Stanford Women Open Season with First Practice
Oct. 16, 2004
Stanford, Calif. - Stanford women's basketball officially kicked off the 2004-05 season today with the first practice of the year. Stanford basketball is practicing in the Ford Center until the renovations are complete in late November, and the Cardinal hit the floor running this afternoon.
After an Elite Eight appearance last season, the 16 Cardinal players who make up the 2004-05 squad are even hungrier. Led by five seniors, the team has the experience and depth to challenge for the National Championship.
'We have very high expectations,' noted head coach Tara VanDerveer. 'We're very excited about our current situation with great experience and great balance. Overall outlook - this is going to be a great year.'
The Cardinal's depth will be a key throughout the season, as Stanford plunges into another tough non-conference schedule to start the year before attempting to defend its regular season Pac-10 Championship and its conference tournament title. The Cardinal has claimed the regular season crown the last three years, and Stanford is also the reigning back-to-back post-season tournament champion.
This season, the Cardinal will face opponents from the Big 12, the SEC and the Big East in addition to its Pac-10 schedule. Stanford will travel to Missouri and Tennessee, while Texas Tech and Boston College will come west.
'Having five seniors on this team is a great situation for us,' added VanDerveer. 'These are players that have experienced a tremendous amount of success, but they're still hungry. This is a group that wants to go the Final Four; they want a shot at the national championship. They have the experience to look back on and they've done well, but they still have goals that haven't been accomplished.'
Stanford has experience at every position on the floor, but with so many capable players on the roster, VanDerveer expects competition at every spot. The team will make its regular season debut on Nov. 19, when the Cardinal travel to Utah.
Kelley Suminski and Susan Borchardt return for their senior season and will again anchor the backcourt. The duo started all 34 games last season and combined to average almost 19 points and more than five assists per game, and Suminski has been honored as a Preseason Wooden Award Watch List candidate. Candice Wiggins will join the squad, fresh off a gold-medal summer when she helped the USA Junior National Team capture first place at the FIBA America's Junior World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Clare Bodensteiner and Markisha Coleman have spent the summer working on conditioning, strength and fundamentals, and will challenge for more court time this year.
Stanford has a long list of scoring threats, led off by returners Sebnem Kimyacioglu and Krista Rappahahn. Kimyacioglu provides the Cardinal with valuable leadership as she kicks off her senior season and, along with Rappahahn, will look for more scoring opportunities. Both have a tremendous outside shot and are also capable of going inside, making them dangerous all over the floor. Three of the Cardinal's freshmen will add more depth in the wings as Jessica Elway, Cissy Pierce and Christy Titchenal join the squad. The trio will work on adjusting to the faster and more aggressive college game, but their competitive natures will help to make the transition quickly.
With the return of T'Nae Thiel, Azella Perryman and Kristen Newlin, the Cardinal's inside game will be incredibly strong. A tremendously intelligent and versatile player, Thiel returns for her senior campaign as the backbone for the Cardinal. Thiel is a fiery combination of dominant inside play and quickness in the post with great court sense. Perryman and Newlin had a strong year last season and will continue to build on their experience and success. The Cardinal is also returning Brooke Smith, Eziamaka Okafor and Shelley Nweke. Smith, who transferred from Duke after her freshman year, Redshirted last season and is eager to suit up for Stanford. Okafor returns after missing her first two years on The Farm with injuries and will bring a tremendous amount of intensity and passion to the floor. Nweke has worked to improve her strength and skill during the summer and will challenge for time on the court this season.