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Stanford Prepares For UOP, USC
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 02/21/2001

Feb. 21, 2001

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vs. #11 Pacific (Wed., 2/21)
7:00 pm, Stanford, CA

vs. #8 USC (Fri., 2/23)
7:00 pm, Stanford, CA

2001 Overall: 7-1
2001 MPSF: 4-1

This Week
Stanford University, which is currently ranked fourth in the nation by the USA Today/AVCA and fifth by Volleyball Magazine, returns home this week for a crucial two-match homestand against MPSF Pacific Division rivals #11 (AVCA)/NR (VB Mag.) Pacific and #6 (VB Mag.)/#8 (AVCA) USC ... The Cardinal (7-1 overall, 4-1 MPSF) takes on the Tigers (4-4, 2-3) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. and the Trojans (5-3, 5-3) on Friday at 7:00 p.m. ... Both matches will be held at Maples Pavilion ... These are Stanford's only two matches in a stretch (Feb. 3-Mar. 29) where it plays nine of 11 away from The Farm ... The Cardinal, however, then plays its final six regular season matches at Maples Pavilion.

Conference Chatter
Stanford is currently 4-1(.800 winning percentage) in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, and leads Long Beach State (6-2, .750) and Hawai'i (5-2, .714) by percentage points in the Pacific Division ... USC is fourth at 5-3, followed by Pacific (2-3) and UC San Diego (0-9) ... The top three teams in both the Mountain and Pacific Division automatically qualify for the MPSF Playoffs, as well as the teams with the next two best conference records ... BYU (4-0) currently leads the Mountain Division by a half game over UCLA (4-1).

The Nieves File
Ruben Nieves is now in his 11th season as Stanford's head coach ... The winningest coach in program history, he has amassed a 169-71 (.704) record on the Farm, including a 128-64 (.667) 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.

The Rankings
Stanford is currently ranked fourth in the nation according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Coaches Poll and fifth by Volleyball Magazine ... The Cardinal stayed at #4 in the Coaches Poll and dropped one slot in the Volleyball Magazine poll after Saturday's four-game win at UC San Diego ... On Feb. 6 of this season, Stanford ascended to the top of the national rankings for the first time since the 1997 team claimed the NCAA Championship ... Through only six rankings periods this season, five schools have already held the No. 1 ranking in at least one of the polls: BYU, Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Stanford and UCLA.

Triumph Over The Tritons
Stanford improved to 4-1 on the road in 2001 with a 27-30, 30-24, 35-33, 33-31 victory over host UC San Diego (1-9, 0-8) last Saturday afternoon at RIMAC Arena ... After losing the opening game for the first time all season, Stanford rebounded for the 30-24 win in game two ... The Tritons had game point opportunities in the third game, but the Cardinal outlasted the hosts 35-33 in the longest game either team has played all season ... Stanford then survived three more UCSD game points in the fourth game before pulling out the 33-31 victory ... Sophomore Curt Toppel (Pacific Palisades, CA/Loyola HS) led the Cardinal with a match-high 29 kills (just one short of his season-high), nine digs and four blocks ... Junior Marcus Skacel (Laguna Niguel, CA/Santa Margarita HS) added 22 kills and seven digs, while 6-foot-8 senior middle blocker Brett Youngberg (Surrey, B.C., Canada/Elgin Park HS) had a double-double of 12 kills and 10 blocks along with a .550 hitting percentage ... San Diego native Josh Lukens (Mt. Carmel HS) added 72 assists, six digs and four blocks for the Cardinal in the return to his hometown.

Stanford Outlasted By The Waves
Pepperdine rallied from a 2-games-to-0 deficit to knock top-ranked Stanford from the ranks of the unbeaten on Feb. 10 in Malibu ... The Waves (7-2, 3-2) prevailed 25-30, 25-30, 30-22, 30-26, 15-11 to avenge a 3-2 loss to the Cardinal on Jan. 21 at Maples Pavilion ... Stanford took the 2-0 lead by hitting .325 and .355, respectively, in the first two games, but Pepperdine answered by hitting .522 in game three and .533 in game four to even the match ... The hosts then held the Cardinal to a -.235 hitting percentage in game five to even the season series between the schools ... Marcus Skacel led the Cardinal with 17 kills, while Curt Toppel added 16 kills and Billy Strickland (Malibu, CA/Harvard-Westlake HS) 13 kills ... Setter Josh Lukens contributed 46 assists for the Cardinal, who also received 12 digs from Seth Ring (Bend, OR/Redmond HS).

Pulling Rank
Playing a ranked opponent has been common place for the Cardinal in 2001 ... Thus far, Stanford has faced five ranked teams in its eight matches, and is 4-1 in those contests ... The Cardinal defeated then-#14 Ball State (3-0) and then-#1 Pepperdine (3-2) at Maples Pavilion while knocking off then-#11 Cal State Northridge (3-0) and then-#2 UC Santa Barbara (3-1) on the road ... Stanford's only loss against a ranked opponent was a 3-2 defeat at then-#5 Pepperdine ... And the road doesn't get any easier, as Stanford will play 13 of its final 14 matches against teams currently ranked in the USA Today/AVCA's top 15.

Fast Start
Stanford's 6-0 start was the third best 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.

Road Warriors
Stanford is in the middle of an 11-match stretch where Stanford plays nine games away from Maples Pavilion ... Furthermore, five of those nine matches are against teams currently ranked in the top six in the nation (#1 UCLA, #3 Pepperdine, #5 Long Beach State, 2 matches at #6 Hawaii) ... The Cardinal is 3-1 away from home this season, with wins at then-#11 Cal State Northridge (3-0), then-#2 UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz (3-0) and UC San Diego (3-1), and a loss to then-#5 Pepperdine (3-2).

Get out the Brooms
Through its first eight 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, then-#14 Ball State, then-#11 Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Cruz ... Stanford is now 23-7 (.767) overall in games: 7-1 (.875) in game one, 6-2 (.750) in game two, 6-2 (.750) in game three, 3-1 (.750) in game four and 1-1 (.500) in game five.

National Stat Leaders
Stanford had four different players in the Division I-II National Statistics leaders as of Feb. 15 .... Senior setter Josh Lukens ranks seventh in assists (12.88 pg), junior Marcus Skacel is seventh in digs (2.23 pg), sophomore Curt Toppel is eighth in kill average (4.69 pg) and Brett Youngberg is 13th in hitting percentage (.440).

On the Attack
Stanford's has been a prolific attacking team throughout the 2001 season ... As of Feb. 15, the Cardinal was sixth among NCAA Division I and II teams in hitting percentage at .356 ... Through eight matches, Stanford has pounded out 111 more kills than the opposition (496-385) in only 54 more attempts (939-885) ... The Cardinal's .338 hitting percentage is 111 points better than its opponents' .227 mark, while Stanford has committed five fewer errors (184-179).

Tremendous Toppel
Sophomore opposite Curt Toppel continues to dispel any notion of the sophomore jinx ... The 2000 MPSF and AVCA National Freshman of the Year is having another outstanding season in 2001 ... Thus far, Toppel leads the team with 148 kills while committing just 49 errors in 289 total attempts for a .343 hitting percentage ... Toppel also leads the squad in kills per game (5.10) and service aces (11), while ranking third on the team with 1.72 digs per game ... His kills per game average also ranks eighth in the country ... Toppel has hit .400 or better in three of the Cardinal's eight matches this year, including a season-high .654 (18 k, 1 e, 26 ta) against then-#14 Ball State on Jan. 14 at Maples Pavilion.

About The Tigers
Pacific is 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Pacific Division ... Pacific is ranked 11th in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Poll and is not ranked by Volleyball Magazine ... The Tigers have won two of their last three, and split two games in Southern California last weekend ... Pacific lost at then-#5 Pepperdine 3-0 (30-23, 30-17, 30-24) on Saturday and defeated UC San Diego 3-1 (30-22, 25-30, 30-19, 30-26) on Sunday ... The Tigers also hold a 3-0 (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) home win over then-#1 Long Beach State on Feb. 3.

About the Trojans
USC is 5-3 overall and 5-3 in the MPSF's Pacific Division ... The Trojans are ranked sixth by Volleyball Magazine and eighth in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Poll ... USC has won two straight, including a 3-1 (29-31, 30-24, 30-25, 31-29) victory at then-#14 Cal State Northridge last Friday night.



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