April 24, 2012
STANFORD, Calif.- With the regular season in the books, this weekend's Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, Calif., serve as the final tune-up before NCAA Tournament first and second round action begins in two weeks.
However, this year's edition of the event features a twist on both sides. On the men's side, an eight-team tournament replaces the traditional individual competition format. Meanwhile, the women must play a rescheduled dual match on Wednesday before singles and doubles action begins the next day.
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Stanford's third-place conference finish resulted in the No. 3 seed for the inaugural team tournament at the Pac-12 Championships. The No. 10 Cardinal (16-7, 5-2 Pac-12) has received a first-round bye and will take the court on Thursday at 2 p.m., facing the winner of Wednesday's opening-round match between sixth-seeded Oregon and seventh-seeded Utah. Stanford blanked Oregon 7-0 at home on April 6 and edged Utah 4-3 in Salt Lake City on April 1.
Should Stanford win its quarterfinal match, the Cardinal would then face second-seeded and top-ranked USC on Friday at 3 p.m. The championship match is slated for Saturday at 4 p.m.
The Cardinal is coming off a 5-2 victory over No. 14 California last weekend, completing a season sweep of the Golden Bears and notching its fifth consecutive win overall in the series. Stanford remains a lock for postseason play and the possibility of hosting NCAA first and second round matches also exists.
Head coach John Whitlinger's decision to shuffle his doubles lineup last week produced a pair of victories. The recent pairings of Denis Lin/Ryan Thacher (No. 1), Bradley Klahn/John Morrissey (No. 2) and Matt Kandath/Robert Stineman (No. 3) will most likely be used again at the Pac-12 Championships.
This week's top-10 features: No. 1 USC, No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Virginia, No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 7 Pepperdine, No. 8 Duke, No. 9 Mississippi State and No. 10 Stanford.
In related news, former Stanford standouts Patrick DuPre and David Wheaton are among this year's inductees for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Men's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. DuPre and Wheaton, along with four other honorees, will be inducted at ITA Men's Collegiate Hall of Fame Enshrinement Banquet on May 23 during the NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships.
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Bouncing back strongly from its first regular-season home loss in 13 years, Stanford booked a 4-3 win over No. 10 California over the weekend at Taube Family Tennis Stadium in the regular season finale for both teams.
As it turns out, No. 5 Stanford (17-1, 8-1 Pac-12) now has even more to play for this weekend aside from individual singles and doubles titles. Thanks to USC's 4-3 win over top-ranked UCLA last weekend, the Cardinal has an opportunity to share this year's regular-season championship with the Women of Troy. For that to happen, Stanford must defeat No. 31 Washington State (18-5, 6-3 Pac-12) on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in a neutral site contest in Ojai, Calif. The two schools are squaring off in a make-up match after their March 25 contest was rained out.
A Stanford victory not only earns a share of the regular-season title, but also the Pac-12's automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament since the Cardinal owns a head-to-head win over USC. If Stanford loses, USC is the outright champion.
That the Cardinal is in position to retain its standing as the Pac-12's top team isn't much of a surprise. After all, Stanford has won the conference title outright or claimed at least a share of the hardware in every season since 1987, with the exception of 2009. However, considering Stanford has played essentially its entire season without the services of All-American Kristie Ahn, this year's journey is impressive.
After Wednesday's make-up match against Washington State, it's business as usual. The women's side of the Pac-12 Championships remains the same, featuring a 32-player singles draw and 16-team doubles field. So, head coach Lele Forood will use this week as an opportunity for some players to sharpen their games while others receive some much-needed rest.
This week's top-10 features: No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 USC, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 North Carolina, No. 8 California, No. 9 Alabama and No. 10 Miami.