By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer hopes a sub-par performance leads to a spectacular finish as the third-ranked Cardinal (13-0, 22-2) hits the road for the last time in Pac-10 play.
Stanford travels to USC for a 7 p.m. game Friday and to UCLA for a noon game Sunday.
The Cardinal brings a 16-game winning streak on its toughest Pac-10 road trip of the season. The ninth-ranked Bruins' only conference loss was at Stanford earlier in the season. A victory over the Cardinal would give UCLA (11-1, 21-2) a chance to win the Pac-10 regular season title, something that has been Stanford's private domain for more than a decade.
"There's a certain comfort level to playing at home but whether it's at home or on the road, you still have to play well," VanDerveer said. "We have to play defense, knock down shots and rebound; all the things we do well."
The Bruins are off to their best start in school history and last year's Pac-10 Coach of the Year Nikki Caldwell has certainly done her job.
"We're hoping to play in front of a big crowd in an enthusiastic environment," VanDerveer said.
Stanford can't afford to look ahead with third-place USC (7-5, 15-8) standing in the way Thursday.
"USC has some talented players," VanDerveer said. "They are a very good offensive team. They are one of the best shooting teams in the conference."
The Cardinal comes off its closest game of the season since losing in overtime at Tennessee. Stanford needed every bit of toil to escape with a 62-52 win over Washington last Saturday.
"Things were not going well but sometimes you have to be as good as your worst day and that was our worst game all season," VanDerveer said. "If Washington played like that every game maybe they would not be in the position they are."
VanDerveer thought the game against the Huskies would prove beneficial the rest of the way. Washington reminded the Cardinal the conference is nothing like playing 'horse' with a nerf ball.
"I saw some good things," she said. "People didn't come apart at the seams; they just keep working hard. We went with something else. We went inside with (Nnemkadi Ogwumike), we got on the glass with Chiney (Ogwumike) and Kayla (Pedersen). We had different people come in and play well."
Stanford ends the regular season with home games against Oregon State, Oregon and California before heading to the Pac-10 tournament.
"We need consistent help off the bench," VanDerveer said. "In tight games we need more production from them."
Sarah Boothe, bothered by a sore shoulder last week, appears to be back at full health this week.
Stanford looks to defend its Peg Barnard Invitational team title this weekend as it hosts the tournament on Saturday and Sunday at Stanford Golf Course. The toughest opponent for the Cardinal could be the weather, which is expected to be cold and rainy.
The 10-team field includes California, Washington, Washington State, UC Davis, Santa Clara, Fresno State, San Jose State, Colorado and Rollins College, along with host Stanford, the three-time defending champion.
The Cardinal also won Peg Barnard team titles in 1995, 2001 and 2004.
"This one is more personal to us," Stanford grad and 2003 U.S. Open champion Hilary (Homeyer) Lunke said during her senior year on The Farm in 2001. "It's Stanford-oriented. It's like Stanford inviting friends over to play golf."
Barnard, who graduated from Stanford in 1942, was the founder and first president of the Cardinal Club in 1978, which helped raise more than $5 million in its first decade for women's sports at Stanford. The spring tournament was renamed in her honor after her passing in 1996.
Teams will shotgun start on Saturday at 9 a.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. Admission is free.
Stanford, coming off a fourth place finish at the Wildcat Invitational last week in Tucson, Ariz., won last year's event by overcoming an eight-shot deficit in the final round to clip Cal by one stroke for the team title.
Sally Watson earned co-medalist honors last year with Cal's Joanne Lee after both players shot a 144 over 36 holes.
Both return this year. Lee is the highest ranked player in the field, checking in at No. 13 in GolfStat's individual rankings.
The Cardinal competes in the final rounds of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle, beginning with Friday's noon match against 11th-ranked Florida (6-1), which suffered a 4-3 setback to Illinois on Saturday.
Stanford's No. 3 singles player Denis Lin beat Jean-Charles Diame to clinch a 5-2 men's tennis victory over visiting Fresno State in a nonconference match Tuesday.
Bradley Klahn, Greg Hirshman and Matt Kandath also recorded victories in singles' competition as seventh-ranked Stanford (7-0) is off to its best start in 11 years.
Klahn is ranked seventh in singles play and 11th in doubles, with Ryan Thacher. Thacher ranks 52nd and Alex Clayton ranks 64th in singles.
Top-ranked Stanford (5-0) carries a 19-match winning streak into its quarterfinal match against 19th-ranked Arkansas (7-1) in Charlottesville, Va., Friday night.
The Cardinal did not compete in the event last year and was 1-2 in its last appearance in 2009.
Freshmen Kristie Ahn (17-3 record, 4-0 in duals, five-match winning streak, No. 20 national ranking) and Nicole Gibbs (17-4 record, 5-0 in duals, five-match winning streak, No. 21 national ranking) are tied for the team lead in victories.
Senior Hilary Barte (15-1 record, 7-0 against nationally-ranked opponents) ranks second and owns a team-high eight-match winning streak.
The Stanford-Arkansas winner meets either Michigan or Georgia Tech in Saturday's quarterfinals.
Women's water polo
Top-ranked Stanford (8-0) has five players with 10 or more goals already this season, which has featured two tournament titles.
Junior Pallavi Menon, a Sacred Heart Prep grad, leads with 14. Sophomore Annika Dries has 13, freshman Kaley Dodson 12, Alyssa Lo 11, and Melissa Seidemann 10.
Stanford plays for the first time in two weeks with a Sunday game at No. 19 Pacific, before the big UC Irvine Invitational the following week.
Stanford will be well represented at the World University Games in China this summer as 10 Cardinal swimmers were among those invited by Team USA.
Bobby Bollier will return as a silver medalist from 2009 Games. Seven Stanford women will help fill the roster: seniors Kelsey Ditto, Kate Dwelley and Liz Smith, junior Sam Woodward and freshmen Maya DiRado, Felicia Lee, and Andie Taylor.
Joining Bollier among the men will be David Mosko and Curtis Lovelace.
Stanford also has other swimmers competing for different countries: England's Natalie Durant, Hong Kong's Geoff Cheah, Singapore's Parker Lam, Norway's Eirik Ravnan and Canada's Matthew Swanston and Rebecca Hinds.
The No. 2-ranked men's team, meanwile will put its 6-0 record on the line against No. 1 Cal (4-0) in Saturday in Berkeley at 1 p.m.
Last year's Big Splash came down the final relay, where Stanford's B team held off Cal and that was enough for a four-point victory. The Bears went on to finish second at the NCAA Championships while the Cardinal finished fourth.
Third-ranked Stanford hosts the Stanford Open this weekend, which includes its final home meet.
The event begins on Friday with various age and level groups and is highlighted by the NCAA and Elite Session on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Cardinal competes against California and Oklahoma, as well as a Japanese Collegiate All-Star team and Elites.
Nationally No. 19 Stanford opens the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas with games against Utah State and Portland State on Friday.
The Cardinal (4-1 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe last weekend) has outscored its opponents, 38-11.
In last weekend's action, sophomore Jenna Rich led the team with six extra-base hits, including four home runs, 13 RBI and seven runs scored.
Two years ago, Stanford lost a home game to Syracuse in a game that ultimately cost the Cardinal an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
No. 13 Stanford can qualify automatically by winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament, but a victory over No. 5 Syracuse would bring some satisfaction from the two-year-old grievance.
The teams meet Sunday at 1 p.m. in a nonconference match at Cagan Stadium on the Stanford campus.
The Cardinal (1-0, 2-0) opened MPSF play with a 21-4 victory over visiting Fresno State Wednesday. Senior Sarah Flynn scored five goals in the contest.
Sixth-ranked Stanford and Trinity meet in the first round of the College Squash Association Women's National Championships (a.k.a the Howe Cup) at Princeton on Friday night.
The Cardinal lost to Trinity, 5-4, earlier this season. Kyla Sherwood, Samantha Buechner, Julie Koenig and Julia Hemmindinger accounted for the Cardinal's four victories against the nation's third-ranked team.
Stanford won all four events in its final home event of the season, while beating Arizona, 98-43.5 on Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center.
Junior Maria Koroleva won the A Elements, freshman Leigh Haldeman won the B figures, Maria Koroleva and Olivia Morgan won the duet, and junior Alex Bollaidlaw, Koroleva and sophomore Jessica Guenther won trio.
Stanford travels to San Antonio, Texas, for the IUW Invitational on Saturday and Sunday.