By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Stanford women's gymnastics team finally will get a chance to strut its stuff in front of the home crowd this weekend and what better way than to host one of the top teams in the nation?
Don't think you'll fit inside Burnham Pavilion, which remains one of the more cozy venues in all of college sports? No need to fret. It's also No. 11 Stanford's debut on Pac-12 Networks and a nationwide audience.
The Cardinal (7-1) recorded a team high and several individual season bests in its 196.450-195.775 victory over host California last Saturday but likely will need another season to compete with No. 4 UCLA, which visits Stanford on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Stanford has yet to lose a women's gymnastics meet to California in the current millenium, winning 28 straight. Stanford is 37-1 against the Bears since 1996.
Senior captain Ashley Morgan had a tremendous week, winning the all-around at Georgia on Monday and at California on Saturday. She was named Pac-12 Women's Gymnast of the Week.
The All-American claimed three individual titles against Cal, finishing first on vault, floor exercise and the all-around. Morgan tied her career-best on vault (9.925), recorded a season-best on floor (9.925) and tied her season-best on uneven bars (9.850).
In addition to Morgan, other Stanford gymnasts to watch include:
Junior All-American Amanda Spinner, who delivered a career-high performance on balance beam at Georgia, scoring 9.925 to lead Stanford on the only event it outscored the Gym Dogs. She scored a 9.825 for a third-place finish at Cal.
Following a fourth-place finish on beam at the 2012 NCAA Championships, Spinner has been a rock for the Cardinal on the event this season, claiming two individual titles in just four meets.
Samantha Shapiro earned her first individual title of the year at Cal, with a career-best 9.950 performance on uneven bars; the highest of any Cardinal this season. The sophomore All-American has improved her score on the event in each consecutive meet this season.
Shona Morgan, a junior from Melbourne, Australia, continues to be one of Stanford's most consistent performers. She contributed scores on all three of her events at Cal. Morgan scored a season-best 9.850 on uneven bars and finished third on floor exercise with a 9.875. She also delivered a solid routine on balance beam, good for a 9.800.
Senior captain Nicole Dayton has dominated on vault this season with three individual titles in four meets. Dayton's three individual titles this season exceed her total from all of last year. She is currently ranked 14th in the NCAA on the event with an average score of 9.888.
Freshman Melissa Chuang has established herself as a strong competitor in the vault and floor lineups, contributing scores in all four meets for the Cardinal this season. Chuang recorded a pair of 9.825's at Georgia on vault and floor exercise. Her score on floor was a career best.
Stanford will play host to BYU on Friday at 1 p.m., before hosting TCU on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. The Cardinal has fallen to No. 18 in the latest ITA rankings.
Third-ranked Stanford is undefeated at home, but winless on the road. The Cardinal will need to change that to remain in contention in the hotly contested Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, especially with six of its next eight matches on the road.
Stanford (3-2 in the MPSF, 6-2 overall) begins that stretch with a pair of matches at Hawaii (2-4, 3-6) this weekend. The Warriors are coming off a two-match sweep of No. 2 Pepperdine, also at the Stan Sheriff Center and are one of the hottest teams in the conference.
There's a unique volleyball connection between Hawaii and Stanford in both genders. Former Cardinal All-Americans Kawika Shoji and Erik Shoji are the sons of famed Rainbow Wahine women's coach Dave Shoiji. Hawaiian native Tom Shoji, Dave's brother, is the coach at Willamette University.
This trip, former Stanford player and coach Chris McLachlin will provide the color commentary for Hawaii's Oceanic Cable Sports.
Stanford assistant coach Daniel Rasay graduated from Hawaii and sparked the school to a 2002 NCAA semifinal victory.
Stanford coach John Kosty has started six different lineups in eight matches. The most common lineup has been used three times, including the past two matches: James Shaw at setter, Eric Mochalski and Spencer Haly at middle blockers, Brian Cook and Steven Irvin at outside hitters, Daniel Tublin at opposite, and Scott Sakaida at libero. That lineup has gone 3-0.
Stanford (1-2 in the Pac-12, 5-12 overall) goes on the road this week hoping to keep the momentum from Sunday's 27-9 victory over Cal Poly.
The Cardinal travels to Utah Valley on Friday and then to 17th-ranked Boise State on Sunday.