The Stanford women's basketball team released its schedule for the season on Monday and it's another doozy, featuring 11 teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last season. The home schedule features visits from NCAA regional finalists Gonzaga and Tennessee during the nonconference season.
"A big reason for this program's regular season and postseason success is that we face a tough and challenging schedule every season, and 2011-12 is no exception," Stanford Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Playing NCAA Tournament-caliber teams early on and throughout the year prepares us for new challenges in the Pac-12 and in the high-pressure contests in the postseason."
In additions to the Lady Volunteers and the Zags, four other NCAA Tournament participants will visit Maples Pavilion, where Stanford has a school record 63-game winning streak intact. UC Davis, Princeton, UCLA and Pac-12 newcomer Utah are coming to town with NCAA tournament experience. Stanford and UC Davis met in last year's first round.
The Cardinal will also host Old Dominion, Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle University during nonconference play.
Road trips during the no-conference season include Texas for the season opener on Nov. 11, a Thanksgiving Week trip for games at Connecticut (Nov. 21) and Xavier (Nov. 25), and a bus ride into The Valley to visit Fresno State on Dec. 4.
Stanford will open things up with a pair of exhibition contests at Maples Pavilion the first week of November. UC San Diego visits for a 7 p.m. contest on Wednesday, Nov. 2, and the exhibition slate concludes against Vanguard on the afternoon of Nov. 5.
Stanford opens the season ranked No. 6 nationally, the American Volleyball Coaches Association announced in its annual preseason poll Monday.
The Cardinal has won five consecutive conference championships and went 27-4 last year, advancing to the Dayton Regional final. Stanford has appeared in the top-10 in the preseason poll for the past decade.
The Cardinal returns nine letterwinners and four starters from last year, including junior outside hitter Hayley Spelman, an all-conference honorable mention pick last year, and sophomores Rachel Williams and Carly Wopat, who were named All-Pac-10 Freshmen. Wopat played with the USA Junior National team this summer.
Three-time defending national champion Penn State earned the top spot in the poll, followed by Final Four participant USC and national runner-up California.
Texas, also a Final Four team, was fourth, while Nebraska rounds out the top-5. Overall five Pac-12 teams are ranked in the top-25, including No. 7 Washington and No. 11 UCLA.
The Cardinal is scheduled to play 12 regular-season matches against top-25 teams, featuring non-conference matches versus No. 1 Penn State, either No. 4 Texas or No. 9 Florida and No. 17 Duke.
Stanford opens the 2011 season at the Rice Nike Invitational in Houston, on Aug. 27.
Stanford's Andrew Luck is one of 31 quarterbacks included on the preseason watch list for the Manning Award, which is sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl in honor of the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.
It is the only quarterback award that includes the candidates' bowl performances in its balloting.