April 20, 2001
STANFORD LOOKS FOR WIN #3 VS. UCLA: The fifth-ranked Stanford University men's volleyball team (14-8 overall, 10-7 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) is the only team to have beaten defending NCAA Champion and fourth-ranked UCLA (20-7, 12-5) twice this season ... The Cardinal will look to take things a step further when it opens the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Playoffs against the Bruins on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in Westwood ... Stanford defeated UCLA in a five-game (30-28, 30-27, 28-30, 27-30, 18-16) marathon at Pauley Pavilion on March 9, and wrapped up the regular season with a three-game sweep (30-28, 30-28, 30-24) over the Bruins on April 13 at Maples Pavilion ... The second win over UCLA assured the Cardinal the sixth seed in the MPSF Playoffs, and the first round date at the third-seeded Bruins ... In other first round match-ups on Saturday night, eighth-seeded UC Irvine (13-12, 8-9) visits top-seeded BYU (20-3, 14-3), seventh-seeded Pepperdine (14-8, 9-8) travels to second-seeded Long Beach State (17-6, 12-5) and fifth-seeded USC (13-8, 10-7) ventures to fourth-seeded Hawai'i (17-6, 12-5) ... The MPSF Playoffs continue next weekend with the semifinals on Thursday and the championship match on Saturday ... The semifinals and finals will take place at the site of the highest remaining seed after the first round ... The winner of the MPSF Playoffs, and a possible at-large team, advance to the NCAA Championships at Long Beach State on May 3 and 5.
MPSF NOTES: Stanford finished in a tie for third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Pacific Division with a 10-7 (.588) record, and two games behind co-leaders Long Beach State and Hawai'i ... The Cardinal finished 8-4 (.667) against the Mountain Division and 2-3 (.400) against the Pacific Division ... The 10 wins marks a game-and-a-half improvement over its 9-10 MPSF finish last season ... The Cardinal will be making its second consecutive appearance in the MPSF Playoffs ... Last season, the Cardinal fell in five games (10-15, 8-15, 16-14, 15-13, 13-15) at Pepperdine in the first round.
THE RANKINGS: The Cardinal enters the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Playoffs ranked fifth in the nation in both the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Top 15 Coaches Poll (April 17) and the Volleyball Magazine Top 10 (April 16) ... The Cardinal has been ranked anywhere from #1-#8 in the AVCA/USA Today Poll this season ... In the 14 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 four times (Feb. 27, April 3-present), 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 ... The Bruins enter the post-season ranked third by Volleyball Magazine and fourth in the AVCA/USA Today Coaches Poll ... The AVCA/USA Today Poll has tabbed the Bruins anywhere from #1 (Feb. 13-20) to #6 (Jan. 23) this season.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Another match, another ranked opponent ... That has been the story of Stanford's 2001 campaign, as it has played 18 of its 22 matches (.818 percent), and each of the last seven, against teams ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Top 15 Coaches Poll ... Stanford is 10-8 (.556) in those ranked match-ups, including four wins over teams ranked in the top three at the time of the match ... Stanford posted 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, a 3-2 win at then-#2 UCLA on March 9 and a 3-0 win over then-#3 UCLA in the regular season finale on April 13 ... Stanford is 4-4 against teams ranked Nos. 1-5 at the time of the match, 1-4 against teams ranked Nos. 6-10, and 5-0 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 179-91 (.663) record on The Farm, including a conference record of 131-70 (.652) ... He has now guided Stanford to eight winning seasons in the last nine years, and eight top three conference finishes in 11 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).
BRING OUT THE BROOMS: Stanford preferred to keep things brief this season ... The Cardinal posted nine three-game sweeps during the 2001 regular season, compared to just five a year ago ... More impressively, six of those nine sweeps came against nationally-ranked opposition ... The Cardinal blanked #3 UCLA (April 13), #10 Pacific (Feb. 21), #11 UC Santa Barbara (April 6), #14 Cal State Northridge twice (Jan. 26 & April 7) and #15 Ball State (Jan. 14) ... In fact, four of Stanford's last five victories have been of the three game variety ... Overall, 14 of Stanford's 22 matches (.636) have been decided in three games (9-5, .643) ... The Cardinal is also 3-2 (.600) in four game matches and 2-1 (.667) in contests that have gone the distance ... Stanford has a 46-31 (.597) game record this season - 14-8 (.636) in game one, 13-9 (.591) in game two, 13-9 (.591) in game three, 4-4 (.500) in game four and 2-1 (.667) in game five.
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.