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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 19, 2012

Top women tee it up at Stanford

by Rick Eymer

When Dr. Condoleezza Rice needs help with her golf swing, she turns to Stanford women's golf assistant coach Kathryn Imrie. When Stanford senior Sally Watson looks for life advice, she turns to Rice.

All three of them join forces this weekend when the Cardinal hosts the Stanford Intercollegiate, turning a routine tournament into a Big Game Week event.

It was Imrie's idea to involve Rice, a long-time golf fan who has a hole-in-one to her credit.

"It's turned out to be tremendous," Stanford coach Anne Walker said. "The teams are excited and we're getting positive feedback."

The tournament opens Friday on the par-71 Stanford Golf Course at 8:30 a.m., the first of three rounds.

Stanford is joined by 16 teams and several individuals. Also competing are Arizona, Arizona State, California, Georgia, Harvard, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Pepperdine, San Jose State, Texas, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt and Washington.

Castilleja grad Brenna Nelsen will be playing for Harvard.

It's the final of three fall tournaments for the Cardinal, which is coming off a third-place finish at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational in Washington.

"It's kind of a short fall season, which is unusual," Walker said. "But there has been quite a bit of improvement since the first day of practice."

Stanford played its first tournament without Watson, who was involved in the World Amateur Championship at the time. That gave freshman Lauren Kim a chance to shine. The Los Altos resident shot the low round for the Cardinal.

"She has been fantastic," Walker said. "She had a top-25 finish against a strong field in her first tournament. She's a consistent, mature player."

In Washington, Watson finished tied for second while freshman Mariah Stackhouse also earned a top 10 finish.

"Anyone in collegiate golf knows Sally Watson," said Walker, in her first year at Stanford and coaching at UC Davis the past few years. "She was highly sought after and has a lot of international experience. She's had a tremendous amateur career and she's an All-American in college. I know she's determined to have a good senior year."

Pinewood grad and Atherton resident Audrey Proulx will be playing as an individual for Stanford.

"She's new to competitive golf and she fights it out on the course," Walker said. "This should help her gain some experience."

Watson and Kristina Wong, who has several top-10 finishes to her credit, are the lone seniors on the team. Proulx is a junior, along with Danielle Fraiser and Marrisa Mar. Mariko Tumangan is the lone sophomore, with Kim and Stackhouse both freshmen.

Walker, raised in Scotland (as was Imrie, a former pro, and Watson), played golf at California before moving into coaching.

"Yeah I get a bad time about it," Walker said of her affiliation with Cal. "But both schools have a lot of connections. It's a neat thing."

Women's volleyball

Second-ranked Stanford travels to Seattle for its biggest test yet of the Pac-12 season against No. 5 Washington, which is coming off its first loss of the season, a four-set setback in Eugene to No. 3 Oregon.

A loss to the Huskies (7-1, 17-1) would not mean the end of the season for Stanford (8-0, 16-2) but a win could put the Cardinal in control of the conference race at its midpoint. The Cardinal also play at Washington State at 11 a.m. Sunday.

As usual, any win in the Pac-12 is a big win. Five of the top seven teams in the country are from the conference. The five teams — Stanford, Oregon, Washington, USC, UCLA — have a combined record of 78-11, an .876 winning percentage.

Oregon State handed top-ranked Penn State its only loss of the season, Oregon has lost only to Stanford and Washington has lost only to Oregon.

Stanford middle blocker Inky Ajanaku and libero Kyle Gilbert are the reigning Pac-12 Freshman and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively. Ajanaku led the team last week with a .458 attack percentage and averaged 3.62 kills, 1.62 blocks and 4.44 points per set, including a career high 17 kills against UCLA. Gilbert averaged 5.88 digs per set against the Los Angeles school, tallying a career-best 25 digs against the Bruins.

Field hockey

Only three games remain in the regular season for No. 14 Stanford (9-6, 3-0 NorPac), which has the opportunity to lock up another conference title while building momentum heading into the postseason.

The Cardinal will play three games over a five-day stretch, with all of those contests coming against NorPac opponents. The busy sequence begins on Friday when Stanford hosts Pacific in a 4 p.m. tilt at the Varsity Turf. After a road game at UC Davis the next day, the Cardinal returns to The Farm and hosts rival California in a rare Tuesday game that was moved up three days to accommodate a Pac-12 Networks telecast.

Stanford has already defeated all three teams during the first round of conference play. The Cardinal can claim the regular season title outright with a pair of victories this weekend. Up first is Pacific (5-10, 1-3 NorPac), a program Stanford has won 12 in a row against since 2006. Meanwhile, a 5-0 shutout of UC Davis two weeks ago gives Stanford the inside track and tiebreaker edge over the Aggies (6-9, 2-1 NorPac).

While the upcoming schedule obviously presents a challenge, Stanford is well-equipped to deal with the rapid-fire stretch thanks to its balanced depth.

A solid bounce-back effort would be a welcomed sight, as the Cardinal suffered hard-fought losses to No. 1 Syracuse and No. 4 Connecticut over the weekend. For only the fifth time in the last four years, Stanford has lost back-to-back games.

With just two weeks left in the regular season, it's also an ideal time to examine Stanford's postseason chances. As usual, the winner of the NorPac Championship (Nov. 1-3 at Farmville, Va., hosted by Longwood) must also prevail in an NCAA Play-In game to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, as the conference does not own an automatic bid. During the past five years, Stanford has been that team, winning four conference tournament titles and three NCAA Play-In games.

The winner of this year's NorPac Tournament faces the conference tournament champion of the Mid-American Conference.

Last year, Stanford performed well enough during the regular season to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Boasting a high RPI and strong national profile, the Cardinal was awarded its highest-ever postseason position with a No. 7 seed among the 16-team field.

The Cardinal has appeared in the national rankings every week of this year, topping out at No. 11 on two occasions last month. In the latest edition of the RPI, published bi-weekly during the season and considered a vital tool in the NCAA Tournament selection process, Stanford checks in at No. 13.

Stanford has played an extremely grueling schedule to date, matching up against seven top-25 clubs while facing the nation's No. 1-ranked team on three different occasions. The Cardinal has chalked up a 2-5 record in those games, however the experience should prove valuable for the postseason.

Courtney Haldeman's career-high eight goals leads the club while Becky Dru has compiled team-best totals in assists (7), points (21) and shots (36) to go along with seven goals of her own. Hope Burke (four goals, six assists, 14 points), Maddie Secco (four goals, 10 points, 24 shots) and Katie Mitchell (4 goals, nine points, 14 shots) are close behind.

Men's water polo

No. 5 Stanford visits No. 7 California in the Big Splash at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match to be televised by the Pac-12 networks.

The Cardinal (2-1, 8-3) also play Bucknell and Air Force in nonconference matches at Santa Clara on Sunday.

Stanford is coming off a pair of victories, led by freshman driver Bret Bonanni, who was named MPSF Player of the Week for his contributions.

Bonanni scored a total of six goals as the Cardinal beat No. 2 UC Santa Barbara, 9-7, and No. 8 Pepperdine,11-6, on the road.

On the year Bonanni ranks second on the team with 26 goals over 11 games.

Men's golf

Stanford is one of 15 teams that will be competing at the U.S. Collegiate Championship beginning Friday at the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta.

The Cardinal will be joined by Auburn, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Iowa, USC, Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, Kent State, Washington, Texas A&M, East Tennessee State, Oklahoma State and UCLA.

Tennis

Both Stanford tennis programs are in action this weekend, beginning Friday, competing in their respective Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northwest Regional Championships.

In addition to Stanford, the ITA's Northwest Region school's are comprised of California, Eastern Washington, Fresno State, Gonzaga, Oregon, Pacific, Portland, Portland State, Sacramento State, St. Mary's, San Francisco, San Jose State, Santa Clara, UC Davis, Washington and Washington State.

Twenty-four other ITA Regional Championships for NCAA Division I men and women are taking place during this month at campuses throughout the country. The singles finalists and doubles champion from each regional earn berths to the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, slated for Nov. 8-11 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Winners and finalists from the various ITA Regional Championships around the country, plus at-large selections, will make up the singles field of 32 and the 16-team doubles draw.

For the sixth straight season, the Taube Family Tennis Center will serve as the host site for the women's tournament.

Participating in the singles draw for Stanford are Kristie Ahn, Natalie Dillon, Nicole Gibbs, Krista Hardebeck, Lindsey Kostas, Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay.

The Cardinal will be represented in doubles with teams of Tan/Tsay and Dillon/Hardebeck.

Gibbs is looking to defend her crown after defeating Mallory Burdette 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in last year's final. A three-time All-American, Gibbs is coming off one of the best seasons in school history, becoming only the third player in NCAA history to capture both the NCAA singles and doubles titles in the same season. Stanford's first NCAA singles champion since Amber Liu in 2004, Gibbs has produced an 87-11 overall record and 48-2 mark in dual match play.

The tandem of Tan and Tsay will be seeking its second straight doubles crown, defeating Sacramento State's Clarisse Baca and Maria Meliuk 8-4 in last year's match.

On the men's side, this year's event will be hosted by St. Mary's in Moraga.

Set to compete in singles for Stanford are Jamin Ball, Sam Ecker, Daniel Ho, Fawaz Hourani, Matt Kandath, Walker Kehrer, Denis Lin, John Morrissey, Nolan Paige, Maciek Romanowicz, Robert Stineman, Trey Strobel and Anthony Tsodikov.

There are six Cardinal doubles teams entered in the draw: Hourani/Tsodikov, Ball/Ho, Lin/Romanowicz, Morrissey/Strobel, Kehrer/Stineman and Kandath/Paige.

Kandath advanced to the semifinals of last year's tournament, falling to teammate and eventual champion Ryan Thacher. The duo of Kehrer and Stineman earned a runner-up finish in the doubles final, dropping a 9-8 (8) decision to California's Carlos Cueto and Ben McLachlan.

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