By Dale Goodwin
PALO ALTO, Calif. – 3/17/07) -- Game day is here for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, playing in their first NCAA postseason women’s basketball tournament. The players are loose and relaxed, and don’t appear to be caught up in the hoopla. Game time Saturday is 5 p.m. at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion against
It was 13 years ago to the day, March 17, 1994, that the Gonzaga men’s basketball team won its first modern-day, postseason tournament game, on this court, defeating the host Cardinal in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. Could history repeat itself or will blarney prevail on this St. Patrick’s Day?
Gonzaga’s players rose to a postcard day here in central
California Friday, with intense blue skies, sunshine and a breakfast temperature around 60 degrees. The thermometer would approach 80 before this busy day was done.
(1)The 2007 Gonzaga University WCC Championship Women's Basketball Team, the first to represent Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament.
(2) The Gonzaga University community gives the women's team a hearty send-off before their trip to the first-round game of the Tournament in Palo Alto, Calif.
(3) Coach Kelly Graves taks some time out to coach his son a bit on the finer points of the game.
A 90-minute practice at the
San Francisco was followed by a news conference and 50-minute shoot-around at Maples Pavilion, ending at 5 p.m.
Lunch was distributed to the players by assistant coaches from a large box filled with sub sandwiches, and consumed on the bus from San Francisco to
Palo Alto , some 30 miles down Highway 101. Dinner was a little more relaxed at a San Mateo Japanese restaurant. It was a fun night, enjoyed with team host Sue from Stanford. In the spirit of competition, the restaurant owner challenged any Gonzaga player to do more pushups than he could do. Redshirt freshman Janelle Bekkering from Tabor,
Alberta , stepped up, er, pushed up 57 times in a remarkable show of strength and stamina, but the entrepreneur did one more. Nevertheless, Bekkering drew praise from her teammates.
Study of Middle Tennessee game films was dessert.
State is located in Murfreesboro, dead center in the state of Tennessee, about 30 miles southwest of
Nashville . Established in 1911 as one of three normal schools for teacher training, the school added a bachelor of arts degree in 1936, became a state college in 1943, added a graduate school in 1951 and became a university in 1965. The campus boasts 137 permanent buildings on 504 acres (Gonzaga has 87 on 108)
MTSU has a student enrollment of 22,554, about three-and-a-half times larger than Gonzaga (6,736). Searching for familiar names, Kermit Davis, former
Idaho basketball coach, is the men’s basketball coach at MTSU.
The Blue Raiders play in the Sun Belt Conference, which includes 13 teams stretching from north Texas to south
Back to the events of the day, Friday: Players had a chance to get a feel for the court they would play on Saturday. Maples Pavilion seats 7,300 fans, small by NCAA standards but tickets remain available for Saturday’s Gonzaga game. Stanford is located almost directly south of San Francisco, and an equal distance northwest of
San Jose . This area is definitely part of the
Silicon Valley with technology being a primary industry here. Stanford has a lush, sprawling campus, and most of its 34 intercollegiate athletic teams have their own facilities.
Saturday’s events are as follows: Quizzes at 11 a.m. on the tendencies of MTSU players and how to stop them, team Mass at 12:30 p.m. celebrated by team Chaplain Father George Morris, S.J. Pre-game meal is at 1 p.m. The team will leave the hotel at 3:30 p.m., for the 20-minute drive to Stanford.
At Friday’s news conference Coach Kelly Graves said he and his team were honored to be representing the teams of the West Coast Conference in the NCAA Tournament. “And we’re glad to be playing in the Bay Area where three of our conference teams are located,” he said.
State is an excellent team. A primary focus must be stopping Sun Belt Player of the Year Chrissy Givens, whom
Graves believes will be a first-round pick in the WNBA draft.
“We defended as a team all yearlong, and that’s how we hope to counter Givens,” said Gonzaga senior Katie Ridenour. “It’s not just one player (assigned to that task). We hope to not give her any open looks (at the basket).”
Senior Zag Stephanie Hawk, the WCC Player of the Year, said, “Throughout our four years here we’ve been working for this moment. We’re ready and excited to be here.”
Tennessee plays pressure defense. “To prepare for that we have practiced five on seven all week,”
Graves said. “We handled the pressure better on Tuesday than we did on Monday, and better on Wednesday than we did on Tuesday. We have to be confident we can handle the ball, keep spaced out, come back to the ball (when needed), and never relax. We have to attack.”