Sept. 2, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - Cardinal Insider is a new weekly notebook covering the scope and personalities of Stanford sports. It will be compiled and posted each Wednesday on gostanford.com by assistant athletic communications director David Kiefer.
Teammates Win Over Skeptical McNally
Stanford senior free safety Bo McNally was skeptical when Richard Sherman and Delano Howell took their first snaps in the defensive secondary during spring practice. Both had switched from offense, Sherman from wide receiver and Howell from running back.
But McNally has come to not only accept the transitions, but embrace them. McNally said he is hereby converted as the Cardinal heads into its season opener Saturday at Washington State.
On Sherman (6-3, 190), now at cornerback:
"It's hard to judge how an offensive guy can move in the secondary," McNally said. "They can move really well forward, but it's difficult to move backward, backpedaling and breaking. And Sherman is such a long athlete - tall, long arms, long legs. I didn't know if he'd be able to do the quick breaking and covering and tackling.
"He's exceeded all my expectations. I knew he'd be one of the best athletes on the team, but I didn't expect him to catch on as quickly as he did and as well as he did."
On Howell (5-11, 198), now at strong safety:
"When he first started backpedaling, it was pretty ugly," McNally said. "At first, we thought it would be a failed experiment and he'd move back to running back. But he's worked really hard and he's done really well fine-tuning the techniques of being a safety.
"The reason he's out there is he can hit. Delano is one of the most naturally strong kids I've ever been around. He reminds me of (former Stanford standout and current Houston Texan) Brandon Harrison. He can deliver a punch like you wouldn't expect from somebody that size."
McNally, a Stanford captain, has won some respect himself. He was listed fourth on a list of the nation's top safeties by ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
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FOOTBALL: Gerhart catches Herbstreit's eye
Toby Gerhart also has won the admiration of Herbstreit, who ranked Gerhart first among running backs "Ready to Take it to the Next Level." He also was one of three running backs on Herbstreit's "All-Uni Team: What a College Team Should Look Like."
Click here to find a link to the ninth annual Herbie Awards.
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BASEBALL: Storen draws from Stanford experience
As if his status as the 10th overall pick in the 2009 June amateur draft wasn't enough, Drew Storen has distinguished himself as a top prospect in the Washington Nationals organization through his performance and not just his potential.
The right-handed reliever out of Stanford has already earned two promotions in his 2½-month pro career and has yet to allow an earned run in nine appearances at the Double-A level.
His combined statistics for low-Class A Hagerstown, high-Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg are 1-1 with a 2.02 earned-run average, 11 saves, 46 strikeouts and 8 walks in 35 2/3 innings.
His Harrisburg numbers are even more astounding: 9 saves in as many games, and only two hits allowed in 11 innings. And, of course, there's that 0.00 ERA.
"I'm just keeping going what I did at Stanford," said Storen, who went 7-1, with 7 saves, a 3.80 ERA and 66 strikeouts to 8 walks for the Cardinal in 2009. "The attitude I learned there was `get better every day.' And that's what I've tried to continue."
It's September, but Storen doesn't expect a call-up, though major league teams have the option of expanding their rosters.
"I don't think it's going to happen," Storen said. "And I don't want to rush anything. My goal is not to be a one-month big-league pitcher."
That doesn't mean the Nationals aren't excited about Storen. "He's adjusted quickly to pro ball and has been outstanding," wrote Nationals' director of player personnel Bobby Williams, in an e-mail. "He dominated both A levels (Hagerstown and Potomac) with three above average pitches (fastball, curveball and slider). We felt that he needed a new challenge for his development and he has continued to have success at the AA level with above average stuff. "We are extremely pleased with the quick progress he has shown in the short amount of time he has been in the organization and we are very excited about Drew's future as a Washington National."
That doesn't mean the Nationals aren't excited about Storen.
"He's adjusted quickly to pro ball and has been outstanding," wrote Nationals' director of player personnel Bobby Williams, in an e-mail. "He dominated both A levels (Hagerstown and Potomac) with three above average pitches (fastball, curveball and slider). We felt that he needed a new challenge for his development and he has continued to have success at the AA level with above average stuff.
"We are extremely pleased with the quick progress he has shown in the short amount of time he has been in the organization and we are very excited about Drew's future as a Washington National."
Storen's next stop will be the Arizona Fall League, where he will report on Oct. 7. Beyond that, perhaps a spring training invitation with the big club.
"This whole thing has been such a whirlwind," Storen said. "I came in with no expectations. I just hope I can keep it going."
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MEN'S SOCCER: Morgan back in action
In the 27th minute of Stanford's men's soccer match Tuesday night against Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., Evan Morgan stepped on a field for an official match for the first time since 2006. The season-opening result was disappointing - a 2-1 loss. But, in Morgan's case, there was an uplifting side as well.
Morgan led Stanford in goals (5) as a junior in 2006 and seemed prepared for a big 2007 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp. History fatefully repeated itself when Morgan tore up the other knee during a 2008 preseason exhibition and was forced to endure surgery and rehab all over again.
In the meantime, Morgan petitioned, and was granted, a sixth year of eligibility. Morgan returned to a team that had players who were in middle school when he first wore a Cardinal uniform.
"One of the main reasons I wanted to come back was that I knew we would have a lot of talent and a lot of potential as a team," he said. "I thought I could contribute. I still felt I had a lot more that I wanted to achieve."
There was also the unspoken reason: Morgan didn't want his career to end with an injury.
"That was absolutely the motivating factor," he said. "I wanted to go out on my own terms."
As for a first-match evaluation, Stanford coach Bret Simon said, "He did some good things, and some not-so-good things. But it was good to have him on the field."
"It's been a long time coming," he said.
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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Cardinal finding its way
With the graduation of two first-team All-Americans from a team that reached its third consecutive NCAA women's volleyball title match, Stanford is in the process of trying to re-establish its identity.
The Cardinal went 2-1 at the season-opening Notre Dame Invitational, dropping from No. 5 to No. 11 in the AVCA coaches' poll. Stanford broke in two freshmen, setter Karissa Cook and middle blocker Jessica Walker, who both started the five-set opening victory over LSU, and have others in different roles, such as junior Cassidy Lichtman, who has played libero and setter at Stanford and now is a hitter.
"This year is kind of a slow process," libero Gabi Ailes said. "We're trying to work in some younger players and teach them more about the game. It's going to take us a little longer than normal, but we've got some great athletes."
Lichtman, who narrowly missed what was believed to be Stanford's first triple-double (9 kills, 20 assists, 12 digs) against Denver on Sunday, said the opening tournament was valuable.
"We used the first road trip to figure out what we need to work on," she said. "With the young players, you have to figure out the type of player they are, how they move on the court and what role they're going to take on."
The evolution will continue when Stanford resumes action Friday against No. 5 Florida at the UOP Bankers' Classic in Stockton (5 p.m.).
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FIELD HOCKEY: Friday night lights
For the first time in the history of Stanford field hockey, the Cardinal will play a home game at night.
Stanford's game against Northeastern on Friday (6 p.m.) at the Varsity Turf field will be the first of three regular-season home night games this season and the realization of a longtime goal for coach Lesley Irvine.
"This will allow us to practice at more ideal times in terms of temperature," Irvine said. "And it will create a fun, cool atmosphere for the community to come and enjoy our games."
The lights came from the old Stanford Stadium, which was demolished in 2005. The field hockey program has had them for over a year, and was able to raise the money to put them in place.
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WOMEN'S SOCCER: Shooting targets
The Stanford women's soccer record for shots in a game going into this season was 33. The No. 4 Cardinal (3-0) has already exceeded that total twice. Stanford took 40 shots in a 2-1 victory at Cal Poly on Friday and 35 more in a 5-2 home-opening victory over San Diego State on Sunday.
Before the end of August, Stanford had already taken 104 shots and scored 13 goals.
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WOMEN'S LACROSSE: Bokker joins national team staff
Second-year Stanford coach Amy Bokker was named an assistant coach for the United States national team. Bokker, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year last season, was an assistant for the Canadian team that finished third in July's World Cup in the Czech Republic.
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WOMEN'S WATER POLO: Villa featured
Former Stanford star Brenda Villa is one of six American Olympians that will be featured in Bud Greenspan's two-hour film "Beijing 2008 - America's Olympic Glory." The documentary will premiere Oct. 19 on Showtime (7 p.m.). Villa is a three-time Olympian who grew up in the Latino community of Commerce, Calif., and captained her team to a medal.
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BASEBALL: Acclaimed film has Stanford character
The critically-acclaimed baseball film "Sugar," which comes out on DVD this week, includes a character who is a Stanford graduate and is featured in a key scene. The fiction film depicts a young Dominican pitcher in the minor leagues and his struggles to adapt to American culture while also trying to live up to the pressure of supporting his family. The Stanford character is a star second baseman with other career options and offers a stark contrast to the pitcher's uncertain future without baseball.
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FOOTBALL: Kids Free to SJSU game
Youths 14 and under can receive a free general admission tickets for the Stanford football home opener against San Jose State on Saturday, Sept. 19. Kickoff for the Bill Walsh Legacy Game is 6 p.m., and after the game, children will be allowed to run on the Stanford Stadium field.
There are two different ways to pick up free tickets:
Fill out a Kids Free game voucher by completing a registration form that can be found at www.gostanford.com/bwlegacy. Those submitting the form will then be directed to a page to print out the voucher, which can be exchanged for a free general admission kids' ticket at any Stanford Stadium ticket window on game day. There is no limit on the number of vouchers you can distribute to a group.
Also, youths will be admitted free if they wear their own game jersey. It can be for any sport as long as it's a youth team jersey.
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FOOTBALL: Labor Day On-Line Blowout Sale
Stanford football tickets for the San Jose State (Sept. 19), Washington (Sept. 26) and Arizona State (Oct. 24) can be purchased for 50 percent off over Labor Day weekend.
The on-line deal lasts from Saturday-Monday and is for selected tickets. Go to www.gostanford.com to make a purchase or for more information.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics