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Your Curated Guide to Women's Sports

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, AP Women's Soccer
Twitter: @AnnieMPeterson

 
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, High Post Hoops
Twitter: @HowardMegdal

  
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, NWHL Broadcaster
Twitter: @ELindsay08
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Time to take Stanford seriously—Holly Warlick interview—must-click women's basketball links


I know many of you are busy with last-minute holiday preparations (the Jewish calendar was nice to me this year, so I cleared the Chanukah hurdle weeks ago), but let's not lose sight of what Stanford just did.
They hosted Baylor, absolutely shut down as dynamic a big scoring duo as there is in the country in Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox, and won a defensive showdown, 68-63. Then, they went on the road, entered one of the toughest environments in America in Knoxville, and hung 95 points on Tennessee, winning an up-tempo race against a Lady Vols team that looked invincible coming in.
So for those keeping score at home: two top-ten wins in four days, in very different scoring environments. It's the kind of back-to-back wins championship teams need to notch come March, and seeing the Cardinal do it early on is a very encouraging sign.
I see how a title team might be taking shape in Palo Alto, from go-to star Alanna Smith to the dynamic guard Kiana Williams (who is shooting 43.3 percent from three so far this year, by the way), and it's worth considering what it would mean if Tara VanDerveer won her third championship. The last one came in 1992. 
It's not as if Tara has been conducting a career devoid of accomplishments in the intervening time, to put it mildly, but just managing to be capable of leading a title contender in eras almost three decades apart is amazing in and of itself, reflecting an incredibly ability to grow with the sport.
1992 was a long time ago. Dawn Staley was on the all-tournament team. Rebecca Lobo was a freshman in college. The WNBA did not exist. It was a long time ago.
And yet: this may not be her best shot, not with that 2019 class she's got coming in. VanDerveer is not slowing down a bit. In fact, most people were talking about her upcoming seasons as her best shot at another title.
After the past few days, though? It's time to start thinking about Stanford this year, too.

This Week in Women's Basketball

Blake DuDonis talked to Jeff Walz.

Derek Fisher is not only the Sparks' coach, he's also fronting a lending scheme that many have questions about.

Mechelle Voepel details NC State's strong start.

Rachel Galligan looks at women's basketball's greatest dunks.

John Focke and Danielle Robinson talk to Rebekkah Brunson.

Kelli Stacy talks to UConn commit Aubrey Griffin.

Michelle Smith explores why Utah's Megan Huff is so good this season.

Good stuff from Jenn Hatfield on Syracuse's Tiana Mangakahia, who is criminally underrated.

I detailed how Brian Agler went from ever-so-briefly unemployed to Dallas coach.

Jasmine Baker was there for the press conference, and captures it well.

More Mechelle, this time on U of M, who are whinning the Whalen whay (What?).

Instagram post of the week!


Five at The IX: Tennessee coach Holly Warlick

We spoke to Holly earlier this week.

 

HOWARD MEGDAL: You made the decision to stay at Tennessee earlier this year. I'm curious what went into that decision for you, and whether you've ever considered a coaching life separate from the place that's been your home for so long.

HOLLY WARLICK: First of all, there’s never been any other place I have wanted to coach. I’ve had other opportunities come along, but I made the decision to stay because Tennessee is a special place. It’s my home. This university has always afforded young women opportunities to play basketball and succeed in the classroom and in life beyond college. Before it was fashionable, UT also provided the resources for women’s sports, and we’ve always had an active and supportive fan base. There’s no place I’d rather be.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Only at the program where Pat Summitt reigned would your record—NCAA every year, four trips to the Elite Eight—even be questioned. But Pat coached, as you know, at a different time in women's basketball, while there's more talent and parity than ever before in today's game. Given that, what are the expectations you set for your teams with the program now, and don't they have to differ?:

HOLLY WARLICK: The top programs in the nation want to compete for and win a national championship every year. That’s not going to change. The expectations from our program or our fans aren’t going to change. My record might be a great record at a lot of other schools, but at Tennessee they expect the best, and I understand that.

There is more parity now but, regardless, you have to put together a team that plays well together, and I think we have a group right now that does just that. Our expectation is to win championships. Win the regular season SEC championship, win the tournament and go to the Final Four. It’s always going to be like that, and that’s why these kids come here – because the opportunity to play for championships is here if they buy in, put in the work and play together.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Your team looks dominant early, and one critical statistical change over last season is a dramatic uptick in your steal percentage. What is it about this group that forces so many turnovers, and how hard is it to find players at the Tennessee level offensively who can also guard the way you need them to?:

HOLLY WARLICK: It is hard. It certainly is hard (to find those players). I think it boils down to what we’ve emphasized. We emphasize in practice from early on that we want to press, to put pressure on the ball and to force turnovers. They’ve bought into it. They have the ability to do it. It takes a lot of effort and takes a lot out of you, so you have to be in great shape. By playing the style we do, we play a lot of people, which I think is appealing to players. Our kids have seen the results, so they enjoy pressing. It is hard to find kids who can score and are willing to play defense the way we want to play it. We are overall a little more athletic than we ever have been, so that helps (with generating the steals). We have kids that have bought into a team system, and I think it shows.

HOWARD MEGDAL: While you certainly always have your share of perimeter shooters, there's not been an emphasis on the three-pointer in your recent teams—typically, you are in the bottom fifth in the country in percentage of points you get from beyond the three-point line. Is that philosophical, or a consequence of personnel?:

HOLLY WARLICK: I want to shoot the three-ball, and I’d like us to shoot it at a high percentage. We have kids on this team who have been in the gym and worked on their shots, and they’re scoring better from the three-point line. I’d love for us to score more from the three-point line, but if we’re not shooting the ball well, then we don’t need to continue to shoot it during the game. If it’s not going, we need to try and get a three the old fashioned way – make a basket and go to the free throw line.

HOWARD MEGDAL: What did you learn about Meme Jackson from her huge game at Texas, and what kind of player can she be at the next level?:

HOLLY WARLICK: It reinforced how much Meme has matured as a player. I think in the past if she started off not shooting the ball well or if something didn’t go right for her, she would hang her head. Now, it’s ‘next play, or let’s find other ways I can help my team.’ I’ve sounded like a broken record on this, but she was in the gym all summer, and she’s in before and after practice. She has elevated her game, and I trust Meme. She’s not had a bad practice this season. Not one. You are seeing the result of her focus and dedication to the program, and I think if she continues at the level she is, she has a chance to play at the next level, no question. She’s one of our best defenders. She’s one of our hardest workers. She’s really developed a consistency with her offense and overall game.

 

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