When Discovery Canyon graduate Ashten Prechtel signed her national letter of intent to the Stanford University women’s basketball team, she had no expectations for her future in cardinal and white. She just wanted to play.
Little did she know, 29 months later she would be a national champion.
Prechtel, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, helped Stanford win its first women’s basketball championship in 29 years, making history for the Cardinal, past and present.
“It’s still very surreal,” Prechtel said Wednesday after flying home to Colorado Springs for a short spring break.
“Twenty-nine years is a long time. And Stanford has been a great program, but we haven't won a national championship. So this is huge not just for our team but for the previous Stanford teams. We won it not just for us, but for the past 29 teams.”
Prechtel helped the top-seeded Cardinal to a 54-53 win over No. 3 Arizona on Sunday, marking the program’s third national championship. She had seven points and eight rebounds against the familiar opponent.
Stanford went 2-0 against Arizona before the NCAA tournament, including a 62-48 victory to claim the Pac-12 regular-season title. The team’s first in seven years.
“Honestly the fact that we were playing Arizona made it feel like, for me, it was just another game, and I think that helped,” Prechtel said. “We obviously had to keep it in the back of our mind that this is a national championship, but this was a team we knew and had played before.”
Despite a heroic performance by Arizona’s Aari McDonald, Stanford clinched the one-point win after a game-winning attempt by McDonald bounced off the rim.
And that’s when Prechtel’s memory gets fuzzy.
She doesn’t remember much from the moments following the final horn. Just a flood of excitement and awe.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” she said.
Just four months ago, Prechtel and her team had doubts about whether the NCAA tournament would happen after three of their first six games of the season were cancelled because of COVID protocols.
And after the season was unceremoniously cut short a year ago, Prechtel said the feeling of uncertainty flooded back.
“At the beginning of the season I don’t think anyone actually thought that we were going to make it to the end after what happened last year. Nothing seemed to be going right,” Prechtel said. “I think it just made each game more important to us. This could be the last of the season, and we never knew at any point. So we had to take it day by day, game by game.”
Things seemed to get back to normal for Stanford in 2021, with just one game canceled in January, but Prechtel said she kept the day-by-day mentality, and would encourage other athletes to adapt the same mindset.
“This season especially, it was so important to take it one day at a time,” she said. “We couldn’t look too far ahead, and we had to stay focused because anything could change at any point. So we learned how to prioritize what is going on in the moment and not what is next.”
What’s next for Prechtel is still in the works. She hopes to decide on her major and looks forward to seeing teammates move on to the WNBA draft. But one thing is certain for Prechtel, who turns 20 next month, she has found a home in Stanford, Calif.
“It’s the best decision I could have made, I love it out here, and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Prechtel said.