Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 17, 2010

The race is on to win school's 100th NCAA title

by Rick Eymer

Eight-five years after the Stanford men's track and field team won the school's first NCAA title, the Cardinal looks forward to No. 100, which could come as soon as Nov. 21 in Maryland.

Stanford, which has won at least one NCAA title in each of the past 34 years — a standing national record — seeks to become the second American university to reach the century mark.

UCLA won its 100th NCAA title at the expense of Stanford in May of 2007 when the Bruins' women's water polo team edged the Cardinal, 5-4, in the 2007 national championship match in Los Alamitos.

At Stanford, 17 different sports have contributed 99 NCAA titles and 82 NCAA runnerup trophies over the years.

Heading into this weekend, Stanford currently has two teams — women's volleyball and men's cross country — ranked first in the nation, while women's soccer is ranked second, men's water polo ranks fourth, women's field hockey ranks 16th and football is No. 19. The men's golf team, which competes at the Fighting Illini Invitational this weekend, was ranked third in the final poll last April.

The football team plays at home Saturday at 8:15 p.m., the men's soccer team hosts Santa Clara at 6 p.m. Sunday and the field hockey team meets visiting California in an important NorPac Conference match at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The women's volleyball team plays at St. Mary's at 7 p.m. Friday and the women's soccer team plays future Pac-12 rival Utah at 5 p.m. at Santa Clara.

Senior Alix Klineman and her Stanford women's volleyball teammates made headlines last weekend after ending Penn State's record-setting 109-match winning streak in Florida. The Cardinal (7-0) plays its first match as the nation's top-ranked team against St. Mary's as part of the Pac-10/WCC challenge.

Klineman, a three-time All-American, has shown the makings of having a monster year, earning MVP honors at three tournaments thus far. She leads the team with 112 kills (4.87 per set) and is hitting at a .361 clip, an impressive percentage for an outside hitter.

Senior All-American Cassidy Lichtman does a lot of everything. She leads the team with 21 blocks, is second with 72 kills, and 134 assists, third with 61 digs and five aces.

Senior libero Gabi Ailes is already Stanford's career record holder in digs, owns three of the top four single-season marks and the three top single-game records.

Before Stanford ended Penn State's landmark streak, it was the Cardinal which handed the Nittany Lions their last loss in 207. That makes the senior class (which includes junior redshirt Stephanie Browne) the only players to have beaten Penn State twice in their college careers. Nebraska is the only other team to beat Penn State since the 2007 season.

The women's volleyball has been responsible for six of the first 99 national titles and would definitely be in contention to secure No. 100 when the national championship is held in Kansas City, Mo., on Dec. 18.

By that time, however, the women's soccer team could upstage them. The Women's College Cup is scheduled for Dec. 3-5 in Cary, N.C.

Christen Press, Castilleja grad Lindsay Taylor and Palo Alto's Teresa Noyola are well on their way to helping Stanford (4-0-2) reach the title match for a second straight year.

Press has 35 assists for her career, second on Stanford's career list to Marcie Ward (2000-04), who has 40. She's also fourth on Stanford's all-time scoring list with 135 points.

Press ranks 18th in NCAA scoring, averaging two points a game. California's Alex Morgan leads the nation with a 3.17 average.

The Stanford field hockey team actually has the first chance at NCAA title No. 100, although the Cardinal (5-1) is a darkhorse at best. Stanford did reach the NCAA tournament last year, however, and there's plenty for which to get excited. It might be a surprise if Stanford is still standing when Nov. 21 rolls around, but there weren't many people who thought the Cardinal women's tennis team would gain Stanford's 99th NCAA title last May.

Perhaps the better bet would be with the Stanford men's cross-country team, which could grab the 100th title on Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind. The 13th-ranked women's team goes off first and could grab the glory.

The men's water polo team, which competes in the NorCal Invitational this weekend in Berkeley, could get a title shot on Dec. 6 at Princeton.

The men's soccer team reached the Sweet Sixteen last year, but is off to a rough start this season. Should the Cardinal regroup, there's always a chance it could find No. 100 on the fields of UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 12.

Should that 100th title slip through the cracks of fall sports, there's still plenty of opportunity the rest of the school year. After all, a school doesn't win so many Director's Cups due to luck.

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