April 2, 2001
BACK ON THE FARM: The fourth-ranked Stanford University men's volleyball team will waste little time in getting reacquainted with Maples Pavilion ... The Cardinal (11-5 overall, 7-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Pacific Division), which has not played on The Farm since Feb. 23, will play on its home floor four times in six days this week to open up its regular season ending six-match, 12-day homestand ... BYU, who is ranked #1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Coaches Poll and #2 by Volleyball Magazine, travels to Stanford for matches on Monday and Tuesday ... The matches with the Cougars will be followed by weekend contests against #8 UC Santa Barbara on Friday and #13 Cal State Northridge on Saturday ... First serve for all four matches is at 7:00 p.m. ... Stanford, which has won three of its last four, will play five of the six schools in the MPSF's Mountain Division during the homestand as it attempts to lock up one of the conference's eight post-season berths ... The Cardinal currently holds a three--and-a-half game advantage over the eighth and final playoff spot with six matches remaining ... Though it has played just five of its 16 matches at home this season, the Cardinal has already surpassed the 10 wins it recorded in both the 1999 and 2000 campaigns.
CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE HEATS UP: Stanford is in third place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Pacific Division, and in excellent position for a playoff spot going into the final two weeks of the regular season ... The top three teams in both the Mountain and Pacific Divisions automatically qualify for the MPSF Playoffs, as well as the teams with the next two best conference records ... Entering the week, five teams - BYU, Hawai'i, Long Beach State, Pepperdine and UCLA - have already clinched post-season berths ... Stanford (7-4 MPSF) has six conference games remaining, and is three-and-a-half games ahead of the eighth and final playoff slot ... The top three spots in the Mountain Division are currently held by BYU (10-3), UCLA (10-4) and Pepperdine (9-6), while Hawaii (12-3), Long Beach State (9-5) and Stanford are 1-2-3 in the Pacific ... The teams with the next two best conference records are USC (9-6) and UC Irvine (5-9), with UC Santa Barbara (4-8), Pacific (4-9) and Cal State Northridge (3-10) still mathematically alive ... UC San Diego (0-15) is the only team eliminated from post-season contention.
THE RANKINGS: The Cardinal is ranked fourth in the nation in the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Top 15 (March 27) and sixth in the Volleyball Magazine Top 10 (April 2) ... The Cardinal has been ranked anywhere from #1-#8 in the AVCA Poll this season ... In the 11 weeks of the AVCA Poll, the Cardinal has been ranked first once (Feb. 6), second once (Jan. 30), fourth five times (Jan. 23, Feb. 13-20, March 20-27), tied for fourth once (March 13), fifth once (Feb. 27), seventh once (March 6) and eighth once (Jan. 16) ... The Cardinal's #1 ranking on Feb. 6 was its first since the 1997 team claimed the NCAA Championship ... Six different schools have held the #1 ranking in at least one of the polls this season: BYU, Hawai'i, Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Stanford and UCLA ... BYU is atop the AVCA/USA Today Coaches Poll for the fourth straight week, and fell to #2 in the Volleyball Magazine poll on April 2 after spending five straight weeks at #1 ... The Cougars, who were #7 in the AVCA Pre-Season Poll, jumped from #8 (Jan. 30) to #1 (Feb. 27) in just four weeks ... UC Santa Barbara is currently #8 in both polls, but was ranked as high as #2 (Jan. 23) in the Coaches Poll ... Cal State Northridge is #13 in the Coaches Poll, and is not ranked by Volleyball Magazine.
SCHEDULE JUST GETS TOUGHER: Another match, another ranked opponent ... All six of Stanford's remaining matches are against teams in the top 13 in the latest AVCA/USA Today Division I Poll (March 27) ... The Cardinal has already played 12 ranked Division I teams in its 16 matches, and three others ranked among the top eight in Division III ... Stanford is 7-5 against ranked Division I opposition, including three victories over teams ranked #1 or #2 at the time of the match: a 3-2 home win over then-#1 Pepperdine on Jan. 21, a 3-1 victory at then-#2 UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 27 and a 3-2 win at then-#2 UCLA on March 9 ... Stanford is 3-2 against teams ranked Nos. 1-5 at the time of the match, 0-3 against teams ranked Nos. 6-10, and 4-0 against teams ranked Nos. 11-15.
THE NIEVES FILE: Ruben Nieves, the winningest coach in Stanford men's volleyball history, is in his 11th season as Cardinal head coach ... He has amassed a 176-88 (.667) record on the Farm, including a conference record of 128-67 (.656) ... He has guided Stanford to seven winning seasons in the last nine years, and seven top three conference finishes in 10 seasons ... 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 letter-winner at Stanford in 1979-80, Nieves previously served as an assistant under former Cardinal head man Fred Sturm from 1987-90 ... Nieves is assisted by John Kosty (11th season) and Al Roderigues (10th season).
CARDINAL SWEEPS LA VERNE: Stanford opened up its two-game Spring Break tour through Southern California with an easy 30-23, 30-16, 30-15 win at La Verne (10-13) on Tuesday, March 27 ... The Cardinal needed just 69 minutes to dispatch of the top-ranked team in Division III thanks to 12 kills from junior Marcus Skacel (Laguna Niguel, CA/Santa Margarita HS) and 11 from sophomore William Curtis (Whittier, CA/Harvard-Westlake HS) ... Stanford committed just 10 hitting errors and hit .435 as a team, while holding La Verne to an .082 clip.
CARDINAL SUFFERS FOUR-GAME DEFEAT AT LONG BEACH: Fifth-ranked Long Beach State (14-6 overall, 9-5 MPSF) snapped fourth-ranked Stanford's three-match winning streak with a 30-22, 30-26, 24-30, 30-20 victory on Thursday, March 29 at The Pyramid ... The Cardinal, which was playing its third consecutive match without injured sophomore Curt Toppel (Pacific Palisades, CA/Loyola HS), dropped the first two games before turning in a dominating performance in game three ... Stanford led from start to finish in the third game thanks to seven kills from sophomore Billy Strickland (Malibu, CA/Harvard-Westlake HS) and four kills and two blocks from sophomore Paul Bocage (Princeton, NJ/St. Joseph's HS) ... The 49ers, however, scored the first eight points of the fourth game and never looked back.
ROAD WARRIORS: Stanford has picked up a lot of frequent flier miles over the past two-and-a-half months, as it has played at home just twice since Jan. 21 ... Since that time, Stanford has made five separate trips to Southern California in an eight-week span and played 11 of 13 matches away from The Farm ... The Cardinal concluded that stretch with an impressive 8-5 record ... The long road spell began with a 4-1 road trip from Jan. 26-Feb. 20 (d. CS Northridge 3-0, d. UC Santa Barbara 3-1, d. UC Santa Cruz 3-0, l. Pepperdine 3-2, d. UC San Diego 3-1), and after splitting a pair of home matches on Feb. 21-23 (d. Pacific 3-0, l. USC 3-1), went 3-3 on a six-game road swing from March 3-29 (l. Hawai'i 3-0, l. Hawai'i 3-0, d. UCLA 3-2, d. UC Irvine 3-1, d. La Verne 3-0, l. Long Beach State 3-1).
BRING OUT THE BROOMS: Though six matches still remain in the regular season, Stanford has recorded more three-game sweeps (six) than it did all of last season (five) ... More impressively, three of those six sweeps have come against nationally-ranked opposition ... The Cardinal has blanked D'Youville (Jan. 11), then-#14 Ball State (Jan. 14), then-#11 Cal State Northridge (Jan. 26), UC Santa Cruz (Feb. 4), then-#11 Pacific (Feb. 21) and La Verne (March 27) ... Stanford has a 37-22 (.627) game record this season: 11-5 (.688) in game one, 10-6 (.625) in game two, 10-6 (.625) in game three, 4-4 (.500) in game four and 2-1 (.667) in game five.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING (NATIONAL): Senior setter Josh Lukens (San Diego, CA/Mt. Carmel HS) is bidding to lead the nation (Divisions I & II) in assists per game for the second straight season ... Lukens, who led the country and set a Stanford single season record with 20.07 assists per game in 2000, is currently second in 2001 with 14.04 per game (as of March 22) ... Lukens has recorded 733 assists in 54 games, which is just behind the 14.59 per game recorded by Long Beach State's Mark Ekins ... Sophomore outside hitter Curt Toppel (Pacific Palisades, CA/Loyola HS) is third in the nation in kills per game at 5.50, after leading the nation last year with an AVCA and Stanford record 8.65 kills per game ... Junior outside hitter Marcus Skacel is 11th in the country in digs average (2.10 per game) and 12th in kill average (4.23 pg), while senior middle blocker Brett Youngberg (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada/Elgin Park Secondary) is 17th in hitting percentage (.424) ... The Cardinal is also ninth in the country in team hitting percentage at .333.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING (CONFERENCE): Stanford currently leads the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in kill average (as of March 21) with 16.93 per game, which is just ahead of Long Beach State's 16.52 ... In other conference statistical categories, Stanford ranks second in dig average (9.10 pg), fourth in hitting percentage (.337), eighth in blocking average (4.83 pg) and ninth in service ace average (1.25 pg) ... Individually, Curt Toppel is second in the conference in kill average (5.66 pg), and Josh Lukens is second in assist average (14.21) ... In addition, Marcus Skacel is fifth in dig average (1.98 pg) and sixth in kill average (4.40 pg), while Brett Youngberg is third in hitting percentage (.464) and eighth in blocking average (1.18 pg).
LUKENS LOOKING FOR REPEAT PERFORMANCE: Senior setter Josh Lukens is picking up where he left off in 2000 ... The San Diego native led the nation and set a new school single season record with 20.07 assists per game last season, and is second this year at a 13.57 clip in 54 games played (733 assists), and is also second in MPSF play at 13.83 in 42 games (581 assists) ... Lukens currently has 4,357 career assists, which ranks third on Stanford's all-time list behind only Canyon Ceman (5,912, 1991-94) and Stewart Chong (5,144, 1994-97) ... His 17.02 career assists per game average ranks second behind Ceman's 18.42.
TREMENDOUS TOPPEL: Outside hitter Curt Toppel continues to dispel any notion of the sophomore jinx ... The 2000 American Volleyball Coaches Association National Freshman of the Year and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Freshman of the Year is having another outstanding season in 2001 ... Toppel, who has missed the last three matches because of injury, currently ranks second in the nation (Div. I & II) in kills per game (5.50), and is second in the MPSF with a 5.66 kill per game average in conference play ... Toppel set AVCA and Stanford single season records in that category last season with a national-best 8.65 per game.