Jan. 16, 2001
This Week's Action
The No. 8 Stanford men's volleyball team has a pair of matches this week, including the MPSF opener. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on Wed., Jan. 17 for an exhibition match with Cal's club team, then return home to entertain No. 1 Pepperdine on Sun., Jan. 21. The match against the Waves marks the beginning of the 17-match MPSF schedule.
The Nieves File
Ruben Nieves begins his eleventh season as Stanford's head coach. The winningest coach in program history, he has amassed a 164-70 (.701) record on the Farm, including a 121-63 (.658) 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 in1979-80, Nieves previously served as an assistant under former Cardinal head man Fred Sturm from 1987 to 1990.
A Cardinal Tint to the National Rankings
In the first regular season USA Today/AVCA poll, Stanford dropped to No. 8, down from the No. 5 preseason ranking given the Cardinal by Volleyball Magazine. However, Stanford did receive one of the 16 first-place votes. UC Santa Barbara received the most first-place votes with six, however, Pepperdine garnered 215 total points to earn the No. 1 ranking.
Four different Stanford players had at least six kills as the Cardinal opened its 2001 season with a 30-12, 30-16, 30-16 over visiting D'Youville at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal attack was led by sophomore outside hitter Billy Strickland, who enjoyed a fine all-around match with eight kills, a .700 hitting percentage, four digs and three total blocks (two solo blocks). Junior outside hitter Marcus Skacel also contributed seven kills and four digs, while sophomore Curt Toppel pounded home seven kills with three digs. Over the final two games, sophomore William Curtis notched six kills and a .556 hitting percentage while fellow second-year player Paul Bocage had five kills and a solo block. For the match, Stanford outhit D'Youville .427 to -.143.
Taming the Wildcats
Junior outside hitter Marcus Skacel hit .647, pounded 12 kills, posted five digs and had five total blocks to lead Stanford to a 30-18, 30-26, 30-22 exhibition victory over club team Arizona. Stanford, which outhit the Wildcats .370 to .184, featured a balanced attack for the second straight match. Senior Brett Youngberg had eight kills with a .538 hitting percentage, Curt Toppel had a nine-kill, seven-dig effort, and sophmore libero Seth Ring contributed six digs.
Bouncing Ball State
Outside hitters Curt Toppel and Brett Youngberg each posted double-digit kills and Stanford hit .512 as a team en route to a 30-18, 30-25, 30-23 defeat of No. 14 Ball State at Maples Pavilion. Toppel had a spectacular all-around performance, finishing with 18 kills against just one error in 26 total attempts (.654) while recording a match-high eight digs. Toppel, Youngberg and Billy Strickland combined to hit .660 for the match with 35 kills and two errors in 50 total attempts.
Sunday's match against Pepperdine marks the end of a stretch which will have seen Stanford play each of its first three regular-season contests at home. The Cardinal swept its first two matches, against D'Youville and No. 14 Ball State, without dropping a single game. Last year, the Cardinal posted a 6-4 record in home matches.
Stanford will certainly be battle-tested entering the MPSF Playoffs, as the Cardinal will play 13 matches against teams that finished 2000 ranked in the top 15 nationally according to the USA Today/AVCA poll. Included on Stanford's 25-game docket are matches against defending national champion UCLA (twice), perennial power Pepperdine (twice), and regional foes Arizona, Long Beach State (twice) and UC Santa Barbara (twice).
NCAA men's volleyball will have a different look in 2001 as three new rules come into play: rally scoring to 30, let serve and the international pursuit rule. Rather than the traditional, side-out scoring (in which a team can score only on its serve) to 15, games will now be played using rally scoring to 30. In this method, a team scores a point each time it records a sideout, regardless of serve. A team must still win by two, and the match is still the best three out of five games. With the let serve rule, if a serve hits the net and deflects onto the opponents' side, the ball is in play. The international pursuit rule is in effect if a team's first touch goes out of bounds on the opponent's side, as a player is allowed to cross over and return the ball to his side. Also, the libero - a back-row defensive specialist - enters its second year.
Stanford will once again compete in one of the premier collegiate men's volleyball conferences - the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The MPSF is divided into a pair of six-team divisions, with the Cardinal joining Hawaii, Long Beach State, Pacific, UC San Diego and USC in the Pacific Division. The Mountain Division is composed of BYU, Cal State Northridge, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. In all, nine of the 12 squads finished 2000 ranked in the top 15, while a tenth team received votes. Loyola Marymount and San Diego State, both of which were MPSF members last year, are not sponsoring men's volleyball in 2001. The conference season includes 17 matches, with each team playing against members in the opposite division twice and the teams in its division once.
First Things First
Stanford has gotten off to a quick start in its first two matches, outscoring D'Youville and No. 14 Ball State by a combined 60-30 in game one. The Cardinal jumped on D'Youville 30-12 in the first stanza for its most lopsided single-game win thus far, then defeated Ball State 30-18 in the most one-sided game of that match.
Ace in the Hole
Through the first two matches of the 2001 season, Stanford has already notched 12 service aces, an average of 2.0 per game. By contrast, D'Youville and Ball State combined for just three aces. Leading the way for the Cardinal is junior Marcus Skacel with four aces, followed closely by Curt Toppel's three.
Stanford dominated during the first week on the attacking end, posting a .470 hitting percentage to the opponents' .084 mark. The Cardinal has pounded 100 kills with just 21 errors in 168 total attempts, while the opposition has only 58 kills with 44 errors in 166 total attempts.
Led by Curt Toppel and Marcus Skacel, Stanford has averaged 9.2 digs per game. Toppel and Skacel each have 11 digs, while Billy Strickland and libero Seth Ring both have nine. By contrast, D'Youville and Ball State dug just 6.7 balls per game.
Much of Stanford's first-week success can be traced to the attacking prowess of sophomore outside hitters Curt Toppel and Billy Strickland and senior middle blocker Brett Youngberg. The three have combined for 54 of Stanford's 100 kills - in the process making only six errors in 82 total attempts for an outstanding .585 hitting percentage. The trio had 19 of the 53 Cardinal kills against D'Youville before nailing 35 of the team's 54 against Ball State.
Senior setter Josh Lukens has handed out 81 assists through the first two matches, an average of 13.50 per game. Lukens, who has the third-most assists in school history, has distributed the ball well, with five different Stanford players reaching double-digits in kills: Curt Toppel (25), Marcus Skacel (16), Billy Strickland (15), Brett Youngberg (14) and Billy Clayton (11).