March Stanford sports roundup

It's always a busy time in the world of Stanford athletics, and The Bootleg takes a look back at the ups and downs of the school's numerous athletic teams from the month of March.

Housekeeping: Have to draw the line somewhere, so we're looking at Directors' Cup sports only. We're also looking at in-season sports only, so no spring football.

Men's basketball - Dudes won the NIT, as you may have heard. It was a disappointing end to the regular season, as Stanford couldn't win enough down the stretch to put themselves into NCAA at-large contention. They would have to win the Pac-12 Tournament instead, and were looking good on Day 2, but fell apart for a five-minute stretch against California and it was all over. No matter, for the men won five straight their postseason tournament, capped with a semifinal victory over Massachusetts and a finals victory over Minnesota for the team's first NIT title since 1991.

Women's basketball - As you may have also heard, the women made the Final Four for the fifth straight year. Then they ran into Baylor in the national semifinals. Stanford trailed by only two at the half thanks to excellent defensive strategizing. However, with so much attention being focused on 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, Baylor's shooters were left open and, in the second half, they started knocking down the shots they had been missing before, running past Stanford and then Notre Dame for a perfect 40-0 season. With Nnemkadi Ogwumike set to graduate this June, Tara VanDerveer may have to pull off her finest coaching job yet should the Cardinal hope to make Final Four No. 6.

Fencing - The co-ed squad finished tenth at the NCAAs in Columbus, Ohio. The men led the way, with foilist Turner Caldwell and epee's Kian Ameli each earning All-American honors, but nine Cardinal would finish in the top 24, each earning the squad points.

Gymnastics - Check back in a month. The men are No. 3 heading into the conference (MPSF) finals and NCAA Tournament. The women, meanwhile, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at their conference finals. They were leading heading into their final rotation, but, there, two of their six gymnasts fell on the bars. With one fewer fall, let alone two, Stanford would have been in a photo finish with champion UCLA, and certainly would have done better than fourth in the conference.
Nonetheless, the women are No. 11 in the country with NCAA Regionals on tap this weekend in Illinois. They're the No. 2 seed in their six-team region, behind Oklahoma, but as long as the women finish in the top two, they'll advance to the 12-team NCAA Finals later this month in suburban Atlanta.

Swimming - On the men's side, Texas and, unexpectedly, California showed up on fire at the NCAA Championships in Washington State. The Bears and the Longhorns battled well into the final day, with the Bay Area school ultimately prevailing for the national crown. [Ed: Still doesn't make up for the 2005 Rose Bowl, does it?] Stanford, meanwhile, took third for its 27th top-three finish since 1981. The Cardinal suffered through a disappointing first day or two, as no swimmer fell apart, but lots of folks finished slightly worse than they would have liked, and those results quickly added up. So for the Cardinal to rally and end up in third, when fifth looked like a real possibility early, was a victory of sorts. Kristan Ipsen finished first and second in diving events, the much-hyped freshman David Nolan had two second-place finishes and a third, and senior Chad La Tourette took a second and a third as well.

For the women, a fourth-place national finish was a pretty positive result. (Frustratingly, Cal and USC were first and third, though.) The squad lacked the superstar you need to win a national title, but had a solid cast of swimmers who came through at the NCAA Finals in Auburn, Ala. Reflective of the team's depth was the fact that the two event national titles came in relays – the 200 free and 400 free.

Indoor track and field - Both teams performed approximately to seed, with the men taking 11th and the women 13th at the NCAA Finals. Chris Derrick led the way for the men with runner-up finishes in both the 3,000 and 5,000, as distance runners accounted for nearly all of the men's scoring. The distance medley relay took fourth, two additional Cardinal finished in the top 15 in the 5,000 meters and Garrett Heath finished 11th in the 3,000, which he had won last year.
For the women, meanwhile, it was both distance runners and jumpers leading the way. Kathy Kroeger claimed top-10 finishes in the 3K and 5K, while Karynn Dunn and Arantxa King were fourth and fifth in the long jump. Katerina Stefanidi took third in pole vault. If either the men or women can develop sprinters, watch out, folks.

Men's volleyball - The No. 5 men are a legitimate national title candidate, having been ranked as high as No. 1 earlier this season. We will know the squad's fate shortly, as conference play wraps up these next two weeks, the subsequent two weekends bring the conference tournament, and the weekend of May 3 welcomes the Final Four in L.A. One good sign for the men is that all five remaining regular season matches are at home.

Wrestling - 2005 alum and Canadian national Matt Gentry qualified for his second straight Olympics. Meanwhile, following in Gentry's shoes, 2012 graduate Nick Amuchastegui became the program's second conference wrestler of the year. Amuchastegui finished a two-time NCAA runner-up, three-time All-American and two-time Pac-12 champion. He and junior Ryan Mango, who finished fifth at 125 pounds, paced the Cardinal to a 16th-place finish at the NCAAs.

Spring sneak peak

This piece promises to focus only on one season at a time, and winter sports are still ongoing. Still, in brief…

  • Baseball is No. 6, dropping from No. 1/2 after being swept at Arizona
  • Men's golf has taken fifth and third in recent tournaments, good enough for a No. 12 ranking
  • Women's golf has taken second, sixth and 11th in recent tournaments, but is nationally unranked
  • Lacrosse is just 3-7, though the easier part of the schedule – a run through the weak MPSF – is just starting up. They are unranked.
  • Women's rowing is No. 9 nationally, behind UCLA, Washington, USC and Cal in the Pac-12
  • At 27-8, softball is No. 27 in the RPI and No. 14/15 in the people polls. The women have gotten off to a slow start in Pac-12 play after being swept by Cal and losing two of three to Arizona.
  • Men's tennis is No. 8, with seemingly overmatched Oregon, Washington and San Francisco on deck
  • Women's tennis is No. 6 nationally and cruising, having posted six straight shutouts
  • Women's water polo (18-1) is No. 2 nationally, with their sole loss a 5-4 decision to No. 1 UCLA

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