- Field Hockey
As a freshman at St. Francis High in Mountain View, Kristina Bassi trimmed down her options for a fall sport: cross country or field hockey.
“And I’d much rather play a game that looked similar to soccer and I wasn’t just running only,” said Bassi, who grew up playing mostly soccer and basketball.
Almost a decade later, it’s clear it was the right choice for the fifth-year senior at Stanford.
“I really loved playing a sport that was brand new and was something that I’d never seen before,” said Bassi, who helped the Lancers win a Central Coast Section title as a junior and was a member of the 2011 National Futures Championship team in Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands. “I could start from the ground up and kind of make it my own, which was awesome. But it was a super- high learning curve.
“And then coming to Stanford, my skills have been on an upward curve.”
Her time on The Farm is nearly over.
The 22-year-old will graduate at the end of the fall quarter with a degree in science, technology and society.
On Saturday, the 5-foot-7 center striker also will play her last home game on the Varsity Turf field as the Cardinal hosts UC Davis at 6 p.m.
“I really hadn’t thought about it until we finished this (last) game and everyone is like, ‘OK, our last home game is this weekend’ — and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ “ Bassi said. “I remember looking at Katie Keyser and just going, ‘Oh, it’s real. It’s really happening.’ I don’t know, I definitely have mixed feelings about it being the end. I think mostly I just feel motivated to play as well as I can with my teammates.”
It sure seems as if Bassi is saving her best for last.
She scored her first career hat trick on Sunday against rival Cal, which kept Stanford (9-7, 3-2 America East) within reach of the Bears and Pacific for a three-way tie atop the AE West Division.
It also avenged a disappointing 2-1 loss in Berkeley only a week earlier.
“I like to credit the whole team,” said Bassi, who ranks second on the team with eight goals. “Yeah, I think I was at the right spot at the right time, but people really set me up so well. And the energy before the game and that whole week leading up to it, we had lost to Cal the Sunday before and we really hate losing to Cal. We really wanted revenge, we really wanted to prove ourselves.
“So I was super motivated. Everyone was super, super motivated and we just came out blazing.”
The game was televised by the Pac-12 Networks, which allowed her former coach at St. Francis to record the broadcast.
“A bitter loss to Cal the week before up in Berkeley was something that those kids probably weren’t going to allow to happen again,” said Kathy Lincoln, who follows the team on Twitter. “And that’s kind of the mentality that Kristina has an athlete.”
Lincoln stopped coaching the Lancers two years ago after building the program from scratch in 1998.
Back then, she quickly discovered what kind of athletes fit the mold best.
“The two crossover sports that seemed to be pretty successful for us were the softball kids and the soccer kids,” Lincoln said. “Soccer because they generally knew the basic strategy and softball because of the hand-eye coordination. But the thing is, if you have athletes, andKristina is obviously a phenomenal athlete, then you can do a lot with that.
“And she’s also tenacious. She’s that kind of kid that youwant that’s prettymuch not going to give up until the ball is in the goal.”
It took a while to find her footing at the next level.
Bassi only scored twice in her first three years as a Cardinal. Her breakthrough came as a redshirt junior, when she was inserted into the starting lineup
and embraced the role of playing as the first line of defense.
“Kristina started the journey by trying to be very good off the ball on our defense and she has learned how we pressed and what is needed and really filled a really important, critical role on the team,” Stanford coach Tara Danielson said. “And what’s happening now is you can say that she’s in the right place at the right time, but I really see that as being experienced. Kristina is opportunistic, but she also knows there are goal scoring positions and making yourself available in those spaces early or at the right time is part of knowing what’s going to happen before it does.”
A student of the game, she understands that especially on the West Coast the notion of field hockey is somewhat ambiguous.
“There’s two things that everyone seems to be shocked about when I tell them,” Bassi said. “You can only use one side of the stick and it can’t touch anyone’s feet. And because of those two rules there are actually a lot of fouls and whistles in the game. It’s more of a refintervening game, like basketball is as opposed to soccer, where you can go spans of minutes without any ref intervention.
“But even with that, it’s super fast-paced because of self-starts. That’s what I tell people, but it still probably makes very little sense if you haven’t seen it.”
She plans to take some time off and travel after the fall, maybe visit friends abroad before returning in the spring for job interviews.
Over the past two summers, Bassi served as an intern at STRIVR, which was founded by a former Stanford football player and uses virtual reality to help athletes, brands and organizations.
“I really love a cutting edge, futuristic technology like that,” said Bassi, also a research assistant at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab on campus. “And trying to find also something that is mission-driven and really pro-social is really important for me.”
Her only mission right now is to close out the regular season with another victory and a share of the conference title. “Peaking at the right time is what I’ve been thinking about a lot with this team this year,” Bassi said. “We’re just putting all the pieces together. We’ve had some ups and downs this season, for sure. But it’s super exciting that I feel we’re starting to really connect as a team right now, which is kind of crazy that it’s right at the end. But if there’s any time that you want to peak, it’s now at the end and going into the playoffs.”
Who knows how many goals Bassi still has left in her field hockey career?
“Kristina, what makes her unique, is just her infectious ability to do what is needed in the moment,” Danielson said. “She’s just a real good team player, and that is what you’re looking for. And that’s a great example for the local players, as well. Yeah, she’s homegrown, but she had to earn her stripes and she put in the time. And what you’re seeing now is not just the fruit of one season, but her fifth season. And we’re real proud of her and the effort and the work she’s put in over time.”