By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Finals week on the Stanford University campus reached its crescendo Thursday, which means a full slate of athletic events will kick start the official start of spring this weekend. That is, if the weather cooperates.
There will be no baseball this weekend and a scheduled softball tournament remains in doubt.
Castilleja grad Sammy Albanese, a freshman pitcher at Northwestern, will be making her homecoming. Again, weather permitting. The four-time, first-team prep All-American has appeared in eight games, including three starts.
Albanese (2-1, 2.62) has a complete game and a save and has recorded 21 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. Opposing batters are hitting a team best .182 against her.
The Wildcats (12-5) play UNLV Friday at 3:45 p.m. and take on Stanford at 3:45 p.m. Saturday.
The 14th-ranked Cardinal (17-3) hosts Iowa at 6 p.m. Friday.
While at Castilleja, Albanese matched a California state record with 10 consecutive no-hitters during her senior year. As a junior, she led the state with a 0.06 ERA and 18.2 strikeouts per seven innings.
Her career batting average with the Gators was .561 with a 1.002 slugging percentage.
Junior shortstop Ashley Hansen leads Stanford with a .515 batting average. She has three home runs, three triples and 11 doubles.
Sophomore Jenna Rich is hitting .429 and has team highs with seven home runs and 28 RBI.
Pitchers Teagan Gerhart (9-3, 1.92) and Ashley Chinn (8-0, 2.30) are among the best at their position in the Pac-10.
Third-ranked Stanford (17-1) looks to continue its best season in school history at the Pac-10 Conference championships Saturday in Los Angeles.
The meet will be held at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus and begins at 4 p.m.
Stanford lost its only dual meet of the year, to Oregon State, in a tri-meet two weeks ago, ending a 15-meet winning streak.
The Cardinal, 12-1 against Top 25 competition, was without fifth-year senior Allyse Ishino, who is healthy for the conference championships.
Sophomore Ashley Morgan is the national leader in the floor exercise with a Regional Qualifying Score of 9.925 and an average of 9.917, and Stanford ranks among the top 10 in every event.
Stanford has won five Pac-10 titles and eight conference championships overall, the last coming in 2008.
Ishino rolled her ankle on a tumbling pass during the floor exercise in a dual meet at Arizona on Feb. 18. Ishino was unable to finish her routine and was pulled from the balance beam lineup.
Stanford will discover its NCAA regional destination on Monday as six groups of six will compete on April 2 for the right to attend the national championships in Cleveland beginning April 15.
With the cancellation of the three-game series with Michigan, the 14th-ranked Cardinal (6-5) plays at UC Davis in a 2:30 p.m. nonconference game Monday.
Sophomore shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, a Menlo School grad, currently ranks fourth in the Pac-10 in batting at .422 and has a team-best eight RBI.
The Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and preseason All-American has hit safely in 10 of 11 games and currently owns a six-game hit streak. He hit in 23 straight last season.
Senior Zack Giesen leads a group of four Stanford wrestlers into the NCAA championships beginning Friday in Philadelphia.
Giesen (18-2) qualified for the national meet by winning the Pac-10 title at 197 pounds.
He will be joined by junior Nick Amuchastegui (27-3), the conference runner-up at 174 pounds, sophomore Ryan Mango (21-4), who finished fourth at 125 pounds and senior Justin Paulsen (15-3), who was third at 133 pounds.
All four are veterans of the national championships, with each making an appearance last year. Giesen, with 105 career victories, will compete in his fourth NCAA tournament and Amuchastegui is in his third.
Amuchastegui placed fourth last year at 157 pounds, the highest finish since Matt Gentry won Stanford's only individual title in 2004.
Stanford continiues at the U.S. Collegiate Championships at the Town of Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness Center in Kenmore, New York, Friday and Saturday. The event is hosted by Canisius College.
Ohio State, the reigning Collegiate National Champion, hopes to add to its collection of 26 Collegiate National titles while Stanford is looking for its seventh.
Following Thursday's semifinal competition in Solo, Duet and Trio, the met continues Friday with Figures, D, C, B, A Technical and the team semifinals.
The finals will be held Saturday.
Women's water polo
Top-ranked Stanford (1-0, 15-0) travels to Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rival Arizona State for an afternoon game against the Sun Devils in Tempe.
The Cardinal won its MPSF opener two weeks ago and trails Cal (4-0, 17-3) in conference standings.
Annika Dries leads the team with 26 goals and is closely followed by Alyssa Lo and Melissa Seidemann, each with 24 and Kaley Dodson, Menlo School grad Kim Krueger and Sacred Heart Prep grad Pallavi Menon, each with 19.
Amber Oland and Kate Baldoni have been sharing goalkeeper duties as the Cardinal has outscored its opponents by a 194-62 margin, or an average of 12.9 to 4.1.
Third-ranked Stanford (14-4) returns to action Saturday with a conference home contest against top-ranked Division II Cal Baptist (17-5) at 7 p.m.
Stanford is in second place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, three games behind top-ranked USC.
Second-ranked Stanford (13-0) hosts Utah (5-7) at 2 p.m. Monday, putting its consecutive home winning streak of 173 matches on the line.
Freshmen Nicole Gibbs (25-4) and Kristie Ahn (23-3) have sparked the defending NCAA champion Cardinal this season, holding down two of the top four spots in the singles ladder and performing at a high level.
Gibbs has won 13 straight matches while Ahn brings an 11-match winning streak into the nonconference match against the Utes.
Senior Hilary Barte (19-2, 11-1 against nationally-ranked players) continues to hold down the No. 1 spot on the ladder.
Stanford (8-3) travels to Baylor (9-3) for a nonconference match on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
The Bears are 137-9 in matches at the Baylor Tennis Center and just beat top-ranked Tennessee.
The 12th-ranked Cardinal is led by junior Bradley Klahn (16-6, 11-4 against ranked opponents), Greg Hirshman (12-4), Denis Lin (12-5) and Ryan Thacher (12-7).
Eighth-ranked Stanford (6-0) goes to Cincinnati (2-4) for a noon match Tuesday.
Cardinal leaders include Leslie Foard with 16 goals and six assists for 22 points. Emilie Boeri has 15 goals, six assists and 21 points; Anna Boeri has seven goals, seven assists for 14 points and Sarah Flynn has 12 goals.
Stanford has outscored its opponents by an average score of 15.8 to 9.2.