Cardinal women's volleyball can clinch Pac-12 title tie


Top-ranked Stanford hosts its final two women's volleyball matches this weekend with a chance to clinch at least a tie for the Pac-12 Conference title and set a school record at the same time.

The Cardinal won't be counting its wins before they become official, however. The two teams coming in -- No. 23 Utah at 8 p.m. Friday (Pac-12 Networks) and No. 19 Colorado at 7 p.m. Saturday -- are both fresh off victories over former second-ranked and previously undefeated Washington, the defending conference champ.

The Huskies are 14-2 in the conference (25-2 overall) while Stanford is 16-0 (26-0 overall) with matches remaining at Washington (Nov. 26) and at Cal (Nov. 28).

Stanford would match the 1991 team for most consecutive matches won to start a season if they get by the Utes, who have won their past four matches, three against ranked opponents.

The Cardinal is coming off wins at USC and UCLA, ending a stretch of five matches in 11 days.

Utah (6-10, 16-11) has yet to win a conference match on the road, though it has gone five sets at Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State and Colorado.

The Buffaloes (9-7, 17-11) are 6-3 since losing to Stanford in five sets last month in Boulder.

Stanford will hold its annual Senior Night, honoring Megan Boukather and Kyle Gilbert, on Saturday.

Junior setter Madi Bugg leads the nation with her 12.03 assists per set and redshirt freshman Merete Lutz is third in hitting percentage at .454 while junior Inky Ajanaku is fifth at .447.

Ajanaku is four blocks away from moving past Nancy Reno into 10th place on the all-time blocks list. She has 400 entering the weekend.

Gilbert has a chance to reach 2,000 career digs. She needs 122 to reach that milestone, with four more regular-season matches remaining. Stanford could play up to six additional matches.

Men's basketball

Stanford continues in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic this weekend at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Cardinal (2-0) meets UNLV (2-0) in Friday's semifinals, at 4 p.m. (TruTV), and will play either Duke or Temple on Saturday night.

Stanford opened the season with a 74-59 victory over Wofford last Friday and 84-73 over South Dakota on Sunday.

Senior post Stefan Nastic is off to fine start, averaging 20 points and eight rebounds for the weekend. Senior point guard Chasson Randle is at 17.5 points a game. Senior Anthony Brown averages 13.5 points and eight rebounds.

The Cardinal is participating in its sixth in-season tournament since coach Johnny Dawkins took over in 2008. The Cardinal is 12-8 and has reached three championship games, most recently the 2013 Progressive Legends Classic.

Randle needs 38 points this weekend to overtake both Brevin Knight and Casey Jacobsen for third on the all-time scoring list. He has 1,686 points to date.

Men's water polo

The winner of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament doesn't always win the NCAA championship, but it's still the "easiest" way to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

UCLA won the regular-season title and that's good in case the Bruins don't win the tournament crown. They'd still have a pretty good argument for getting the at-large bid to the Final Four.

Should top-ranked UCLA (25-2) get to the championship match, the biggest game of the year will be the semifinal match between No. 2 Stanford (22-3) and USC (21-4), assuming both win their first-round matches. The survivor would not have to beat the Bruins to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

The Cardinal, winner of five straight, opens against No. 7 Pepperdine on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Long Beach State. The Trojans, two-time defending MPSF tournament champions, open with UC Irvine.

The winner between No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 5 California can become the wild card in the tournament, with a chance to knock off the Bruins in the semifinal.

If it's not UCLA in the finals, than it will likely just be the tournament champion and the Bruins who advance to the NCAA Final Four, to be held at UC San Diego beginning Dec. 6. UCLA holds tiebreakers over every other team in the conference.

Stanford, which finished second to UCLA in the regular season, would be best served by just winning. The Cardinal owns victories over the Bruins, USC, Cal and Long Beach State so the team knows it can be done. OK, so those were 1-point wins over UCLA and the Trojans. You get the point.

Stanford has four likely first team All-American candidates on board, including seniors Alex Bowen and Connor Cleary, junior Bret Bonanni and sophomore Drew Holland.

Bonanni, who has scored 81 goals this year, is one of six finalists for the FINA Men's Water Polo Athlete of Year, which honors the best player in the world.

Stanford leads the MPSF with its 15.72 goals per game, just ahead of USC's 15.16 and UCLA's 15.16. The Cardinal ranks second in goals allowed at 6.32, behind only the Bruins' 5.30.

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