John Dunning would rather not repeat this kind of opening sequence to conference play ever again. Once is quite enough, thank you very much.
The Stanford women's volleyball coach usually is on the top, looking down. This year, he finds himself in a foreign, likely uncomfortable, position.
The second-ranked Cardinal dropped a 25-23, 26-24, 25-23 decision to host USC on Saturday night, and has started conference play with a 2-3 record (8-3 overall) for the first time under Dunning, who took over the program in 2001.
Stanford is 2-3 in conference play for the first time since 2000 and for just the second time since 1989. Heck, two straight losses are rather unusual for the program, as is losing in straight sets. This was the first time that has happened since Washington did it in 2009.
The best that can be said is that all three losses were on the road to teams ranked among the top 12 in the nation and the Cardinal will face all three at home later in the season.
Stanford will look to avoid its first three-match losing streak in 12 years when Arizona State visits Maples Pavilion for a 7 p.m. match Friday night.
In the mean time the Cardinal must suffer the indignity of seventh place in the competitive Pac-12, a conference so loaded with talent that even the top-ranked team in the nation is vulnerable. California was also swept by the Los Angeles schools over the weekend, its first losses of the year.
USC and UCLA, despite recent successes, are merely tied for second in conference play, behind Oregon (4-0, 11-1). Oregon State and Washington are also ahead of the Cardinal and the Beavers (3-1, 11-3) are not even nationally ranked!
The weekend proves, only as a reminder, that there is no 'normal' in the Pac-12, just as there was nothing routine in the Pac-10 for so many years.
It might be relevant to point out that last year's national champion, Penn State, lost five times during the regular season. The top eight teams in the Pac-12 have no more than three losses, at the moment, and most of them consider themselves national title contenders.
And why not? Cal was in the title match last year, USC beat Stanford to reach the Final Four and both UCLA and Washington were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by teams that reached the Final Four.
Take the top eight teams in the conference, put them in a bag and shake for a few weeks, and then we'll see how things shape up (or ship out).
Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Williams registered her seventh double-double of the young season with 11 kills and 13 digs. Junior setter Karissa Cook had 32 assists, six digs and five blocks and sophomore middle blocker Carly Wopat added 10 kills and seven blocks.
The first set featured 11 ties and three lead changes, the second set saw Stanford record three straight points to tie it at 24, and all three sets had the Cardinal staving off at least two set points.
Marjani Hing-Glover netted two goals within 90 seconds to cap off the scoring for top-ranked Stanford in its 7-0 victory over visiting Arizona in a Pac-12 Conference opener played before 1,756 fans on Saturday night.
Six players scored for the Cardinal (9-0-1 overall, 1-0 in the Pac-12), including redshirt freshman central defender Kendall Romine, who scored her first collegiate goal by chipping a left-footed shot more than 30 yards and into upper corner for a 4-0 lead.
Stanford extended its conference winning streak to 21, dating to 2008, and extended its home winning streak to 41.
Sydney Payne opened the scoring by volleying in a rebound of Chioma Ubogagu's shot off the post in the 11th minute, and Taylor McCann added to it in the 45th minute to finish off a first half in which Arizona (0-8-1, 0-1) was outshot, 20-0.
Kristy Zurmuhlen and Lindsay Taylor also scored for Stanford. Taylor, who also had an assist, leads the team with seven goals.
Hing-Glover scored her goals at 71:33 and 72:55 for her first collegiate multi-goal performance.
The Stanford men repeated what their female counterparts accomplished a day earlier and swept the top three spots of the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference singlehanded championships with Mateo Vargas, Kieran Chung-Wolf and Kevin Laube finishing 1-2-3 on Saturday.
Vargas and Chung-Wolf will join Cardinal women Molly McKinney and Kaitlyn Baab at the national championships in Chicago on Nov. 4.
Vargas took the lead for good after the fourth race, winning the first of five-straight races, finishing with 15 points over the nine races. Chung, a freshman, had the lead twice before settling for second with 19 points. Laube, who also led early, finished with 29 points.