Former high school rivals battle at the college level at Smith Center


The last time Marta Sniezek and Caira Washington were on a basketball court together, they were suiting up for the National Cathedral and Georgetown Day girls basketball teams, respectively.

On Dec. 21, they once again faced off in the District. But this time, Sniezek was with Stanford, the No. 14-ranked team in the country, and Washington was alongside the two-time defending Atlantic 10 champion George Washington University at its Smith Center.

The Cardinal held off the Colonials’ furious second-half rally to leave D.C. with a 71-52 victory.

For the former Independent School League rivals, facing a familiar face was a fun experience. “It’s always great seeing people from the ISL being successful in what they do,” Sniezek said. Washington shared her former foe’s enthusiasm.

“It was a little throwback rivalry,” said Washington. “It was a lot of fun. Of course I wanted to get the [win] in the end.” For Sniezek, it was a homecoming, playing in the District for the first time with the Cardinal.

“My folks get out [to Stanford] as much as they can; they have been out twice,” she said. But playing in the District allowed the Sniezeks to take up a section of the stands.

“It’s exciting. My whole family was here,” the former Cathedral star said. “We were really focused on getting this [win]. It was important for us going into break. We were working really hard.”

In last month’s victory, Sniezek showed the evolution of her game. At Cathedral she did what the Eagles needed — scored a lot. She finished her high school career as their all-time leading scorer and notched over 2,000 career points. Stanford hasn’t needed that, instead seeking a floor general who could orchestrate its offense and feed its variety of playmakers. Sniezek has obliged.

“I’m just doing what my team needs me to do,” the Stanford sophomore said. “We have great posts, so feeding them the ball is what we like to do. We have great shooters outside.”

In that Dec. 21 game, Sniezek scored seven points, dished out three assists and grabbed five rebounds, while committing just two turnovers in 30 minutes of action.

“She came in as a real heady point guard,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. “She really knows the game. She is a very smart player; as she gets better, our team will get better. We count on her, and she’s doing really well. She has instincts that you really can’t teach.”

Since arriving in Palo Alto, Calif., Sniezek has worked to round out her game.

“I’ve been working on my jump shot and learning the little details of the game,” she said. “I have also been working on the mental game and adding that to what I had before.”

Her work ethic has earned praise from her coaches. “She plays hard, she’s in shape and she can push it,” said VanDerveer. “We are building on the good things she brought. She is a very vocal point guard, which is great. She’s a total team player and very unselfish. I love coaching her.

She is a really outstanding young person.”

Sniezek is just starting to hit her stride at the college level while starting eight of the team’s 14 games and averaging nearly 24 minutes, almost five points and just over four assists per game this season.

Meanwhile, Washington, who is in her senior season as a Colonial, has etched her name in George Washington history. The former Hopper already has more than 1,000 points at the college level, and she’s in the school’s alltime top-10 in blocks and assists. Washington currently has 968 career rebounds and will likely notch her thousandth in the coming weeks.

“If you look at what she has done in her career, it’s pretty remarkable,” Colonials coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “She has yet to be the first option in the offense until this year.”

Washington showed her growth with a dazzling performance in the third and fourth quarters of the Dec. 21 game where she notched 10 points and nine rebounds after a quiet first half where she only nabbed one board.

“In the second half she showed a tremendous amount of patience,” said Rizzotti. “She never stopped posting up and giving a great target. They adjusted their defense, and she was able to adjust her offense. She consistently pursues the offensive glass, and she finds a way to get herself easy baskets.”

Even though she has become an all-time great in Foggy Bottom, Washington remains close to her Georgetown Day coach Bobby Asher — who attended the Stanford game. “We talk all the time, we’re like family,” Washington said.

While Sniezek and the Cardinal don’t have another regular-season game in the District, Washington and the Colonials will be back in action at the Smith Center today when they host Saint Joseph’s at 7 p.m