Jan. 17, 2013
LOS ANGELES - No. 2 Stanford travels for the first time this season when it takes on No. 8 USC and No. 4 Pepperdine in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation action this weekend. Stanford (4-0, 1-0) is coming off a dramatic comeback victory over Pacific in an MPSF opener Saturday. The Cardinal fought off six match points after falling behind 14-11 in the fifth set, and rallied to victory, extending its home winning streak to nine.
Pac-12 Networks Debut: Friday’s Stanford-USC match marks the men’s volleyball debut for the Pac-12 Networks. Stanford will appear four times this season and the Networks will air eight matches overall. Kevin Barnett and Kevin Wong will call the action from the Galen Center.
Follow the Action
• The USC match will be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks. Live stats can be found through the Gametracker links on gostanford.com.
• The Pepperdine match can be seen on a live free Webcast. Look for the Watch links on gostanford.com or pepperdinesports.com. Live stats can be found through the Gametracker links on gostanford.com.
Conference Road Openers: Stanford has stuggled in its MPSF road openers in recent years. Other than two victories over Pacific (in 2012 and 2009), Stanford has not won a conference road opener since 2002. The Cardinal is 0-7 in non-Pacific conference road openers in that span.
Wild Opener: In one of its most dramatic finishes in recent years, Stanford won its MPSF opener on Saturday by overcoming six match points before pulling down a 25-23, 17-25, 25-27, 25-17, 19-17 victory over Pacific at Burnham Pavilion. Brian Cook had five kills in the fifth set as the Cardinal rallied from deficits of 14-11, 15-14, 16-15, and 17-16.
2012 In Review: Stanford had its best non-championship season since 1994 by going 22-7 overall and reaching the MPSF tournament final. The Cardinal’s 17-5 conference record was its best since 1997 and enough for second-place. The Cardinal led the nation in kills per set (14.04) and ended the season with a No. 3 ranking. Libero Erik Shoji earned his fourth AVCA first-team All-America honor. Outside hitter Brad Lawson earned his third first-team honor and setter Evan Barry was a third-team choice. Rankings: Stanford is ranked No. 2 by both the AVCA and Volleyball Magazine. The Cardinal moved up to one spot in each poll after a 2-0 week that included a sweep of UC Santa Cruz, ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division III, and a five-set comeback victory against visiting Pacific, ranked No. 15. It’s Stanford’s highest ranking since Feb. 27, 2012 when the Cardinal also was No. 2.
Friday’s Opponent, USC: The No. 8 Trojans (1-1, 1-1) represent the highest-ranked team Stanford has played thus far. They are the two-time defending MPSF regular-season champions and were an NCAA finalist last season before losing in the NCAA final at home to UC Irvine. USC returned four starters and its libero from last year’s team, but has no seniors on the active roster, and 10 freshmen. USC was shocked in its opener by perennial MPSF also-ran UC San Diego in three, before bouncing back with a 25-21, 25-23, 27-25 victory at No. 1 UC Irvine.
The USC Series: USC holds a 59-27 all-time series lead over Stanford and has won their past four meetings. Stanford has lost six of its past seven at USC. Their most recent meeting was pushed to tiny North Gym when the Kids’ Choice Awards occupied the Galen Center. USC won anyway, 25-22, 25-20, 15-25, 25-20 despite 16 kills from Stanford’s Brad Lawson.
Sunday’s Opponent, Pepperdine: The No. 4 Waves (1-1, 1-1) opened with a loss to No. 1 UC Irvine before beating UC San Diego, both on the road. Senior opposite Maurice Torres is a returning All-MPSF first-team selection and the team kills leader in each of the past three seasons.
The Pepperdine Series: Pepperdine leads the all-time series against Stanford, 48-21. However, the Cardinal has won their past six matches -- three last season, including a an MPSF tournament first-round victory at Maples Pavilion on April 21, 25-23, 25-17, 23-25, 25-17 on a night when Brad Lawson had 22 kills and broke Stanford’s career kills record for the rally-scoring era. From 1998-2010, Stanford never won at Firestone Fieldhouse, and did not even win a set from 2006-10, a streak of 13 straight. Stanford heads into Sunday’s match with two consecutive victories in Malibu.
Record Breaker: Junior middle blocker Eric Mochalski already holds two school records. He has set and broken his own school season record for hitting percentage in the rally-scoring era. Last season, Mochalski hit .462, breaking his freshman mark of .451.
In 2012, he set Stanford’s single-match record for hitting percentage in rally-scoring era (.833, Loyola), in a 10-0-12 performance on Jan. 14.
On career lists, Mochalski is No. 9 in Stanford career service aces in rally-scoring era (45), No. 7 in Stanford single-season service aces in rally-scoring era (30), and No. 7 in Stanford single-season total blocks in rally-scoring era (100).
More on Mochalski: Over the past two seasons, Eric was matched up with his older brother, Steven, a starting opposite hitter at USC. Steven, who graduated in 2012, had bragging rights over Eric, with USC winning all four matchups against each other.
Also, the Mochalski brothers are the sons of David Mochalski, who won an NCAA volleyball championship at UCLA under Al Scates.
Finally, Mochalski can come out of hiding as a lifelong fan of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. The once woeful Clippers, the Pacific Division leaders.
Freshman Starts at Setter: True freshman James Shaw has taken the reins of this Stanford team as the starting setter from the opening match. Shaw, 6-foot-7, was the prize of a strong six-player freshman class. Shaw was a member of the U.S. youth national team at the world championships in 2011 and was selected to the U.S. junior national training team in 2012.
He brings an attacking mentality to the setter position and has a reach that can enable him to get to balls over blockers at the net. In those respects, he brings to mind qualities of 2010 AVCA national player of the year Kawika Shoji, Stanford’s setter from 2007-10.
Shaw, who grew up in nearby Woodside, Calif., and attended St. Francis High School in Mountain View, is the son of Stanford volleyball coaching great Don Shaw. Don, known as “Big Daddy” during his professsional playing days (he once teamed with a young Karch Kiraly at a beach tournament), coached the Stanford women’s team to four NCAA titles in 16 seasons (440-70, .863), and was the Cardinal men’s head coach for seven seasons. He is a member of the AVCA Coaching Hall of Fame. Among the players Don Shaw coached were Kerri Walsh, Kim Oden, and Logan Tom.
USC’s Playoff Influence: One could argue that in each of the past two seasons, USC losses prevented Stanford from reaching the NCAA tournament. Each season, Stanford’s faltered in the MPSF tournament, losing in the first round in 2011 to Long Beach State and in the 2012 final to Long Beach State. However, in both cases, the Cardinal still appeared to be the strongest candidate to receive the lone at-large berth into the four-team NCAA tournament. Stanford, an archrival of USC, turned into Trojans’ fans. If USC, the MPSF regular-season champions both years, had won those MPSF tournaments, Stanford was in. But in each case, the Trojans were upset and Stanford was left at home.
Championship Link: The lone senior on the Stanford team is 6-foot-4 outside hitter Jake Kneller, who becomes the last link to the Cardinal’s 2010 NCAA Championship team. Kneller played in 25 matches that season, mostly as a serving specialist, and had four kills and nine aces. Kneller has started Stanford’s past two matches.
Hawaiian Connection: Stanford’s Hawaiian influence goes back to its formative years when Chris McLachlin took over a struggling club program in the 1960’s as player-coach and helped stabilize a program that evolved into one of the nation’s best. McLachlin returned to his home state and would become famous for his role as Barack Obama’s high school basketball coach, at Honolulu’s Punahou School.
Each of Stanford’s two NCAA championship teams were led by Hawaiian stars. In 1997, it was hitter Mike Lambert and setter Stewart Chong. In 2010, it was setter Kawika Shoji, hitter Brad Lawson and libero Erik Shoji among seven Hawaiian natives on that season’s roster.
Erik Shoji and Lawson graduated last season, but not before earning seven first-team All-America honors between them. Today, they are teammates on a German pro league.
This season, Scott Sakaida, a redshirt sophomore, has succeeded Erik Shoji at libero. He went to Honolulu’s Iolani School, the alma mater of Kawika Shoji and Lawson, as well as freshman teammate Gabriel Vega. With Sakaida and Vega, Stanford has two Hawaiian players, as well assistant coach Daniel Rasay, class of 2005 at the University of Hawai’i.
Ctvrtlik Returns to Pepperdine: One of the greatest names in U.S. men’s volleyball history is Ctvrtlik. Bob Ctvrtlik was a two-time world player of the year, captain of the U.S. national team, a member of three Olympic teams, and a gold medal winner in 1988. Bob Ctvrtlik also was a star at Pepperdine under Marv Dunphy, who is now in his 30th season as the Waves coach.
On Sunday, Joe Ctvrtlik, a freshman setter at Stanford, will step on the same Firestone Fieldhouse court that his father starred on. Joe, a native of Newport Beach, Calif., is a backup to James Shaw, but made his first collegiate appearance on Jan. 11 and was the standout in Stanford’s sweep of visiting UC Santa Cruz. Ctvrtlik had 17 kills, seven digs, and two service aces.
All-Conference: Stanford had six players receive All-MPSF honors in 2012. Of those, three are back this season. Here is the list:
Second team: Brian Cook, Opp., so.
Honorable mention: Steven Irvin, OH, so.; Eric Mochalski, MB, so.
The Program: Stanford has been a varsity program since 1976, has won two NCAA championships, reached four NCAA finals, and won eight conference championships. Among the greats who have played for Stanford are Canyon Ceman, Andy Fishburn, Scott Fortune, Matt Fuerbringer, Kevin Hansen, Mike Lambert, Brad Lawson, Erik Shoji, Kawika Shoji, and Kent Steffes.