STANFORD, Calif. – The Stanford men’s volleyball team opens the 2014 season on Friday, Jan. 3 at the 50th annual ASICS UCSB Tournament in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Cardinal, ranked fifth nationally to start the year, is looking to build on the success it had last season and strives to reach new heights in the new year.
“Our expectation every year is to win a national championship,” stated eighth-year head coach John Kosty. “We enter every season with that mentality no matter what we are ranked in the preseason and we train accordingly. This year is no different.”
Stanford is coming off a 15-12 record in 2013, where it placed sixth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with a 12-12 mark. This year’s squad returns all of its starters and will rely on its upperclassmen for leadership and guidance.
“We have a senior-laden team with the maturity to win,” said Kosty. “With that, we also have a younger core who are starting to make an impact on our team. That combination will really help us towards the end of the season.”
Stanford’s four seniors, Brian Cook, Denny Falls, Steven Irvin and Eric Mochalski, will be looked upon to lead the veteran squad. Cook and Irvin are returning All-Americans, while Falls and Mochalski have both seen significant playing time throughout their careers and have shown they will make an impact. The team has relied on Cook in the past and will do so again this season, and Irvin needs to continue to play at a really high level for the Cardinal to reach new heights in 2014.
“This year we are relying on our senior class to lead this team,” explained Kosty. “There are going to be some seniors on the court and some who are not, but they are our leaders. They need to direct this team and take us down the path we need to be successful.”
Kosty feels Delgado and Sakaida have both stepped up their game for the upcoming season and have made great strides in elevating the team’s libero play, while Haly and Kemper continue to get better in the middle and will have an impact moving forward. Additionally, Tublin has shown that he has the ability to be an impact MPSF player this season. Aiello is back with the squad after spending a semester abroad studying at Oxford.
The sophomore class, consisting of Joe Ctvrtlik, Madison Hayden, Conrad Kaminski, James Shaw, Alex Stephanus and Gabriel Vega, has had a year to grow within the program and will continue to push its teammates and compete for playing time in 2014.
Shaw saw the most action on the court as a rookie and was named a Volleyball Magazine Third Team All-American. He has matured into a quality MPSF setter that now understands what he needs to do to run the offense. Ctvrtlik has had a successful fall and will also have an impact on the squad this season at the setter position.
The coaching staff will look for Kaminski to be a major contributor for the Cardinal this season after seeing limited time a year ago. Other players who could have an impact on Stanford are Stephanus, who has really improved at the opposite position, and Hayden who has been a solid performer and is projected to have an elevated role this season.
Stanford brings in four newcomers to round out its roster this season. Cole Fiers (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.), Clay Jones (La Jolla, Calif.), Colin McCall (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) and Kevin Rakestraw (Newport Beach, Calif.) have spent the fall working hard in the gym and meshing with the returning players.
“The freshmen have integrated very well on this team,” said Kosty. “They are part of the team and they have worked extremely hard this fall and have made the team better. I give them a lot of credit for being able to do that on a team that did not change much from last season.”
After the opening tournament in Santa Barbara, the Cardinal jumps right into another challenging schedule. Stanford’s home opener is set for Friday, Jan. 10 against No. 10 Lewis. The Cardinal will also host Grand Canyon on Jan. 11 before beginning MPSF play.
“We are looking forward to playing another incredibly difficult schedule,” explained Kosty. “We will face six of the top-10 teams in the country in our first 10 home matches. That is what our schedule is like all of the way through. There are no easy matches on the schedule.”
This year’s NCAA Championships will take place in Chicago. Loyola University Chicago will host the event at Gentile Arena, May 1-3.