By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
There will be plenty at stake when the Stanford women's volleyball team travels to Berkeley for its Pac-10 opener against California on Tuesday.
Since Palo Alto grad Rich Feller took over the program, the top-ranked Bears (10-0) have been more than a footnote at the athletic tradition-rich East Bay campus.
The Bears reached last year's national championship match for the first time in school history and have been establishing higher standards nearly every time they take the court.
Second-ranked Stanford (6-0) won the Nike Big Four Invitational over the weekend at Maples Pavilion and have shot up the AVCA rankings. The Cardinal began the season ranked sixth, while Cal was ranked third in the preseason poll and assumed the top spot following Oregon's victory at Penn State in the opening weekend of play.
Cal and Stanford are meeting in the Big Spike as the top two teams in the nation for the first time. They have met three times previously when the two teams were among the top five.
Stanford dropped both regular-season matches to the Bears last year, the first time that happened since 1979. The schools shared last year's Pac-10 title.
Cal ended a 20-match losing streak to the Cardinal in 2008 and has won four of the past six meetings since.
The Bears were picked to finish second in the Pac-12 in a poll of conference coaches. Stanford was picked fourth, while USC was tabbed the favorite.
Three Pac-12 teams are ranked among the top four in the latest poll released Monday. Washington is fourth, while UCLA ranked sixth, USC ranks 13th and Oregon is at No. 16.
"Cal and USC played in the Final Four last year,"
Stanford coach John Dunning said. "UCLA is the sleeper and Washington can be very good."
Cal senior Tarah Murrey exploded for a 4.58 kills per set, 5.58 points per set and 2.25 digs per set to lead the Bears to four three-set sweeps last weekend at the Hilton Garden Inn Classic in Berkeley. She was named tournament MVP.
At the Big Four Invitational, Cardinal sophomore outside hitter Rachel Williams was named the tournament's MVP after averaging 5 kills, 2.89 digs and 5.38 points per set in the two matches. Joining her on the all-tournament team were junior setter Karissa Cook and sophomore middle blocker Carly Wopat.
Williams was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, and Wopat was named Defensive Player of the Week, the first weekly honors for both.
Tuesday's match will be streamed live on calbears.com. KZSU will also provide coverage on 90.1 FM or online at http://kzsu.stanford.edu/ with Kyle Palmer and Kevin Danna with the call.