The feeling of a championship weekend | September 7, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 7, 2018

The feeling of a championship weekend

Six teams ranked in the top 10 will be at Stanford

by Rick Eymer

Stanford University will be home to some of the best collegiate athletic teams in the nation this weekend and it's just not the Cardinal. It's a gourmet spread.

On Friday, for example, the fourth-ranked Stanford women's volleyball team meets No. 5 Penn State at 8 p.m. inside Maples Pavilion. As an added bonus, No. 18 Oregon and top-ranked Minnesota are also on the program.

Laird Q. Cagan Stadium will host the top-ranked Cardinal women's soccer team against Notre Dame at 6 p.m.

Saturday features a simple choice: No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 17 USC in the Pac-12 football opener at 5:30 p.m. and/or Oregon vs. Penn State at 2 p.m.

Sunday offers a unique opportunity in that Stanford takes on Minnesota on the volleyball court at noon and the Cardinal meets No. 2 North Carolina on the soccer field at 2:30 p.m.

There aren't many places where one can find such a smorgasbord of nationally-ranked teams converging on one campus for a weekend.

Women's volleyball

Until Monday, Stanford was the top-ranked team in the nation but after losing to host BYU in five sets before a sellout crowd in Provo, the Cardinal dipped to fourth.

Friday's match features the only two schools to have qualified for every NCAA tournament. Stanford (4-1) and Penn State (5-0) also share the record for most NCAA championships, each with seven. They've played each other for the title four times and have appeared in a combined 25 national championship matches.

Stanford wrapped-up a nine-day road trip with a 2-1 record at the BYU Nike Invitational. Playing three matches within 24 hours, the Cardinal came back from losing to the Cougars with sweeps over Wichita State and West Virginia the next day. Audriana Fitzmorris (.425, 2.64 kps, 1.00 bps) and Jenna Gray (11.79 aps, 1.07 bps) were named to the all-tournament team.

Penn State holds a 12-9 advantage in the all-time series against Stanford. The Nittany Lions won both meetings last season; in four sets in College Station, Texas and five sets in Champaign, Ill. Stanford's most recent in was a sweep in 2016 at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Boulder, Colo.

The Nittany Lions are averaging 3.23 blocks and hitting .309 as a team this season, ranking fourth and fifth in the nation, respectively. Penn State is holding its opponents to a .067 attack percentage; lowest in the country.

The latest No. 1 team in the nation, Minnesota is 5-0 to start the season and will be on the road for the first time in 2018. The Golden Gophers are second in the nation with 3.41 blocks per set and fourth with a .310 team hitting percentage. Opponents are hitting .115 against Minnesota, which has only lost one set (vs. North Carolina).

Stanford is 8-0 all-time against Minnesota. The Cardinal's last win came during the 2016 NCAA semifinals in Columbus, Ohio. A four-set victory, Stanford went on to win the national championship. The Cardinal's most recent win in Maples Pavilion came on August 28, 2016, also in four sets.

Minnesota's only NCAA championship appearance was in 2004, when Stanford swept the Goloden Golphers at Long Beach State.

Women's soccer

The Cardinal (4-0-0) captured wins at BYU (Aug. 30) and Minnesota (Sept. 2) last week to continue its perfect start: Sunday's win was Stanford's 26th in a row, a program record.

Stanford enters Friday with a 6-7-3 (.469) all-time record against the Fighting Irish. The last two matchups between the programs have ended in a double-overtime draw, most recently a 2-2 result at Cagan Stadium during the 2016 season.

The Fighting Irish (4-2-0) started the season 3-0 before dropping two of three, including a 1-0 loss against Ohio State on Sunday.

Stanford owns a 1-9-3 (.192) overall record against North Carolina. The most recent matchup between the two programs came in the 2014 season when Stanford earned a 1-0 overtime win in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Stanford redshirt seniors Jaye Boissiere, a Menlo School grad, and Alison Jahansouz were freshmen.

The Tar Heels (5-0-1) climbed to No. 2 in the latest United Soccer Coaches top-25 poll after wins over Providence and Marquette last week.

Stanford won its second national title last season but no team has been more dominant that the Tar Heels, with their 20 national crowns, including nine in a row. They've appeared in 23 national title matches.

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