last chance to achieve this goal we've been after the last three years," she say. "We're well aware of that and it always serves as a motivational factor. Kayla [Pedersen], Ashley [Cimino], Hannah [Donaghe] and I are trying to take what we have mentally and pass it down to our younger players in order to have success this season and so they'll also be in a position to lead when we're gone next year."
Until then, Pohlen is poised to lead her team for every minute of time she has left as a Cardinal, which will hopefully conclude under a shower of confetti on April 5 in Indianapolis.