Jayne Appel could only watch.
As time wound down on Stanford’s Elite Eight game — maybe on the Cardinal center’s college career, too — Appel was on the bench. She had fouled out after scoring only eight points and playing just 18 minutes against Xavier.
She had become a spectator, a cheerleader, a helpless senior.
"It felt horrible,” Appel said.
Stanford survived without her, thanks to a pair of blown layups by Xavier forward Dee Dee Jernigan and a buzzer-beating dash to the basket by Cardinal guard Jeanette Pohlen. But for the Cardinal to stay alive much longer — a national semifinal game against Oklahoma awaits Sunday at the Final Four — it needs Appel on the floor.
"She is the key to our success,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said earlier in the NCAA Tournament. "Jayne makes other players look better, and that is a mark of a great player.”
For the past three seasons, Appel has been at the center of this Stanford team, literally as its starting post player and figuratively as its leader.
With her, Stanford is a team that can compete with the Connecticut juggernaut.
Without her, the Cardinal seems vulnerable.
And there have been several occasions this season where Stanford has been without the 6-foot-4 Appel. She has been injured and sick, sidelined and hurt.