March 27, 2001
END OF THE ROAD ..: The Stanford University men's volleyball team plays its final two road games of the 2001 regular season this week when it visits the University of La Verne and Long Beach State ... The #4 (AVCA)/#7 (VB Mag.) Cardinal (10-4 overall, 7-3 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) visits La Verne (10-12), who is the top-ranked Division III team in the nation, in a non-conference match on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ... Stanford then takes on #5 (VB Mag.)/#5 (AVCA) Long Beach State (13-6 overall, 8-5 MPSF) in a crucial MPSF match-up on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ... The Cardinal, which has been out of action since March 10 because of final exams, is currently in second place in the MPSF's Pacific Division, but just a half game in front of the third place 49ers ... The two matches conclude a stretch where Stanford plays 11 of 13 intercollegiate matches away from home ... Stanford, which is 7-4 during this stretch, concludes the regular season with six consecutive home matches from April 2-13 ... The Cardinal's 10 wins on the season already matches its season totals from both the 1999 (10-12) and 2000 (10-13) campaigns.
CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE HEATS UP: Stanford is in second place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Pacific Division, and in excellent position for a playoff spot going into the final three 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 ... Stanford has seven conference games remaining, and is three games ahead of UC Irvine (5-7), which currently occupies the eighth and final playoff slot ... The top three spots in the Mountain Division are currently occupied by BYU (9-2), UCLA (9-3) and Pepperdine (8-6), while Hawaii, Stanford and Long Beach State (8-5) are 1-2-3 in the Pacific ...The teams with the next two best conference records are USC (9-6) and UC Irvine, with UC Santa Barbara (3-8), Pacific (3-8), Cal State Northridge (2-10) and UC San Diego (0-12) giving chase.
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 175-87 (.668) record on the Farm, including a conference record of 128-66 (.660) ... He has guided Stanford to seven winning seasons in the last nine years, and seven top three conference finishes during his tenure ... 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 1987-90 ... Nieves is assisted by John Kosty (11th season) and Al Roderigues (10th season).
THE RANKINGS: The Cardinal is ranked fourth in the nation in the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Top 15 (March 27) and seventh in the Volleyball Magazine Top 10 (March 26) ... 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 ... Five different schools have been ranked #1 this season: BYU, Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Stanford and UCLA ... La Verne is the top-ranked Division III team in the nation according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 15 (March 27) ... Long Beach State is ranked fifth in both polls this week ... The 49ers have been ranked anywhere from #1-#7 by the AVCA/USA Today this season.
SCHEDULE JUST GETS TOUGHER: Another match, another ranked opponent ... Seven of Stanford's last eight matches are against teams in the top 13 in the latest AVCA/USA Today Division I Poll (March 27), and the eighth is the top-ranked Division III team in the country (La Verne) ... The Cardinal has already played 11 ranked teams in its 14 matches, and has won seven ... The Cardinal owns three wins 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 3-1 against teams ranked in the top five at the time of the match, 0-3 against teams ranked sixth through 10th, and 4-0 against teams ranked 11th-15th.
ABOUT THE LEOPARDS: La Verne is the top-ranked team in Division III and enters the week with a 10-12 record ... The Leopards, who do not have a conference affiliation, swept NAIA school St. Ambrose 3-0 last week before suffering consecutive three-game losses against MPSF opponents Cal State Northridge (30-21, 30-8, 30-24, Friday) and Pacific (30-28, 30-22, 30-24, Sunday).
ABOUT THE 49ERS: Fifth-ranked Long Beach State is 13-6 overall and 8-5 in the MPSF ... The 49ers are coming off an impressive road weekend split at BYU ... The Cougars won 3-1 (30-27, 30-28, 21-30, 30-28) on Friday, while the 49ers won 3-1 the next night (30-27, 26-30, 30-27, 30-26) ... The 49ers are 8-2 at home overall, including five victories in six conference games ... The teams split the 2000 season series, with each school winning at home ... Long Beach State prevailed 3-0 (15-6, 15-9, 15-4) on Jan. 28, while Stanford returned the favor in five games on April 1 (5-15, 7-15, 15-11, 15-8, 15-11).
ROAD WARRIORS: After starting the season with three straight home matches, Stanford has gotten accustomed to life on the road ... Stanford, which will be making its fifth different trip to Southern California in an eight-week span, has played nine of its last 11, and each of its last four, away from The Farm ... The Cardinal opened the stretch by winning four of five road matches 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), is 2-2 on this current four-match road swing that began on March 3 (l. Hawai'i 3-0, l. Hawai'i 3-0, d. UCLA 3-2, d. UC Irvine 3-1).
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING (NATIONAL): Senior setter Josh Lukens (San Diego, CA/Mt. Carmel HS) is on pace 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 first in 2001 with 14.04 per game (as of March 22) ... Lukens has recorded 660 assists in 47 games, which is just ahead of the 13.73 per game recorded by Long Beach State's Mark Ekins ... Sophomore outside hitter Curt Toppel (Pacific Palisades, CA/Loyola HS) is second 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 (Laguna Niguel, CA/Santa Margarita HS) is 10th in the country in digs average (2.10 per game) and 11th 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 tied for sixth in the country in team hitting percentage at .333.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING (CONFERENCE): Stanford University's potent offensive attack has it leading the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in both kill average and assist average (as of March 21, MPSF matches only) ... Stanford is currently averaging 16.93 kills per game to second place Long Beach State's 16.43, and the Cardinal's 15.73 assists per game also leads Long Beach State's 15.18 ... In other conference statistical categories, Stanford is second in dig average (9.10 pg), third in hitting percentage (.337), seventh in blocking average (4.83 pg) and eighth in service ace average (1.25 pg) ... Individually, Curt Toppel leads the MPSF in kill average (5.66 pg) and Josh Lukens is tops in assist average (14.21) ... In addition, Marcus Skacel is tied for third in dig average (1.98 pg) and fifth in kill average (4.40 pg), while Brett Youngberg is seventh in blocking average (1.18 pg).
BRING OUT THE BROOMS: With eight matches still remaining in the regular season, Stanford has recorded as many three-game sweeps (five) as it did all of last season ... More impressively, three of those five wins have come against nationally-ranked opposition ... The Cardinal has swept D'Youville (Jan. 11), then-#14 Ball State (Jan. 14), then-#11 Cal State Northridge (Jan. 26), UC Santa Cruz (Feb. 4) and then-#11 Pacific (Feb. 21) ... Stanford has a 33-19 (.635) game record this season: 10-4 (.714) in game one, 9-5 (.643) in game two, 8-6 (.571) in game three, 4-3 (.571) in game four and 2-1 (.667) in game five.
OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: Stanford has been a prolific attacking team throughout the 2001 season ... The Cardinal ranks tied for sixth in Div. I & II in team hitting percentage (.333) as of March 22 ... In Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches, the Cardinal owns the third best percentage in the conference at .337 ... In 14 matches overall, Stanford is outhitting its opponents by a commanding .333-.274 margin ... The Cardinal has pounded out 106 (857-751) more kills than its opposition in just 53 more attempts (1693-1640).
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 ... He currently ranks second in the nation (Div. I & II) in kills per game (5.50), and leads 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 ... This season, Toppel has recorded a team-high 253 kills in 46 games to go along with a .341 hitting percentage (253 k-84 e-495 ta) ... In addition to kills and kills per game, he also leads the team in service aces (17) and is third in digs (76) ... He has hit .400 or better on six different occasions, including a .415 mark with 26 kills at then-#2 UCLA on March 9.
LUKENS LEADS THE WAY: 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 ... He leads the country again this year at a 14.04 clip in 47 games played (660 assists), and also leads the way in MPSF play at 14.21 in 38 games (540 assists) ... Lukens currently has 4,284 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 17.20 career assists per game average ranks second behind Ceman's 18.42.