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Stanford's Folkl Busts Up Knee

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The irony of it all is frightening.

Early Tuesday afternoon, Stanford junior Kristin Folkl didn't have a care in the world. Her team had just been given a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, and there was the junior Folkl fielding questions, not so much about her team's first-round opponent, but rather about her potential professional basketball career.

"Would you rather play in St. Louis if they open up a professional team since it is near your home town?"

The lightheartedness was apparent until one question darkened the mood and drew a noticeable pause from the Stanford star.

"I can't even imagine it at all," said Folkl about teammate Vanessa Nygaard's torn ACL. "The extremely mild ankle sprain that I got I thought was hard to deal with. I can't begin to understand what it would be like to have a major part of your knee torn apart."

Two hours later, Kristin Folkl began to understand.

In the midst of a routine fast-break drill during practice, Folkl drove to the basket for a right-handed layup and began screaming in pain. Initially Coach Tara VanDerveer thought, or more likely hoped, that her sixth-man had merely reaggravated her broken hand, but then she realized the severity of the situation.

"I went over there and I'm like, `It's her knee,"' said VanDerveer to reporters after practice. "I couldn't believe it. I still don't know what to think about it."

VanDerveer has endured every coach's nightmare throughout the past week. On Saturday, during her team's final regular season game against Oregon Sate, Nygaard, a fifth-year senior, went down in a heap and a subsequent MRI test revealed a ruptured ACL.

Thus, with her small forward out of the rotation, VanDerveer needed to make a quick change before facing Harvard on Saturday. It was a no brainer; everyone knew what would happen. Folkl, the team's leading scorer, rebounder and blocker would be given the starting nod. Nygaard's loss would be hard, but Folkl would soften the blow.

"This is a challenge for our team, but I think that we have enough ammunition to stay in the battle," said VanDeveer on Tuesday afternoon. "I am going to practice Kristin at the three [guard spot], and if she does play at the three then maybe I'll move some the freshmen into the post. I'm not going to throw up my hands because we still have Olympia Scott; we have Kristin Folkl."

Then to VanDerveer's horror, Folkl followed suit. An MRI test taken yesterday confirmed that she had torn not only her ACL, but also suffered bone bruises and structural damage to her meniscus.

Thus, the Stanford coach is now left with another starting void and no Kristin Folkl to play the role of the savior.

Stanford has played without Folkl in its lineup. For three straight seasons, while her teammates were battling through the first half of the season, Folkl's energies were focused on volleyball. Folkl, the 1997 NCAA Player of the Year, guided the Cardinal to its second straight NCAA Volleyball Championship this past fall.

Her decision to miss the first three months of the basketball season has caused a tug-of-war between the two programs, and Folkl has been caught in the middle.

Last year, she reached a crossroad and informed VanDerveer that she couldn't do it anymore; she wouldn't be wearing a Cardinal basketball jersey come December.

As much as the Stanford coach hated the idea of a player missing a practice, let alone three months of the season, VanDerveer couldn't lose Folkl. The Stanford Coach had no choice, but to ask her sixth man to reconsider her decision. By Feb. 17, Folkl was back on the basketball court, and by post-season time she was averaging more than 12 points and eight rebounds per game.

With that turbulent 1996-97 season by the wayside, Folkl entered her junior year witha newfound balance between the two sports. Thisunderstanding with VanDerveer and her acceptanceof her role has enabled Folkl to develop into thenation's most dominating sixth woman.

University of Washington Head Coach JuneDaugherty has seen her fair share of Folkl thisseason. In the Huskies' two regular season lossesagainst the Cardinal, Folkl netted a total of 62points.

"I think we need to have Kristin [Folkl]checked," Daugherty said following her team's90-70 loss against Stanford. "I don't believeshe's one of us. I think she's from Mars orsomewhere because that girl flat out gets up.She's amazing."

She is indeed one of the few women incollegiate basketball who can legitimately dunk,and it is no surprise that she is also the onlynon-starter who has been nominated for the Playerof the Year Award.

This season in particular, Folkl's immediateimpact was unparalleled. After seven Folkl-lessgames, Stanford was off to one of its most dismalstarts in recent memory, posting a 3-4 record.

Since volleyball season ended, however, theCardinal, with Folkl coming off the bench, hasbeen on a 19-1 clip.

In addition, it took little time for Folkl toemerge as Stanford's primary offensive weapon,averaging 18.9 points per game with an astounding69.5 field-goal percentage.

"I think that part of it has to do with focus;knowing that when you shoot you are going to gethit in the air and maintaining focus on thebasket," said the 6'2 Folkl. "And as much as I kidabout it, I think it has a lot to do with being soclose to the basket. I feel that probably 50 to 60percent of my shots are somewhat uncontestedlay-ups."

Those crucial points and those precious gimmebaskets from Folkl are now a thing of the pastsince her knee injury has proven to beseason-ending.

Nygaard has already decided to post-pone herknee surgery until after the season, and willattempt to play in the Tournament if Stanfordsurvives its first-round game against Harvard onSaturday. For Nygaard, however, the decision wassimple. She is a fifth-year senior, playing in herfinal post-season. In one month, surgery willstill be an option; the Tournament will not.

"There is an opportunity for me to play and tocontribute to my team, so I can't pass that up,"Nygaard said. "I didn't really think twice aboutsitting out and protecting my knee. I am a seniorand a captain of this team."

Folkl, on the other hand, is only a junior, andshe still harbors realistic dreams of playing bothbasketball and volleyball after her college years.

But with the news of the severity of herinjury, the decision has been taken out of herhands.

Two days ago, the worst injury Kristin Folklhad ever endured was a broken pinkie. When she wasasked if she could envision herself in Nygaard'splace, Folkl joked, "You're jinxing me," unawareof the irony that would soon befall her.The Folkl File

Career statistics for junior Kristin Folkl, whowill miss the Tournament with a torn ACL.

Year  G-GS  PPG  FG%  RPG94-95  24-1  9.5  .562  5.596-97  10-0  10.7  .707  8.297-98  18-0  18.9  .695  9.2Totals  52-1  13.0  .644  7.3

Career Highs:

Points

36 vs. Washington (1/24/98)

Rebounds

15 at UCLA (1/18/98)

15 vs. Arizona (2/28/98)

Source: Stanford Department of Athletics

University of Washington Head Coach JuneDaugherty has seen her fair share of Folkl thisseason. In the Huskies' two regular season lossesagainst the Cardinal, Folkl netted a total of 62points.

"I think we need to have Kristin [Folkl]checked," Daugherty said following her team's90-70 loss against Stanford. "I don't believeshe's one of us. I think she's from Mars orsomewhere because that girl flat out gets up.She's amazing."

She is indeed one of the few women incollegiate basketball who can legitimately dunk,and it is no surprise that she is also the onlynon-starter who has been nominated for the Playerof the Year Award.

This season in particular, Folkl's immediateimpact was unparalleled. After seven Folkl-lessgames, Stanford was off to one of its most dismalstarts in recent memory, posting a 3-4 record.

Since volleyball season ended, however, theCardinal, with Folkl coming off the bench, hasbeen on a 19-1 clip.

In addition, it took little time for Folkl toemerge as Stanford's primary offensive weapon,averaging 18.9 points per game with an astounding69.5 field-goal percentage.

"I think that part of it has to do with focus;knowing that when you shoot you are going to gethit in the air and maintaining focus on thebasket," said the 6'2 Folkl. "And as much as I kidabout it, I think it has a lot to do with being soclose to the basket. I feel that probably 50 to 60percent of my shots are somewhat uncontestedlay-ups."

Those crucial points and those precious gimmebaskets from Folkl are now a thing of the pastsince her knee injury has proven to beseason-ending.

Nygaard has already decided to post-pone herknee surgery until after the season, and willattempt to play in the Tournament if Stanfordsurvives its first-round game against Harvard onSaturday. For Nygaard, however, the decision wassimple. She is a fifth-year senior, playing in herfinal post-season. In one month, surgery willstill be an option; the Tournament will not.

"There is an opportunity for me to play and tocontribute to my team, so I can't pass that up,"Nygaard said. "I didn't really think twice aboutsitting out and protecting my knee. I am a seniorand a captain of this team."

Folkl, on the other hand, is only a junior, andshe still harbors realistic dreams of playing bothbasketball and volleyball after her college years.

But with the news of the severity of herinjury, the decision has been taken out of herhands.

Two days ago, the worst injury Kristin Folklhad ever endured was a broken pinkie. When she wasasked if she could envision herself in Nygaard'splace, Folkl joked, "You're jinxing me," unawareof the irony that would soon befall her.The Folkl File

Career statistics for junior Kristin Folkl, whowill miss the Tournament with a torn ACL.

Year  G-GS  PPG  FG%  RPG94-95  24-1  9.5  .562  5.596-97  10-0  10.7  .707  8.297-98  18-0  18.9  .695  9.2Totals  52-1  13.0  .644  7.3

Career Highs:

Points

36 vs. Washington (1/24/98)

Rebounds

15 at UCLA (1/18/98)

15 vs. Arizona (2/28/98)

Source: Stanford Department of Athletics

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