Jan. 30, 2001
This Week's Action
The No. 2 Stanford men's volleyball team, off to its best start since 1998, takes its 5-0 record into a pair of matches this week. The Cardinal will host California in an exhibition match at Maples Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 2 before traveling down the road for a Saturday, Feb. 3 contest at UC Santa Cruz. The Banana Slugs (1-6), ranked No. 5 in the Division III national poll, enter the week on a six-match losing streak.
The Nieves File
Ruben Nieves is now in his eleventh season as Stanford's head coach. The winningest coach in program history, he has amassed a 167-70 (.705) record on the Farm, including a 126-63 (.667) mark in MPSF play. In 1997, he guided the Cardinal to a 27-3 record and the NCAA championship en route to being named the Volleyball Magazine and AVCA National Coach of the Year. A two-year letterwinner at Stanford in 1979-80, Nieves previously served as an assistant under former Cardinal head man Fred Sturm from 1987 to 1990.
A Cardinal Tint to the National Rankings
With two victories over Top-15 opponents last week, including a 3-1 road upset of then-No. 2 UC Santa Barbara, Stanford attained the No. 2 spot in both this week's USA Today/AVCA Coaches' Top 15 poll and the Volleyball Magazine Top 10 poll. In the USA Today/AVCA poll, Stanford garnered three of the 16 first-place points and earned 226 points overall.
Bulling over the Matadors
Three Stanford players posted double-digit kills as the Cardinal cruised to a 30-12, 30-25, 30-28 road sweep over No. 11 Cal State Northridge. Freshman outside hitter Billy Clayton hit .833, the fourth-best single-match mark in school history, as Stanford finished with a .538 team hitting percentage (53 kills, 11 errors, 78 total attempts). Clayton, in just his fourth collegiate match, finished an errorless performance with 10 kills in 12 total attempts in a prolific hitting display. Sophomore opposite Curt Toppel, the MPSF Player of the Week, had 19 kills with just six errors in 23 total attempts for a .435 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Marcus Skacel pounded 12 kills with a .688 hitting percentage, setter Josh Lukens finished with 42 assists, senior Brett Youngberg had a match-high six blocks and libero Seth Ring added a match-best five digs.
Upset in Santa Barbara
Junior outside hitter Marcus Skacel had 20 kills and 10 digs as Stanford posted its second upset of a higher-ranked opponent in less than a week, defeating No. 2 UC Santa Barbara 30-22, 31-33, 30-22, 30-25 in front of 1,422 spectators at Robertson Gym. Skacel, who recorded his 10th career double-double and second in the last three matches, finished with a .406 hitting percentage and three block assists. Sophomore opposite Curt Toppel pounded 19 kills with five digs and a pair of aces, while senior middle blocker Brett Youngberg had an outstanding all-around effort with 11 kills, a .667 hitting percentage, five blocks and four digs. Setter Josh Lukens complimented 60 assists with five kills of his own.
Each of Stanford's last four matches have been against ranked opponents, and the Cardinal is 4-0 in those contests. The streak began with a home sweep of then-No. 14 Ball State, continued with a come-from-behind, five-game victory over No. 1 Pepperdine, and stretched to four with road wins at No. 11 Cal State Northridge and No. 2 UC Santa Barbara.
At 5-0, Stanford is off to the third-best start in program history. The 1998 squad began 8-0 while the 1990 team won its first seven. The 1997 National Championship team started 4-0 and won 10 of its first 12, while the 1992 team that advanced to the NCAA title match began 8-1.
Just Win, Baby
On the strength of three sweeps and one 3-1 victory, Stanford is 15-3 over its first 18 games. The Cardinal is a perfect 5-0 in first games, is 3-2 in game two, 4-1 in game three and has won its only games four and five. By contrast, the 2000 squad finished just 37-45 in games en route to a 10-13 overall record.
Double Your Pleasure
Junior outside hitter Marcus Skacel has a pair of double-doubles in his last three matches, torching then-No. 1 Pepperdine for 19 kills and 12 digs before recording 20 kills and 10 digs at No. 2 UC Santa Barbara. Skacel, who is averaging 17 kills over his last three matches, now has 10 career double-doubles.
In the Record Book
Freshman outside hitter Billy Clayton had one of the more prolific attacking matches in Stanford history last Friday at Cal State Northridge. In a three-game sweep of the 11th-ranked Matadors, Clayton pounded 10 kills without an error in 12 attempts for an .833 hitting percentage, the fourth-best single-match mark in school history. Former Cardinal great Mike Hoefer holds the Stanford record with a .944 hitting percentage against Pepperdine on Apr. 25, 1994, followed by Andy Witt (.870, 3/28/97 at UC Irvine) and Tad Hoffman (.846, 2/7/98).
Sophomore opposite Curt Toppel, the 2000 MPSF and AVCA Freshman of the Year, is off to a great start in 2001. He leads the team with 90 kills, while his .405 hitting percentage is 53 points higher than the .352 he hit as a freshman. Toppel was named the MPSF Player of the Week following a 30-kill performance - the nation's first in 2001 - in a five-game upset of then-No. 1 Pepperdine on Jan. 21. He is averaging 5.29 kills and 1.65 digs per match while leading the club with seven service aces.
Stanford continues to receive excellent contributions from its reserves, as Kyle Strache came off the bench to pound eight kills in 11 errorless attempts (.727) against then-No. 2 UC Santa Barbara. Through five matches, the top three Cardinal reserves - Paul Bocage, William Curtis and Strache - have produced 32 kills with seven errors in 55 total attempts for a .455 hitting percentage. The trio has also produced 13 total blocks and nine digs. Although he has only played in eight games, Strache is tied for third on the team with four service aces.
On the Attack
Stanford continues to dominate offensively, posting a .413 hitting percentage to the opponents' .218 mark. Although the Cardinal has six fewer total attempts than the opposition (535-541), it has pounded 68 more kills (305-237). Stanford, which has hit better than .400 in four of its first five matches, has committed just 84 errors while its opponents have erred 119 times.
The .400 Club
Through the first five matches, Stanford has eight players hitting over .400, including two that are over .500. Reserve Kyle Strache leads the way with 13 kills and two errors in 20 attempts for a .550 hitting percentage, followed by senior setter Josh Lukens at .545 (14 k, 2 e, 22 ta). Sophomore Billy Strickland is hitting .474 (33 k, 6 e, 57 ta), freshman Billy Clayton is at .442 (26 k, 7 e, 43 ta), libero Seth Ring has four kills and one error in his seven attempts (.429) while Brett Youngberg is hitting at a .424 clip (39 k, 11 e, 66 ta). The Cardinal .400 club is rounded out by sophomores Paul Bocage at .417 and Curt Toppel, who has a team-high 90 kills with 24 errors in 163 total attempts for a .405 mark. The two other Stanford players who have logged attack attempts are both over .300, as William Curtis is hitting .364 (6 k, 2 e, 11 ta) while Marcus Skacel checks in at .336 (67 k, 26 e, 122 ta).