Stanford ready to make run at coveted NCAA title

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STANFORD, CALIF. (AP) - From the moment last season ended in disappointment, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen made it clear their senior seasons at Stanford would be incomplete without an NCAA championship.

They reiterated it Wednesday: Another near miss at a national title won’t do for this star tandem in their final shot at winning it all.

The top-seeded Cardinal (33-2) head off to their fourth straight Final Four on Thursday riding a 27-game winning streak and gearing up for an unexpected semifinal matchup Sunday in Indianapolis with No. 2 seed Texas A&M after its upset of Baylor.

“It’s incredible to make it to four straight Final Fours, but at the same time we’re not satisfied with that,” Pedersen said. “I think that determination, that focus that we’re going to bring this year and that experience that we’ve lost a bunch of times in the Final Four, is really going to motivate us for one more game.”

Stanford hasn’t brought home the title trophy since 1992 despite reaching the NCAA final twice in the program’s past three trips to the Final Four. The Cardinal lost the title to Tennessee in 2008 and to Connecticut last year.

Everybody involved insists it’s time to finally get over the hump, which likely will mean getting through two-time defending champion UConn for a second time this season.

“Is this team better prepared? Do I have a sense of it? No,” coach Tara VanDerveer said of the Cardinal’s chances.

Pohlen, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, and Pedersen already have done so much to leave their legacy, like that school-record 63-game home winning streak at Maples Pavilion. They never lost on their home floor for their careers _ a mark no other Stanford senior class has accomplished.

It was Pohlen’s coast-to-coast drive for the winning layup against Xavier during last season’s special run that sent Stanford back to the Final Four.

Now, it’s their final try on the biggest stage.

“For Kayla and I and the other seniors, we’re very focused coming into this Final Four,” Pohlen said. “It’s tough making it that far and not coming away with the national championship. I think it’s motivating us even more and making us even more excited because we do know this is our last chance at it. We’ve gone this far. We’re just going to give it all we have.”

Stanford ended the Huskies’ record 90-game winning streak with a thrilling 71-59 victory at Maples Pavilion back on Dec. 30, holding UConn star Maya Moore to 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting. That after UConn rallied from a 20-12 halftime deficit against Stanford to win the national title last April _ a result that still stings around Stanford.

Pedersen said after that demoralizing defeat that she didn’t want Stanford to be remembered as the team that made it to the last game and never won.

“As a freshman, sitting there with the seniors and hearing them declare their passion, to hear they feel so strongly, you want to help them end their senior year right,” said Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Chiney Ogwumike.

VanDerveer, trying to win her third national title in 25 years at Stanford, said the loss inspired her to work even harder than she already does. She took less time off than usual right after last season ended.

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