The No. 13 Stanford and No. 19 USC women will square off for the conference's regular-season tennis title on Wednesday afternoon in Ojai, adding some sizzle to this year's Pac-12 Championships.
Stanford is seeking its 25th conference crown overall and first since sharing the hardware with USC back in 2012. With a victory, the Cardinal which last won the conference title outright in 2011 as a member of the Pac-10 would earn the Pac-12's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The neutral-site matchup between Stanford (13-5, 8-1 Pac-12) and USC (12-4, 7-0 Pac-12) became necessary to determine the Pac-12 regular-season champion, as the March 11 contest on The Farm was cancelled due to rain.
Stanford, which also owns signature wins over Florida, TCU and UCLA, most likely locked up a host bid for the NCAA Championships first and second rounds thanks to last week's upset of Cal.
Hosting duties are limited to the nation's top 16 programs as determined by the selection committee. However, the Cardinal jumped only four spots in the national rankings while the Golden Bears remained No. 1.
Working in Stanford's favor against USC on Wednesday is the lineup addition of Carol Zhao, who would have been unavailable when the teams were scheduled to meet back in March.
The 2015 NCAA singles runner-up and three-time All-American, Zhao missed the entire fall and much of the spring as she had been training with the Canadian National Team and competing in pro tournaments. Stanford is 7-1 with Zhao in the lineup and 6-4 without.
However, Zhao has been only one piece to the puzzle lately for Stanford, which to the surprise of nobody is once again firing on all cylinders at the most important time of the season. The Cardinal has won six of its past seven, including a 4-3 upset of No. 1 California, handing the Golden Bears their first loss of the season.
Senior Krista Hardebeck (21-5 overall, 17-1 duals) has won 15 in a row, the longest streak by a Stanford player since Zhao strung together 15 consecutive victories last spring.
Meanwhile, freshman Caroline Lampl (20-4 overall, 15-2 duals) has clinched a team-high five matches, including last week against California's Olivia Hauger that netted the Cardinal freshman Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. Lampl is Stanford's first Pac-12 Player of the Week since Kristie Ahn on Feb. 4, 2014.
Caroline Doyle (19-8 overall, 12-5 duals) and fellow junior Taylor Davidson (18-11 overall, 9-7 duals) are also inching close to the 20-win mark but their value is even more noticeable as the nation's fourth-ranked doubles team.
Meanwhile, Thursday signals the beginning of the Pac-12 Championships, which features a 32-player singles draw and 16-team doubles field.
Stanford has produced 11 conference singles champions but is seeking its first since Ahn (2011) and Nicole Gibbs (2012) went back-to-back. In doubles, the Cardinal has totaled eight winners, including Davidson/Zhao beating Doyle/Ellen Tsay in last year's all-Stanford affair.
Sunday's singles championship (10 a.m. PT) and doubles championship (1 p.m. PT) will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.
Stanford's Elizabeth Price was named one of four nominees for the Honda Sport Award for gymnastics, it was announced Tuesday by the Collegiate Women Sports Awards.
The Honda Sport Award is presented annually to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports. The winner of the sport award becomes a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the 2016 Honda Cup which will be presented June 27.
Price is joined by Lindsay Mable (Minnesota), Nina McGee (Denver) and Bridget Sloan (Florida). The nominees were chosen by a panel of experts and coaches representing the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W).
Price capped an impressive sophomore campaign last weekend at the NCAA Championships, earning first-team All-America honors in the all-around, vault, bars and beam.
She is a six-time All-American after earning honors on vault and bars as a freshman in 2015. Price finished fourth overall in the all-around and on bars at the championships.
Price earned NACGC/W Regular Season All-America honors earlier this year in the all-around, vault and bars. She won or tied for three NCAA Regional honors, finishing first in the all-around (39.575) and bars (9.975) and tying for first on floor (9.900).
Price became the second Cardinal gymnast in program history to earn Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year recognition this season.
Price won the all-around in eight of the 11 meets she competed in the event this season, including a season-best 39.675 at UCLA and Georgia on March 6.
Price scored 9.825 or higher in 44-of-47 performances this season and 9.900 or higher in 43-of-68 performances during her collegiate career.
She won 53 percent of the events she competed in this season (30 individual event victories in 57 possible events).
Price was named the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week each of the first three weeks of the season and picked up her fourth honor after the UCLA and Georgia meet.
She became the fifth gymnast in Pac-12 history to earn four Gymnast of the Week honors in one season.
Another late rally was not in the cards for Stanford in its 5-2 loss to host California on Tuesday night in a nonconference contest.
For the fourth straight game, the Cardinal found itself trailing in the early going. Cal took a 2-0 lead with a pair of solo home runs in the third.
That was all Stanford starter John Hochstatter allowed in three innings, and reliever Kris Bubic added two more scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, Stanford (19-12) added runs in the fifth and sixth to tie the game. Junior Alex Dunlap and senior Austin Barr singled to lead off the fifth. They were bunted over and Dunlap scored on a sacrifice fly from junior Jack Klein.
In the sixth, sophomore first baseman Matt Winaker, who made some impressive defensive plays on the night, singled to right with one out. He advanced to second on a groundout, and then beat the throw home on sophomore outfielder Quinn Brodey's single through the right side.
Cal (22-11) opened the game up with three runs in the home half of the inning, including a two-RBI double with two outs.
Tyler Thorne, Kris Weisenberg and Colton Hock combined to shut down the Bears from there.
Stanford returns to Sunken Diamond for its first home series in three weeks. The Cardinal host Arizona State on Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. The first 500 fans at Saturday's game receive free ice cream in a mini Stanford helmet.