Feb. 29, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - A great sports story will often include these characteristics: a stirring comeback, personal sacrifice, and a game-winning last-second score.
Stanford's 14-13 women's lacrosse victory over visiting James Madison on Saturday included all those things: a comeback from a five-goal deficit and Anna Kim's heroic goal with nine seconds left - after she was injured on the play.
"I didn't even know I got the shot off," said Kim, a sophomore midfielder from Clarksville, Md.
While her teammates jumped for joy and tried to congratulate her, Kim lay on the ground with a dislocated shoulder, an injury that could keep her out of action for 3-6 weeks.
Kim recalled looking up at the clock with 30 seconds left and thinking to herself, We are not going to lose this game. The Cardinal's comeback against the nation's No. 9 team, she said, was less about strategic adjustments than willpower.
"It was just a change in attitude," she said.
Kim was guarded tightly outside the fan (the semicircular area in front of the goal) on the right-side angle when she saw an opening and made a hard cut down the middle. Teammate Emily Newstrom found her with a high, hard pass.
As Kim reached up, the momentum of the ball tore her shoulder out of her socket as she made the catch. But in a continuous motion, Kim propelled herself toward the goal, somehow firing the ball into the net while falling to the ground amid pain and contact.
"I heard it before the shot," she said of a popping sound from her shoulder. "It was extremely painful. I saw the ball go in, but I couldn't celebrate."
Several James Madison players complained to the official that the reason Kim remained on the ground was because she was tightening the strings on her stick. If the strings are too loose, the stick is deemed to be illegal, and the goal can be wiped out.
After time elapsed, they realized that wasn't the case.
"I just had the mentality that day that I didn't want the team to lose," she said. "I knew when I cut, it was going to be one of the last plays of the game."
Kim said it was the first game-winning goal she has ever scored, at any level.
"It all happened so fast," she said. "I guess it was kind of dramatic."
* * *
Sunday's regular-season finale against Cal marks the final men's basketball home game for Stanford's senior class of Jarrett Mann, Josh Owens, Jack Trotter, and Andrew Zimmermann.
The class was the first for coach Johnny Dawkins, who took over after the abrupt resignation of Trent Johnson after the 2007-08 season.
With little time to recruit, Dawkins essentially began with two scholarship freshmen, Mann and Jeremy Green, who went pro after his junior season. Owens, a fifth-year senior, already was in the program. Trotter was granted a scholarship as a sophomore, and Zimmermann arrived as a transfer.
Dawkins characterized the seniors - representing his first four-year graduating class - as one that handled itself in a "professional" manner. Their roles often changed, but they never lost sight of the big picture, of restoring the program to prominence.
"They've come in every day and worked hard," said Dawkins, the Anne and Tony Joseph Director of Men's Basketball. "They've pushed the young guys every day. They've led, and none of them have shied away from that responsibility.
"Their work ethic and their sense of team, and their selflessness are the things that stand out and those are the things that I'll always remember."
Mann, perhaps more than any other member of that class, has had to be flexible.
He was recruited by Johnson, but was impressed with Dawkins' honesty when the new coach arrived for a home visit. They had never met before.
"In my recruiting process, I met with a lot of coaches, the highs and lows," Mann said. "I'm pretty perceptive in reading people. I could feel that he was a really genuine person."
Mann arrived as a shooting guard, but switched to the point. He sat, and then started for two seasons, and now is mostly coming off the bench at his original position.
"Coach pretty much asks me to be more of a leader, more of a captain," Mann said. "Develop the young guys. Make sure they're doing the right things."
Being a mentor to the younger players he's competing against for minutes has been one of the twists to his career. But Mann takes inspiration from Mitch Johnson, his predecessor at point guard, who took Mann under his wing.
"That's always a tough situation," Mann said. "But our team is like a family, so you don't want to hold anyone else back. The way I look at it, I watched Mitch when he was here. He led, but he also knew I was coming right behind him. To leave the program in good hands, he taught me a lot of things. Now, I'm feeling pretty much the same way."
Despite the ups and downs of his collegiate career and the team's fortunes, Mann said nothing has swayed his original perception of his coach.
"He's the same person he's always been, truthful and honest," Mann said. "He never sugarcoats anything. If you do something well, he's going to tell you. If you do something wrong, he's going to tell you. He's never swayed from that. He's never showed favoritism."
Mann also has impressed his coach, because of his attitude and patience.
"He never blinked," Dawkins said. "He always understood what was best for the team. He's a team guy. It was always, `Coach, what can I do to help?' That's how they all are. That's what you need to have, guys that support their roles. They're all great in the locker room. Our culture has been really good because of what those seniors have provided."
When Mann looks back, this is what he expects to see:
"When Coach K inherited Duke, it wasn't the greatest program. A few years after, they became dominant. Those guys might not have always been successful the first few years, but they can look back now and say, `I went to Duke. I played basketball for Coach K.'
"It will be a similar way with Coach Dawkins, to come back and say, `Stanford Basketball is dominating the Pac-12 and I was one of the catalysts that started all that.'"
* * *
Two weekends into the season and freshman John Hochstatter has secured the Sunday starter spot in the Stanford baseball pitching rotation - at least for now.
Before the season, coach Mark Marquess expected two frontrunners to compete for that spot, but Hochstatter opened some eyes by pitching 6 1/3 hitless innings of long relief of A.J. Vanegas in Stanford's opening-series finale against Vanderbilt.
Given the Sunday start last week against Texas, Hochstatter responded with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball to earn his first collegiate victory.
"Yes, we have other guys that could possibly fill that role," Marquess said. "But, right now, John will stay there."
Marquess didn't expect the Danville, Calif., native to adapt so quickly.
"He was one of the guys we thought would be very good, but the problem with a freshman is you don't know how quickly they will make that adjustment. He can falter a little bit and get out of that role. But so far, he's done nothing wrong."
Hochstatter has impressed his coach because "he can pitch," Marquess said.
"By that I mean, most freshmen have got a real good fastball and their second or third pitches aren't as developed as they might be, which is understandable because they could dominate at the high school level with a fastball. With John, he doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but he's developed three pitches that he can throw for strikes at almost any count. That's really what makes him effective."
* * *
The sun was setting on the lacrosse practice field and players were heading back to the locker room on their bicycles last week when whistles from the field continued to pierce the evening commute.
Lacrosse assistant coach Danielle Spencer battled with Stanford players on draws - the sport's equivalent of hockey face-offs - as players worked extra to shore up a weakness that hurt the Cardinal in three season-opening losses to ranked teams.
But against James Madison, Stanford won 62 percent of the draw controls, which allowed the team to retain possession while making a furious comeback from a five-goal deficit.
"It definitely was a big problem for us," Spencer explained. "That was our biggest priority."
The weakness wasn't necessarily winning the draws, it was getting to the loose balls first.
"Draw controls are possessions," Spencer said. "We needed to be more aggressive off the line in beating the other team to the ball."
They were and it paid off with a big victory.
* * *
Former Stanford women's soccer star Christen Press, the 2010 Hermann Trophy winner as the collegiate game's best player, has signed with Swedish club Goteborg FC.
Press was the Rookie of the Year in Women's Professional Soccer in 2011, but the league suspended operations because of a lawsuit filed by the owner of Press' team, Florida-based magicJack.
* * *
Home Game of the Week
Men's Basketball: Stanford vs. Cal
Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Maples Pavilion
Stanford (19-10, 9-8) can play spoiler against the rival Golden Bears, who go into the weekend a half-game behind leading Washington in the Pac-12 standings. This is the regular-season finale and final home game for the Cardinal and its senior class.
Other weekend home highlights:
Men's volleyball at Maples Pavilion: No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 UC Irvine, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Women's lacrosse at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium: No. 16 Stanford vs. No. 11 Vanderbilt, Saturday, 1 p.m.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics