Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 22, 2011

Plenty of options for Stanford as a handful of teams chase after NCAA title No. 101

by Rick Eymer

Stanford's 100th NCAA title banner waves freely and predominantly among the varied collection of other championship banners thanks to the efforts of the men's gymnastics team.

The question becomes: which team will earn the 101st NCAA title?

There are plenty of options this spring and they start with the men's volleyball team, which secured title No. 98 last year.

Should Stanford, which opens the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament at home against Long Beach State at 7 p.m. Saturday, successfully defend that title, it would occur on May 7 at Penn State.

The women's water polo championships will be contested at Michigan, with the final match scheduled for May 15. Stanford, which hosts San Jose State in the MPSF regular-season finale Friday (6 p.m.), is currently undefeated and top-ranked.

The NCAA women's golf championships will be played out through May 21 in College Station, Texas while the men's championships are scheduled to conclude on June 5 in Stillwater, Okla.

Stanford hosts the men's and women's NCAA tennis championships this year, with team finals for both genders to be contested on May 24.

The Cardinal is the defending national women's champion (title No. 99) and currently ranked first while the men are ranked eighth.

The women's crew championships will be held May 29 at Gold River, the Women's College World Series concludes June 8 in Oklahoma City and the NCAA men's and women's track and field finals will be June 11 at Drake.

The College World Series ends the school year, with the championship series to be played June 28 in Omaha's new downtown stadium.

Men's volleyball

Fourth-ranked Stanford (19-8) opens the postseason against No. 5 Long Beach State (14-13) in the first round of the eight-team MPSF tournament.

Stanford, the third seed, begins defense of its MPSF and NCAA tournament titles with a difficult opponent, playing a sixth-seeded team that it hasn't beaten this season.

The winner advances to the semifinals against No. 2 seeded BYU or No. 7 UC Santa Barbara at the site of the tournament's highest remaining seed.

The tournament champion receives an automatic berth in the four-team NCAA tournament in State College, Pa. (May 5-7), with the only at-large bid is likely to come from the MPSF as well.

With Stanford's victory over Pacific on Saturday, the Cardinal class of 2011 became the winningest class in program history, with a four-year record of 81-36 (.692).

The class of Ian Connolly, Garrett Dobbs, Charley Henrikson, Jordan Inafuku, Max Halvorson, and Spencer McLachlin surpassed the mark of 80 victories held by the classes of 1997 (80-28) and 1995 (80-26).

Women's water polo

Stanford clinched the No. 1 seed for the MPSF Tournament, which begins April 30 at San Jose State, by beating California, 8-5, last weekend.

The victory extended Stanford's winning streak in the series to 30. Stanford hasn't lost to Cal since 2000.

Men's tennis

Riding a season-best nine-match winning streak, No. 8 Stanford (17-5, 4-1 Pac-10) hosts No. 14 California (12-6, 3-2 Pac-10) on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Senior Day match will feature a tribute to Alex Clayton, Greg Hirshman and Ted Kelly. The senior tribute will take place following the doubles competition but before singles play begins.

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