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Stanford Opens 2006 Season
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 01/03/2006

Jan. 3, 2006

Stanford, Calif. - Stanford Men's Volleyball will open their 2006 campaign with a home match against UC Santa Cruz on Wednesday, January 4th. The match will begin at 3:00 PM in Burnham Pavilion. The Cardinal will then travel to Santa Barbara, Calif. for the UCSB Elephant Bar Tournament starting on Friday, January 6th. The tournament includes a strong field of conference foes, including: UCSB, UCLA, UC Irvine, CS Northridge, Pacific, USC and Long Beach State. Stanford's first match will be at 1:00 PM on Friday against UCLA.

Eleven returning players and six freshmen will lead the Stanford Men's Volleyball team into action in 2006. After graduating three outstanding seniors in 2005, the Cardinal will look to all four classes to make an impact this season. The senior class of five and the freshman class of six account for the majority of the team, an interesting dynamic of experience and youth. Six players combine to make the junior and sophomore classes. The senior class is led by middle blocker Chris Ahlfeldt and opposite Ben Reddy. Both Ahfeldt and Reddy were strong for the team last season: Ahfeldt with his consistency in the middle and Reddy with his offensive power. Reddy led the 2005 squad in kills (330) and service aces (26), and will be looked to again to produce points. Senior outside hitters William Clayton and Nick Manov, along with setter Jeremy Jacobs, round out the class of 2006.

The lone junior on the squad is libero Brian Lindberg. The sophomore class includes middle blockers Matt Ceran and Matt Wahl, and outside hitters Jesse Meredith and Brian Skinner.

Six freshmen are new to The Farm this season. Setter Miki Groppi is the first Italian player to compete in Division I men's volleyball. Middle blocker Cameron Christoffers joins the squad from Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda, CA. Opposite Brian Fritzsche joins the team from Kildeer, IL, and John Ekins, a setter and outside hitter, comes to The Farm from Bullard High School in Fresno, CA. Two local products from Bellarmine College Prep round out the freshman class: libero Jarod Keller and middle blocker Brandon Williams.

In 2005, the Cardinal finished with a record of 11-15 overall, and 10-12 in MPSF play, placing them 8th in the conference. This 8th place finish earned the Cardinal an MPSF tournament berth, in which they lost to Cal State Northridge in the play-in match. The MPSF remains the strongest men's volleyball conference in the country, boasting the top three Nationally Ranked teams in 2005, and ten of the top fifteen teams in the nation. The Cardinal will play 22 MPSF matches in 2006, including eleven home matches. Defending National Champion, Pepperdine, will visit The Farm on Saturday, February 25th.

The 2006 Cardinal will look to be competitive in every match, and will rely on each individual's strong work ethic and competitiveness to win matches. "I am hopeful that this team will be able to surprise some people this season," said head coach Don Shaw.

Setter

Senior Jeremy Jacobs looks to step into the starting setter position this season, bringing experience and a strong work ethic to the setter position. "Jeremy is very conscious of the responsibilities of the setter position," said head coach Don Shaw. "He is looking forward to the opportunity of being in that role full-time." Joining Jacobs in the setter position are freshmen Miki Groppi and John Ekins. Groppi, one of the few foreign players ever to compete for the Stanford program, was a highly touted junior player. Groppi possesses the size and athletic ability to be an outstanding player for the Cardinal, and in the competitive MPSF. Ekins will compete for time at setter as well as outside hitter. His solid high school and club backgrounds have developed him as a steady all-around player.

Middle Blocker

Senior Chris Ahlfeldt returns for his fourth season at middle blocker for the Cardinal. Ahlfeldt, the most experienced player on the court for Stanford, leads a deep list of middle blockers this season. Ahlfeldt is the leading returning blocker from last season, posting 16 solo blocks and 77 total blocks on the season. He also has the top attacking percentage of all returnees, at .386. "Ahlfeldt has proven to be one of the most consistent players in the history of Stanford men's volleyball, and his day-in and day-out work ethic and quiet leadership skills will again be relied upon this season," said Shaw.

Joining Ahlfeldt in the middle will be sophomores Matt Ceran and Matt Wahl, along with freshmen Cameron Christoffers and Brandon Williams. Ceran returns this season after playing three positions for the Cardinal last season. Shaw plans to have Ceran focus at middle blocker this season. "Middle blocker is the most natural position for Matt," says Don Shaw. "We are looking for him to develop into a solid player, and with his athleticism, we are confident this will happen." Wahl brings an offensive strength to the middle, having worked hard in the off-season to improve this part of his game. Freshmen Christoffers and Williams will add the luxury of depth in the middle blocker position, a luxury the Cardinal did not have last season. Says Shaw, "We have been pleasantly surprised by how far along both Christoffers and Williams are at this point in the season. They have a great knowledge of the game, and came ready to play."

Outside Hitter

Seniors William Clayton and Nick Manov veteran a group of six athletes that will compete for time at outside hitter this season. Clayton, the oldest member of the team, has the most experience in the position, as he played in all 26 matches last season. He is a hard worker, with blocking and defense as his strengths. Last season he posted a total of 40 blocks and 130 digs. Manov moves this season from opposite to outside hitter. He will add fire-power to the left side attacking.

Sophomore Brian Skinner, a great athlete who can also play opposite and middle blocker, will focus his energies at outside hitter this season. Sophomore Jesse Meredith will also compete for time, bringing flashes of brilliance to the position last season when he got a taste of outside hitter at the end of the season. His quickness and jumping ability allow him to be a threat from the outside.

Freshman John Ekins will also compete for time at outside hitter, when he is not battling for time as setter. He will provide outstanding ball control and solid passing to the position.

Opposite

Senior Ben Reddy proved to be the go-to player last year from the opposite position, and will be expected to do the same in 2006. A physically strong, hard working athlete, "we are looking for Ben to have a big senior campaign," says Shaw. Reddy has the toughest serve on the team, recording a team-high 26 aces last year. He also led the team with 330 kills, averaging 3.70 kills per game. Freshman Brian Fritzsche adds depth to the opposite position in 2006. The only lefty on the squad, Fritzsche will bring a different look to the position.

Libero

Shaw describes the libero position as, "being in good hands." Returning starter, junior Brian Lindberg, is coming off of a great campaign in 2005. Lindberg is the leading returnee in digs with 189 last season. A very focused athlete with superb passing skills, Shaw considers Lindberg to be one of the top liberos in the MPSF. Freshman Jarod Keller will join Lindberg in the libero position this season. An outstanding multi-sport athlete in high school, Keller brings a lot of energy to the team, and will push Lindberg at the libero position.


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