By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The fourth-ranked Stanford women's gymnastics team received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Ann Arbor regional and will compete at Michigan on Saturday with a bid into the NCAA championships at stake.
Stanford and Michigan are the top two seeds and are joined by Ohio State, Iowa State, Minnesota, and Kent State. The top two advance to the NCAA Championships in Cleveland, April 15-17.
There's a lot going on for the Cardinal this weekend. Stanford will be competing for its fifth consecutive trip to the national championships after qualifying for the postseason for the 28th straight time.
Stanford, 13-4 against the top 25, seeks its sixth regional title, all since 1999, and will be attempting to win consecutive regional titles for the first time.
The Cardinal has accomplished much already this season, tying the school mark for regular-season victories, with 20, and scoring its best team average (196.450) since 2004.
Ashley Morgan leads the nation, by scoring average, on the floor exercise. She's at 9.915. Shelley Alexander and Allyse Ishino have combined for three individual regional titles.
Alexander, Ishino, Morgan, Alissa Brown, Danielle Ikoma and Nicole Pechanec were named to the all-Pac-10 teams.
Morgan is on a nine-meet winning streak on the floor, having failed to capture first only once, at the season-opening Pac-10 Showcase when she was second with a 9.925. Morgan has scored 9.900 or higher in nine of 10 meets and her lowest score of 9.875 still was good enough to win.
Stanford ranks in the national top 10 in every event, based on the regional qualifying scores. The team is fourth overall with a 196.715. Individual team events include vault, 7th, 49.220; bars, 9th, 49.210; beam, 5th, 49.140; and floor, 6th, 49.230.
The Stanford men's gymnastics team, meanwhile, also will be busy this weekend.
Stanford senior Alex Buscaglia, the reigning National Gymnast of the Week for his efforts in last week's victory over California, leads the second-ranked Cardinal into the Mountain Pacific Sports federation Championships in Colorado Springs on Saturday.
Buscaglia entered the meet as the top-ranked athlete on high bar, but further backed that up by scoring a national-leading 16.300, which is almost a full point higher than any other collegiate this season.
He will enter the championship season as the top-ranked athlete on high bar, but is also fourth on vault. His four-meet average on high bar is 15.313, which is a sizeable lead. His average on vault is 15.987 and trails national leader Steven Legendre of top-ranked Oklahoma, who averages 16.200.
Stanford took team titles on vault, rings, and high bar against the Bears. Josh
Dixon on floor (15.700), Tim Gentry on rings (15.700), and Chris Turner on horse (15.000) all won or shared individual titles.
The conference championships lead to the NCAA championships, which will be held beginning April 15 at Ohio State.
Stanford has won five of its past six games as it prepares to open Pac-10 play at Washington State this weekend, beginning with Friday's 5:30 p.m. start.
Jake Stewart went 3-for-4 with four RBI and Stephen Piscotty was 2-for-4 with three RBI as No. 11-ranked Stanford (11-6) survived a wild seventh and ninth inning, to defeat visiting Saint Mary's (9-12), 16-14 on Tuesday evening.
Stanford (24-4) opens Pac-10 play this weekend with a three-game series against visiting Arizona (29-6). Friday's game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Ashley Hansen leads the Pac-10 with a .548 average (51-for-93) while Arizona's Brittany Lastrapea is second at .500. Wildcats' Stacie Chambers leads the conference with 45 RBI while Hansen leads with 17 doubles.
Arizona claims three of the top four power hitters in the Pac-10, with Lini Koria and Chambers leading the way, each with 12. Bridgette Del Ponte has 11.
Stanford's Sarah Hassman leads the conference with 19 stolen bases (in 21 attempts) while Teagan Gerhart is tied for second with 16 (of 16).
Stanford was picked to finish sixth by the conference coaches. Arizona and UCLA are considered the co-favorites.
As usual, all eight teams in the conference enter play this weekend with a winning record. Arizona State stands at 33-2, followed by Washington (25-2), Oregon (28-4), Stanford, California (21-4), Arizona, UCLA (21-5) and Oregon State (16-6).
Both Stanford tennis teams will be in action this weekend, highlighted by a rare doubleheader on Friday at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium. The women face Arizona State at 1:30 p.m. in a Pac-10 contest while the men battle Tulsa at 5 p.m. in a nonconference match.
Wins over four nationally ranked opponents over a five-day stretch last week, including convincing 6-1 road victories over No. 8 UCLA and No. 13 USC, were enough to vault the Stanford women into the ITA's No. 1 spot.
The Sun Devils (13-3, 3-0 Pac-10) are also undefeated in league play and boast two top-20 singles players and four ranked in the top 120.
Stanford also will be looking to extend its NCAA-record home winning streak, which currently stands at 174 consecutive matches, which includes 32 NCAA tournament wins.
After facing three top-20 opponents over a five-day stretch last week, the Stanford men (9-5, 1-1 Pac-10) are preparing for a 10-day stretch that features five more nationally-ranked squads.
Stanford dropped four spots in the latest edition of the ITA national rankings and now checks in at No. 12. It's the lowest the Cardinal has been ranked all year, having alternated between No. 7 and No. 8 ever since the dual match campaign kicked off in January.