Travel challenges just part of NCAA Tournament for Stanford
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Nadia Fingall took her three-hour economics final Wednesday while stationed in the hotel dining room. Erica McCall and Briana Roberson were set up in different conference rooms for their psychology exams.
Brittany McPhee and Karlie Samuelson each had chemistry finals - biochemistry for McPhee, organic for Samuelson.
When the charter plane for Sweet 16-bound Stanford never arrived Monday night in Manhattan, Kansas, because of a parts issue, Tara VanDerveer and her staff decided the best course would be to head to the next game destination without a trip first to the Bay Area. The coach checked with a few players and the plan was a go: onward to Lexington, Kentucky.
It meant staying an extra night in Kansas after beating Kansas State, then an off day from basketball on Tuesday. Quarters were acquired from the front desk and loads of laundry done, even all of VanDerveer's outfits, so no last-minute shopping trip was necessary for new clothes.
''Definitely unexpected, a little unorthodox, but everyone's been great,'' said Kaylee Johnson, who completed a paper and was studying for a Thursday final. ''I'm sure no one really expected this so it's frustrating in its own sense, in its own little way, but I feel like everyone's just kind of just buckled down, stepped up and realized what we have to do. It's not going to affect how we're studying, how we're going to take our finals.''
But the Cardinal didn't have everything.
Associate head coach Amy Tucker, assistant Tempie Brown and a few others from the traveling party secured a smaller charter to return home to Stanford. Tucker grabbed black uniforms in case the Cardinal advance and face No. 1 Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, where they'd be the lower seed and wear their dark road jerseys. Brown needed to move some players' cars from lots they couldn't stay parked in long-term. McCall had to be checked out of her dorm room since she is finishing this quarter.
''Yes, flexible is good,'' Tucker wrote in an email from the air Wednesday, nearing her arrival in Lexington.
Academic adviser Shannon Reader was busy monitoring the test takers, warning the student-athletes with countdowns during the exam process and communicating with professors and teachers assistants. All while working with the coaches to ensure there'd be three-hour blocks to get the schoolwork done as Stanford prepares for its 10th straight NCAA Tournament regional appearance. The second-seeded Cardinal (30-5) face No. 3 seed Texas on Friday night.
''She was earning her pay, she was very busy,'' VanDerveer said of the program's first-year academics liaison. ''She has been great. ... That was a great addition for our traveling party.''
Reader's email inbox was empty when she began the massive chore of checking in with professors to alert them to the change of plans and start organizing finals to be taken on the road, but her correspondences were up to 175 by Wednesday afternoon. All the players had to sign the Stanford honor code promising that exams were completed without cheating or plagiarizing.
''The girls did a great job of emailing their professors beforehand just kind of fair warning them, because you never know what's going to happen with the NCAAs,'' Reader said. ''We didn't know where we were going to be placed, so we kind of planted a seed a couple weeks ago.''
Stanford's travel challenges started earlier Monday, when the bus transporting the Cardinal to the game broke down several times en route to the arena before eventually coasting down a gradual descent to the loading dock. A Hall of Fame coach who joined the 1,000-wins club this season and is long accustomed to the pressures of March Madness, VanDerveer always leaves early, just in case.
''It was running distance. Really I thought it would be a nice warmup if we didn't make it on the bus,'' Johnson joked.
The plane Stanford was supposed to take home late Monday was stuck in Arkansas, waiting on a part from Houston that hadn't come by the time the Cardinal made the decision to stay.
''Honestly, our team rolls with it really well, they were great,'' VanDerveer said. ''We've just tried to kind of stay loose and enjoy being with each other. Kind of every step of the way it's felt like there's been just something else that's happened that we have to deal with. Our team has just stayed loose and dealt with it.''