By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The wheels are already turning in the collective mind of the Stanford women's volleyball team, which received the No. 3 overall seed for the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
The fourth-ranked Cardinal (24-3) hosts the first two rounds, and survival means a trip to Dayton for rounds 3 and 4.
Stanford meets Albany (22-8) on Friday at 7 p.m. while Colorado State (25-4) and Cal State Fullerton (26-5) meet in the other first-round matchup at 4:30 p.m.
The winners will meet Saturday at 7 p.m.
"We're happy with the draw," Stanford senior Cassidy Lichtman said. "Ultimately the goal is to win the national championship and we know we have to focus on Albany toward that goal."
The Cardinal beat the Great Danes in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament en route to reaching the title match.
Last season, Stanford advanced to the regional semifinal, but fell to Michigan in four games at home. Under 10th-year head coach John Dunning, Stanford has reached six of the past nine NCAA title matches and won two national championships.
"We're happy not to have so many other Pac-10 teams on our side of the bracket," Lichtman said. "We play them too often in league."
Sixth-seeded USC is a possible quarterfinal opponent in Dayton.
"We knew we might get one Pac-10 team and USC is a good matchup for us," Lichtman said. "So far we've been successful against them."
The Cardinal swept the season series from the Women of Troy. USC handed co-champion California two of its three losses this year.
Cal's loss to Arizona State over the weekend likely cost the Bears one of the top four seeds. Cal was seeded seventh and will host the first two rounds of the Seattle Regional. The Bears meet Utah State in the first round.
Stanford and Cal were two of six Pac-10 teams to reach the tournament. They are joined by Washington, Arizona, UCLA and USC.
Oregon, ranked 24th in the AVCA poll, was not selected for the tournament, despite its 12-0 nonconference record and wins over Washington and American.
The Ducks' fortunes likely turned on its two five-set losses to USC and one to Arizona. Oregon was 3-8 over its final 11 matches.