Jan. 29, 2008
The 2008 Cardinal are poised to return to the national spotlight and make a run at the MPSF playoffs. All-MPSF honoree Kawika Shoji and senior outside hitter Matt Ceran will lead John Kosty's young but talented squad. Stanford returns only one senior for the second straight season and will rely on the experience that many of the younger players received last year, combined with the solid recruiting class brought in this season.
Head Coach Kosty begins his second year at the helm of the men's volleyball program. He spent 16 years as an associate head coach at Stanford before taking over the program in 2007. Assistant Coach Ken Shibuya is also in his second season after coming to The Farm from Juniata College. The Cardinal also welcomes back veteran coach Al Roderigues for his 17th year on staff.
Matt Ceran is the sole senior on the team as Jesse Meredith received a medical redshirt last season and will return to the squad as a redshirt junior. Ceran, a Los Angeles, Calif. native, recorded 340 kills last season and will be counted on to continue producing points as an outside hitter. His overall game will help steady Kosty's young team as he provides solid ball control, strong net play and much needed experience. The five man junior class includes Miki Groppi, who finished second on the team last season with 458 assists. Groppi, the first Italian player to participate in Division I men's volleyball, will be counted on for leadership and to continue putting up his strong assist numbers.
Jarod Keller comes in as the most experienced libero on the team and Cameron Christoffers will provide much needed blocking depth on the front line. Brandon Williams returns after leading the team in blocks last season. He also produced a hitting percentage of .333, the second highest on the team. After starting last year strong and finishing with a .297 hitting percentage, Jesse Meredith will look to rebound from his season-ending injury in 2007.
The sophomore class returns after producing immediate dividends in their freshman year and expect to continue improving in 2007. Kawika Shoji served a dual role as he started the season as the team's setter and then moved to outside hitter in March. He led the team with 665 assists for the season and had 144 kills in the last 33 games to average 4.36 kills per game. Shoji, a four-time member of the USA Youth and Junior National team program, was named All-MPSF Honorable Mention for his efforts in his rookie campaign.
Evan Romero led the team in kills (371) and kill average (3.86/game), and finished third on the team with 18 service aces. Garrett Werner finished second on the team in blocks with 72 and will be looked upon to provide continued production in the front line. Jason Palacios and Ed Howell will continue to improve and provide depth in the outside hitter positions.
Kosty welcomes a six-man recruiting class that hopes to continue the previous freshman class experience by providing an immediate impact on the court.Highly regarded first-year outside Spencer McLachlin joins the Cardinal after having played for the USA Youth and Junior National teams the last four years. A product of Honolulu, Hawai'i's Punahou School, McLachlin should compete for a starting position from the very beginning. At a skilled 6'6", he has the size and ability to make a difference for Stanford for years to come. Also from Hawai'i is Jordan Inafuku. Inafuku, a graduate of Kamehameha School, played a year with both the USA Youth and Junior teams as the libero. A very athletic and intuitive defender, the coaching staff believes he can be a factor immediately.
Outside hitter Ian Connolly also brings USA Youth National team experience having been a traveling member of the squad for the past two summers. The graduate from Mater Dei HS is a complete player that can receive serve, defend and hit at a high level. Garrett Dobbs hails from Greenhill School in Dallas, TX. Dobbs will be counted on to provide help at the opposite hitter position. During the summer of 2007, he was a member of the gold medal winning team at the USA High Performance Championships where he was selected as the tournament's best attacker. Out of Acalanes HS in nearby Lafayette, CA, Charley Henrikson joins Stanford as a middle blocker. At an athletic 6'7" Henrikson will provide a big net presence and a potent quick attack. Hawai'i native Max Halvorson, a teammate of McLachlin's at Punahou School, gives Coach Kosty great depth in the middle.
The setter position remains one of the strong points for the Cardinal as they enter 2008. Sophomore Kawika Shoji burst onto the scene as a freshman and will once again lead the Cardinal at the position. After splitting time as an outside hitter and setter in 2007, Shoji should be able to focus solely on setting the Stanford team during his second season. Junior Miki Groppi gained tremendous experience during the second half of the 2007 campaign as a starter and recorded 458 assists to give the Cardinal a formidable duo. "With the return of two experienced and talented players in the setting position, I feel we have what it takes to compete in the MPSF," said Kosty. "In Kawika Shoji, we have an athlete who does a remarkable job of making his teammates better and running the offense. Also, Miki has come back as a more confident and knowledgeable player. We are in very good hands with our setter situation."
Stanford enters 2008 with the most depth in the middle blocker position since the 1990's. Returning for the Cardinal is a core triumvirate of juniors Brandon Williams and Cameron Christoffers and sophomore Garrett Werner. Williams logged the most playing time of the three and led the team in hitting percentage (.344) and blocks (66) and was second in service aces (20). Werner was the second leading blocker with a total of 65 and he hit at an efficiency of .333. Christoffers provided some valuable minutes in a reserve role. Two incoming athletes give Coach Kosty a nice group of five. Charley Henrikson and Max Halvorson, both listed at 6'7", give the team much needed height and the added depth. Henrikson has shown flashes of explosive power on his quick attacks during the fall practices and should be a factor. "I'm very excited about our situation in the middle," Kosty explained. "For the first time in a very long time we have a lot of quality depth at this position. We are hoping that we will see a big increase in production from our quick attack and also blocking. We definitely have a some good potential and talent amongst our five guys."
With the return of senior Matt Ceran and an influx of talented newcomers, Kosty believes that the outside hitter position is one of the team's strong points. "In 2007 we were dealing with a lot of inexperience at the primary passer-outside hitter position. In fact we were using several players there that did not play that role coming out of high school. Coming into the 2008 season, we are much more seasoned and have much more quality depth there," said Kosty. Ceran was one of those that took on the responsibility of outside hitter after playing as an impact middle blocker throughout his prep career. After a season of learning, he will be looked at to lead the Cardinal as one of the top left-side attackers on the team.
According to Kosty, "Ceran has made vast improvements at the position. Last year, he learned on the job and had the predictable up and down year. This year he looks very good and should be one of the players on our team that produces big numbers for us." Along with Ceran, top recruit Spencer McLachlin should also make a big impact for the Cardinal. McLachlin brings a tremendous amount of high-level experience to the Farm. Along with a spectacular high school and club career, he also was a four-year member of the USA Youth and Junior National Teams. He has participated in numerous foreign tours including the 2007 World Championships in Morocco. "Spencer has the whole package - size, athleticism, skill, knowledge of the game, and attitude. He has already shown that he can play in the MPSF. We expect great things from him now and in the future." A number of quality players also give Kosty more depth than he had a year ago.
Redshirt junior Jesse Meredith is back and healthy again after suffering a broken foot during the opening weekend of MPSF play in 2007. He should be in the mix of candidates to start. Sophomore Ed Howell will make the permanent switch to the left-side hitter from the right-side position he played as a high school athlete. At 6'7", he gives that position added size. Sophomore Jason Palacios is much improved and brings court savvy and a big arm. New to the team will be freshman Ian Connolly. Connolly, like McLachlin, brings USA team experience with him. He was a member of the 2006 & 2007 Youth National teams that traveled to the Dominican Republic and Mexico respectively. Connolly gives the Cardinal another well-rounded player with great attacking skills and good ball-handling capabilities.
Sophomore Evan Romero led the team in kills as a freshman with 371 and will anchor this group going into 2008. His 371 were the third-most kills in a season for the Cardinal since the rally scoring system was put into effect in 2001. Romero has worked hard at becoming a more complete player and is expected to help the team with more service aces, better blocking and more digging. "Evan continually improved through 2007 and showed that he can be a force on our right-side," Kosty said. "We expect him to be a major point producer for us." Backing him up is freshman Garrett Dobbs. Though he is a little undersized, Dobbs plays very big at the net. He is a dynamic jumper and very effective hitter/blocker. "We will have plenty of firepower from the opposite position with Romero and Dobbs. This will help spread the opposing team's block and make our other hitters more effective."
As with the other positions, this spot should be much improved. Talented junior Jarod Keller brings back another year of experience after playing in 59 games in 2007. Keller is a solid passer and has worked to significantly improve his defense. According to Kosty, "Jarod is the embodiment of great work ethic. He is completely focused on getting better and helping the team in any way he can. With his contributions during practice and games, Stanford Volleyball can't help but get better." Keller is in a tight battle for the starter's spot as freshman Jordan Inafuku has displayed terrific ability and great defensive instincts. A member of the 2005 USA Youth National Team and 2006 Junior National Team, Inafuku has played against some of the world's best. "Jordan just makes plays, period. He has shown signs that he can be a top libero in the MPSF. With these two athletes, I feel we are in good hands at the position."