Coach Tara VanDerveer watches a ton of videotape, but she has yet to view a tape of the Cardinal's 83-82 overtime loss to Old Dominion in the national semifinals last March. "Actually, I haven't watched our  championship win over Western Kentucky, either," she says, "but I usually do watch the losses. With this one, I just think, What's the point? Basketball isn't about coulda, shoulda. It's about did."
Last year, of course, Stanford didn't, despite having the best backcourt in the nation and a deep and talented frontcourt. For the third year in a row the ' Cardinal made it to the Final Four only to exit after one game. "I guess that makes us the Buffalo Bills of women's college basketball," says fifth-year senior fo ward Vanessa Nygaard.
That also makes Stanford perhaps the most motivated team in America. "I think you're going to see a more pissed-off attitude on this team," says Nygaard. "I know I'm going to be thinking about the Old Dominion game a lot. But I'm excited about this year because without last year's seniors, getting back to the Final Four will be a bigger challenge than usual."
The graduation of national player of the year Kate Starbird and point guard Jamila Wideman has left the Cardinal depleted. But the new backcourt of sophomores Christina Batastini and Milena Flores is promising, though untested. The 5' 10" Batastini likes to run, and the 5' 6" Flores, who made the Pac-10 all-freshman team last year despite getting limited playing time behind Wideman, may turn out to be one of the nation's best point guards in transition. "She can pass on a rope and get it to people upcourt better than anyone else I've coached," says VanDerveer.
If it can stay healthy, the Cardinal's oft-injured frontcourt will be daunting by midseason. As practice opened, senior center Olympia Scott was nursing a sore left foot, and 6' 4" senior power forward Naomi Mulitauaopele was rehabbing a torn cartilage in her right knee, but their recoveries are expected to be swift. VanDerveer is keeping an eager eye out for three-time volleyball All-America Kristin Folkl, who gave up basketball for almost two years but rejoined the team weeks before the NCAA tournament because of the rash of frontcourt injuries. The 6' 2" Folkl, a forward, quickly became one of Stanford's most effective players, shooting 70.7% from the field and leading the Cardinal in rebounds per game (8.2). She'll be back on the basketball court after the end of volleyball season. "That'll be around Christmas," says VanDerveer, smiling. "I know I believe in Santa."
And Stanford fans believe in their team: Though the price of reserved tickets to women's basketball at 7,391-seat Maples Pavilion has risen to $15, the same as for Cardinal men's games, season-ticket sales have exceeded last year's total of 3,987. "This is going to be a fun team to watch," says VanDerveer. "We need to improve our defense and rebounding, and the jury is still out on our guards, but I am very optimistic. We have a shot at it, and that's all you can ask for."