“We’re not driving on the road looking in the rearview mirror,” Van Drewer said. “It will be an accident. We are watching.”
In the case of Van Driver, this helps keep the road ahead smooth. Stanford is bringing back 12 of its 13 players from last year and is adding to the country’s sixth-ranked recruitment class.
Senior guard Lexi Hill said winning the title did not dampen the team’s spirits.
“After going through this experience, we’re really hungry to relive the emotions we felt after winning the championship game,” Hill said.
Stanford is only the fourth school to win a back-to-back title since the NCAA tournament began in 1982, and Connecticut is the first after winning four in a row from 2013-16. Tennessee (2007-08) is the second school besides Connecticut to repeat as champion.
Hole is one of the all-conference players returning to the Cardinal with Haley Jones, the best player of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
“I think it’s definitely a different kind of atmosphere this season,” Jones said as he entered his junior season. “We have a goal but I think we welcome it. This is where we want to be. I don’t think we feel that much pressure but there are definitely some expectations so it’s just all of them. Encourages us to reach and transcend.
But Stanford is not the only team that is heavy on returning to production. For starters, Connecticut and South Carolina are also rolling out their entire starting lineup and adding five-star recruits to the mix.
And Van Driver knows how thin the margin between winning and losing a title is. The Cardinal was the first NCAA champion to win both his semi-final and final by one point, a joke that Van Driver joked about, perhaps for many of the teams that won Stanford’s previous titles in 1990 and 1992. Fell short after
“We probably have 10 teams that could have won,” Van Drewer said. “And this team won, because they were really stuck together. We made the plays that we needed to make, but it wasn’t given. It was really good that we had these masks because You don’t want to know what I’m saying.
One player who did not return was point guard Kiana Williams, a 3-pointer program record holder who supported the team in points and assisted in the previous season and took on many leadership responsibilities.