Feb. 14, 2001
Fourth-ranked Stanford University (6-1 overall, 3-1 MPSF), which is in the midst of a stretch where it plays nine of 11 games away from home, looks to get back on the winning track this Saturday when it visits UC San Diego (1-8, 0-7) at 1:00 p.m. in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match ... After starting the season with six straight victories, the Cardinal suffered its first loss of the 2001 season with a five-game defeat at Pepperdine last Saturday ... The match concludes a three-game road swing for the Cardinal, which will return home for matches with No. 10 Pacific (Feb. 21) and No. 7 USC (Feb. 23) next week ... But following the brief two-game homestand, Stanford takes to the road for six straight matches from Mar. 2-29.
Stanford currently stands in second place in the MPSF's Pacific Division, and is just one game out of the lead ... Hawaii, which defeated UC San Diego in three games on Tuesday night, leads the way at 5-1, followed by Stanford (3-1), Long Beach State (5-2), USC (4-3), Pacific (1-2) and UC San Diego (0-7) ... BYU currently leads the MPSF's Mountain Division with a perfect 4-0 record.
The Nieves File
Ruben Nieves is now in his 11th season as Stanford's head coach ... The winningest coach in program history, he has amassed a 168-71 (.703) record on the Farm, including a 127-64 (.665) 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.
Stanford is currently ranked fourth in the nation according to both the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Coaches Poll and Volleyball Magazine ... The Cardinal dropped three spots in both polls following its five-game loss at #3 (VB)/#5 (AVCA) Pepperdine last weekend ... On Feb. 6, Stanford ascended to the top of the national rankings for the first time since the 1997 team claimed the NCAA Championship ... In last week's AVCA poll, the Cardinal was the unanimous No. 1 selection ... Through only five rankings periods this season, four schools have already held the No. 1 ranking: Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Stanford and UCLA.
Stanford Outlasted By The Waves
Pepperdine rallied from a 2-games-to-0 deficit to knock top-ranked Stanford from the ranks of the unbeaten on Feb. 10 in Malibu ... The Waves (7-2, 3-2) prevailed 25-30, 25-30, 30-22, 30-26, 15-11 to avenge a 3-2 loss to the Cardinal (6-1, 3-1) on Jan. 21 at Maples Pavilion ... Stanford took the 2-0 lead by hitting .325 and .355, respectively, in the first two games, but Pepperdine answered by hitting .522 in game three and .533 in game four to even the match ... The hosts then held the Cardinal to a -.235 hitting percentage in game five to even the season series between the schools ... Marcus Skacel led the Cardinal with 17 kills, while Curt Toppel added 16 kills and Billy Strickland 13 kills ... Setter Josh Lukens contributed 46 assists for the Cardinal, who also received 12 digs from Seth Ring.
Squashing the Slugs
Stanford improved to 6-0 on the year with a 30-27, 30-17, 30-22 win at UC Santa Cruz on Feb. 4 ... Curt Toppel led the Cardinal with 13 kills, while fellow sophomore William Curtis also reached double-digits in kills with 11 ... Middle blocker Brett Youngberg chipped in six kills, a .545 hitting percentage and five blocks ... Senior setter Brad Griffith made a successful return with 26 assists over the final two games ... The Cardinal failed to hit .400 for just the second time in six matches, yet held the Banana Slugs, who are ranked fourth in the nation in Division III, to a .110 mark.
Playing a ranked opponent has been common place for the Cardinal in 2001 ... Thus far, Stanford has faced five ranked teams in its seven match, and is 4-1 in those contests ... The Cardinal defeated then-No. 14 Ball State (3-0) and then-No. 1 Pepperdine (3-2) at Maples Pavilion while knocking off then-No. 11 Cal State Northridge (3-0) and then-No. 2 UC Santa Barbara (3-1) on the road ... Stanford's only loss against a ranked opponent was a 3-2 defeat at No. 5 Pepperdine.
Stanford's 6-0 start was the third best 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.
Stanford is approaching the third of an 11-match stretch where Stanford plays nine games away from Maples Pavilion ... Furthermore, five of those nine matches are against teams currently ranked in the top six in the nation (#1 UCLA, #3 Long Beach State, #5 Pepperdine, 2 matches at #6 Hawaii) ... The Cardinal is 3-1 away from home this season, with wins at then-No. 11 Cal State Northridge (3-0), then-No. 2 UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz (3-0), and a loss to No. 5 Pepperdine (3-2).
Get out the Brooms
Through its first seven matches, Stanford has recorded four sweeps - just one shy of its 23-match total in 2000 ... The Cardinal has brought out the broom for D'Youville, then-No. 14 Ball State, then-No. 11 Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Cruz ... Stanford is now 20-6 (.769) overall in games: 7-0 in game one, 5-2 in game two, 5-2 in game three, 2-1 in game four and 1-1 in game five.
On the Attack
Stanford's has been a prolific attacking team throughout the 2001 season ... Through seven matches, Stanford has pounded 80 more kills than the opposition (410-330) in only 12 more attempts (766-754) ... The Cardinal's .356 hitting percentage is 125 points better than its opponents' .231 mark, while Stanford has committed 19 fewer errors (156-137).
Sophomore opposite Curt Toppel continues to dispel any notion of the sophomore jinx ... The 2000 MPSF and AVCA National Freshman of the Year is having another outstanding season in 2001 ... Thus far, Toppel leads the team with 119 kills while committing just 39 errors in 238 total attempts for a .336 hitting percentage ... He also leads the squad in kills per game (4.76) and service aces (nine), while ranking third on the team with 1.28 digs per game ... Toppel has also hit .400 or better in three of the Cardinal's seven matches this year, including a season-high .654 (18 k, 1 e, 26 ta) against then-No. 14 Ball State on Jan. 14 at Maples Pavilion.
Welcome back, Brad
Stanford's win at UC Santa Cruz on Feb. 3 also marked the official return of senior setter Brad Griffith, who missed the entire 2000 campaign and the first five matches of this season with a knee injury ... Showing the form that allowed him to record 688 assists in 70 games as a junior in 1999, Griffith had 26 assists over the final two games against the Banana Slugs ... Griffith also appeared in all five games last Saturday at Pepperdine, and recorded 13 assists, three service aces and two digs ... Entering the season, Griffith boasted the 10th-best assists-per game mark in Stanford history at 10.44.
The .400 Club
Through the first six matches, Stanford has five players hitting over .400, including two that are over .500 ... Reserve Kyle Strache is tops with 13 kills and two errors in 20 attempts for a .550 hitting percentage, while Seth Ring (5 k, 1 e, 8 ta) is hitting .500 ... Senior setter Josh Lukens is next at .464 (17 k, 4 e, 28 ta), with senior Brett Youngberg is at .440 (54 k, 14 e, 91 ta) and freshman Billy Clayton is at .429 (37 k, 10 e, 63 ta).
About the Tritons
UC San Diego is 1-8 overall, 0-7 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (Pacific Division) and 1-3 on its home floor ... The Tritons have lost four straight matches, with each loss coming in three games ... UC San Diego lost to Hawaii 30-14, 30-17, 30-24 on Tuesday night, after returning from an 0-3 trip to La Verne (30-25, 30-28, 30-23, Feb. 3) and BYU (30-16, 30-25, 30-27, Feb. 9, 30-25, 30-15, 30-25, Feb. 10) ... The Tritons' only victory was a three-game home sweep over Princeton on Feb. 1 (32-30, 30-23, 30-26) ... UC San Diego is hitting just .171 as a team, compared to a .344 clip for its opposition ... Senior Donald Chen leads the Tritons in kills (111) and blocks (36) ... Last season, the Cardinal posted a pair of 3-0 win over UC San Diego ... The Cardinal prevailed 15-3, 15-10, 15-3 on Jan. 14 at Stanford and 15-11, 15-7, 15-2 on Feb. 12 in San Diego.