Feb. 7, 2001
This Week's Action
No. 1 Stanford (6-0, 3-0 MPSF), sitting atop both the USA Today/AVCA Coaches' poll and the Volleyball Magazine poll for the first time since winning the 1997 National Championship, travels to Malibu to face No. 5 Pepperdine (6-2, 2-2) on Saturday, Feb. 10. In a similar situation on Jan. 21, the No. 8 Cardinal knocked off the top-ranked Waves in a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory at Maples Pavilion.
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 168-70 (.706) record on the Farm, including a 127-63 (.668) 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
Buyoed by its best start since 1998, Stanford has ascended to the top of the national rankings. In polls released on Feb. 6, the Cardinal ranks No. 1 in both the AVCA/USA Today Coaches' poll and the Volleyball Magazine poll. In the AVCA poll, Stanford garnered all 16 first-place votes and earned 240 points overall. This marks the first time that Stanford has held the No. 1 ranking since the 1997 squad ended the year by winning the National Championship. Stanford will attempt to reverse the losing trend established by the previous No. 1's, as Pepperdine held the top spot for just one week while Long Beach State fell after two weeks on top.
Ranks of the Undefeated
At 6-0, Stanford is one of only three undefeated teams throughout NCAA Divisions I and II. Fellow MPSF squad Brigham Young is 5-0, while Quincy from the MIVA is 3-0. Long Beach State had been undefeated before being swept at home by Pacific last week.
Beating the Bears
Sophomores Curt Toppel and William Curtis led the way with 16 and 12 kills, respectively, as Stanford swept club team California 30-19, 30-21, 30-26 in an exhibition match at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal outhit the Golden Bears, .412 (50 k, 17 e, 80 ta) to .130 (30 k, 20 e, 77 ta). Toppel finished the match with 16 kills, a .520 hitting percentage, six digs and four blocks, while Curtis hit .500 and contributed three digs. Sophomore Paul Bocage enjoyed an excellent night on both the offensive and defensive ends, posting eight kills with a .700 hitting percentage while recording six blocks (one solo). Freshman libero Doug Johnstone tallied a match-high eight digs in his first collegiate start.
Squashing the Slugs
Stanford returned to regular season action last Saturday with a 30-27, 30-17, 30-22 road win at UC Santa Cruz. 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 with 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 to a .110 mark.
Riding the Waves, Revisited
On January 21, Pepperdine came to Maples Pavilion carrying an undefeated record and the nation's No. 1 ranking. Two hours later, No. 8 Stanford had pulled off a come-from-behind, 3-2 upset victory. In a performance that would earn him MPSF Player of the Week honors, Cardinal opposite Curt Toppel had a match-high 30 kills with 10 digs. Outside hitter Marcus Skacel also contributed a double-double with 19 kills and 12 digs. Brett Youngberg finished with 10 kills and Billy Strickland added a team-high six blocks. Stanford rallied from a 2-1 deficit in games and a 10-6 hole in game five before eventually prevailing 30-28, 25-30, 26-30, 30-28, 15-13.
When Stanford travels to No. 5 Pepperdine on Saturday, the prospect of playing a ranked opponent will be nothing new to the Cardinal. Thus far, Stanford has faced four ranked teams, including two on the road, and is 4-0 in those contests. The Cardinal has defeated No. 14 Ball State (3-0 games score) and No. 1 Pepperdine (3-2) at Maples Pavilion while knocking off No. 11 Cal State Northridge (3-0) and No. 2 UC Santa Barbara (3-1) on the road.
At 6-0, 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.
Saturday's match at Pepperdine marks Stanford's fourth consecutive regular season road contest. The Cardinal are a perfect 3-0 thus far away from Maples Pavilion, having won at No. 11 Cal State Northridge (3-0), No. 2 UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz (3-0).
Get out the Brooms
Through its first six 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, No. 14 Ball State, No. 11 Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Cruz. Stanford is now 18-3 (.857) overall in games: 6-0 in game one, 4-2 in game two, 5-1 in games three, 2-0 in game four and 1-0 in game five.
On the Attack
Although Stanford's hitting percentage dipped below the .400 mark for the first time this season, the Cardinal continues to be a prolific attacking team. Through six matches, Stanford has pounded 79 more kills than the opposition (345-269) in eight fewer total attempts (632-624). The Cardinal's .393 hitting percentage is nearly double the opponents' .203 mark, while Stanford has committed 41 less errors (141-100).
Welcome back, Brad
Last Saturday's victory at UC Santa Cruz 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. He also played two games in the exhibition match against California, finishing with 27 assists. Entering the season, Griffith boasts the 10th-best assists-per game mark in Cardinal history at 10.44.
Sophomore opposite Curt Toppel continues to dispel any notion of the sophomore jinx. The 2000 MPSF and AVCA National Freshman of the Year is playing even better in 2001. Thus far, Toppel leads the team with 103 kills while committing just 26 errors in 188 total attempts for a .410 hitting percentage. He also leads the squad in kills per game (5.15) and service aces (seven) while ranking second with 1.45 digs per game.
The .400 Club
Through the first six matches, Stanford has seven 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 both Josh Lukens (15 k, 3 e, 24 ta) and Seth Ring (5 k, 1 e, 8 ta) are hitting .500. Senior middle blocker Brett Youngberg is next at .442 (45 k, 11 e, 77 ta), while freshman Billy Clayton is hitting at a .417 clip ( 32 k, 9 e, 53 ta). Paul Bocage has stepped in off the bench to hit .417 (13 k, 3 e, 24 ta), and team kill leader Curt Toppel has 103 kills with 26 errors in 188 attempts (.410). Another two Cardinal players are over .300 in William Curtis (.375) and Marcus Skacel (.336).
Scouting the Waves
No. 5 Pepperdine (6-2, 2-2 MPSF) is coming off a four-game home loss to No. 2 UCLA last Saturday. The Waves are tied with UC Santa Barbara for second place in the MPSF Mountain Division and are hitting .322 as a team. Scott Wong has a team-high 106 kills with 30 errors in 194 attempts (.392), while Brad Keenan is hitting .421 (68 k, 15 e, 126 ta). Lance Walker has 80 kills and Fred Winters has pounded 76, however, both are hitting below .300 at .228 and .200, respectively. In the earlier match against Stanford, Wong (18 kills), Walker (17), Winters (16) and Keenan (13) all reached double-digits in kills, while Keenan added 10 blocks. Pepperdine did outhit the Cardinal (.294-.281), the only team to do so in 2001. The Waves are excellent in the middle with 115 total team blocks, including 24 solo blocks. Head coach Marv Dunphy's squad started 4-0 en route to a No. 1 ranking, however, Pepperdine has gone just 2-2 since then.