Cardinal Bounces Back

By Mechelle Voepel
ESPNET SportsZone


DECEMBER 10, 1998

Is there some Big Ten mojo thing Stanford has going for it?

Consider early last season, the Cardinal got a big victory at Illinois. It was so important because Stanford was 1-3 going into that game vs. the Illini and knew (although nobody admitted it) it would lose the next week to Connecticut.

 Regan Freuen
Regan Freuen, right, celebrates the Cardinal's win over Purdue with Yvonne Gbalazeh.

So that win over Illinois helped the Cardinal cling to a spot in the polls until volleyball season ended, allowing a "key reserve" to join the team.

On Nov. 22, Stanford was 0-3 -- including a loss to Illinois -- entering its game vs. then-No. 1 Purdue. And Cardinal fans may have sat through pregame warmups with many thoughts bouncing around in their heads.

At least we beat Cal in football. ... Which is lower: the temperature on Pluto or (pick a Cardinal player)'s shooting percentage? ... Could we end up 0-11 entering the Pac-10?

But then the Cardinal came out and played in much more cohesive fashion than it had previously displayed. Exactly one week after Purdue knocked off No. 1 Tennessee, the Boilermakers were dethroned themselves.

Afterward, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It's best for the game if we have teams taking turns (at No. 1)," which is what you say when you are nowhere near being top-ranked, and Purdue coach Carolyn Peck said, "A game like this overall helps the game of women's college basketball," which makes you realize she must be very good at spinning a ball.

Perhaps it was a matter of who was desperate (Stanford) and who wasn't (Purdue). It was definitely much-needed for the Cardinal, but the woods are still pretty darn thick.

The rest of Stanford's non-conference schedule: at home vs. Texas Tech and Wisconsin, at Santa Clara and San Francisco, at home vs. Northwestern, and at Tennessee and Colorado.

At this point, it's pretty hard to even guess how any of that will turn out (except the Tennessee part, probably).

Getting into the holiday spirit
Well, this is just asking to get e-mail saying, "You chucklehead, how could you forget so-and-so?" We're sure there's somebody we've missed. We didn't include anyone named "LaToya" because there are too many. And we don't wish to offend those who do not celebrate Christmas.

So with those disclaimers, we attempt to beat the holiday rush by submitting the all-Season's Greetings team:

Michelle Dickens (Chicago State)
Noelia Gomez (George Washington)
Michelle Snow (Tennessee)
Katie Holley (Texas)
Lisa Shepherd (Penn State)

And the team MVP: Kristin Santa (Drake).

Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star writes a regular women's basketball column for ESPNET SportsZone. Her e-mail address is