STANFORD (KPIX 5) – The Stanford women’s basketball team passed under the outstretched arms of the water polo squad before they boarded a bus headed to the airport.
It was a departure fit for royalty — and why not? Head coach Tara VanDerveer’s teams have been the queens of the school’s athletic department for the last three decades. Even football coach David Shaw stopped by to lend last minute support.
Stanford will face South Carolina on Friday in Dallas. It’s VanDerveer 13th trip to the Final Four and first since 2014 when they lost to North Carolina. She’s hoping for her third career national championship.
“This will be the team that I use in the future and say ‘this is what’s capable and this is how you want to be,’” said VanDerveer who started at Stanford in 1985.
VanDerveer would be the first to tell you she’s had more star players on past teams, but the 2017 version is one of her more cohesive units. “We really want to get this championship for Tara,” said senior Eric McCall.
Last week Stanford’s plane had mechanical issues and was unable to make the trip back to the Bay Area. The team was forced to stay on the road for 11 games.
“My room was messy. I didn’t realize how messy I left it,” said senior Karlie Samuelson. “It was a long road trip.”
It was long but it was also galvanizing.
Stanford has won four of their last five games when trailing at halftime. The Elite 8 victory over Notre Dame was their biggest, and McCall made a game-saving block at the buzzer.
“We didn’t need a plane to fly back,” said VanDerveer.
VanDerveer has a hard time hiding affection for her current group. During the celebration after the Notre Dame win, VanDerveer got in the center of the team’s dance circle – apparently a rare sight.
“She said if we got to the Final Four she would dance with us. She did, but I have to show her a couple more moves,” said McCall with a chuckle.
“They were pretty funny,” said junior Brittany McPhee. “I can’t really say anything because I can’t dance.”
VanDerveer isn’t claiming to be Baryshnikov either.
“When you’re in The Dance, you keep on dancing,” she said of the NCAA Tournament. “I’ll break out more moves the further we go. I’m not saying they’re going to be any better.”