April 3, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - The No. 5 Stanford men’s volleyball begins the regular-season homestretch, playing its final five matches at Maples Pavilion, beginning Tuesday against No. 13 Pacific, the only other Division I program in Northern California. The match is vital to both.
Stanford (15-6 overall, 12-5 MPSF) is among a group of five contending for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season title and for the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Stanford is fifth, but remains one loss away from the four four-loss teams tied at the top of the standings.
Pacific (7-16, 4-13), in 10th place, is one loss short of the eighth and final playoff position.
Tuesday, 7 p.m.: No. 13 Pacific (7-16, 4-13) at No. 5 Stanford (15-6, 12-5), at Maples Pavilion.
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The MPSF Race: Stanford is fifth in the MPSF at 12-5 with five conference matches remaining. Stanford trails first-place BYU (16-4) by 2 ½ games in the standings. In addition, UC Irvine (15-4), UCLA (14-4), and USC (14-4) each have four losses. Stanford has only one match left against any of the top four, and that’s the regular-season finale against UCLA on April 14. If Stanford wins out, the worst-case scenario would be a No. 4 seed.
Here are the remaining matches the top five teams have against each other, in order of current standings:
BYU (two): at UCLA (April 6), at UCLA (April 7)
UC Irvine (one): at USC (April 7)
UCLA (three): vs. BYU (April 6), vs. BYU (April 7), at Stanford (April 14)
USC (one): vs. UC Irvine (April 7)
Stanford (one): vs. UCLA (April 14)
What It Means: Not only are teams vying for top seeds in the eight-team MPSF tournament (April 21-28), which determines the conference’s lone automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, but they are attempting to get an edge on other NCAA at-large contenders. Of the NCAA’s 42 men’s volleyball titles, current MPSF teams have won 36.
Homecourt Advantage: Stanford plays its remaining five matches at home. No other team in the 12-team MPSF has as many home matches left. Pacific has the second-most left, with four. Of the contenders, BYU and UCI have zero home matches left and UCLA and USC have two apiece. Stanford, however, has the worst home record among the top five, both in conference (3-3) and overall (5-3).
No. 100: Stanford’s sixth-year head coach John Kosty is one victory away from reaching No. 100 for his career. Kosty’s all-time record is 99-68. In conference play, Kosty’s mark is 71-56. The Fountain Valley, Calif., native would become one of three Stanford coaches to reach the century mark, joining Ruben Nieves (179-92 from 1991-2001) and former U.S. national team coach Fred Sturm (153-157 from 1979-1990). Kosty has won one MPSF and one NCAA title, both in 2010. Kosty also won an NCAA title in 1997 as an assistant on Nieves’ staff.
No. 1’s: Stanford is among five teams to have held the No. 1 ranking in the AVCA coaches’ poll this season. Stanford was No. 1 for one week (Feb. 20) by both the AVCA and Volleyball Magazine. Stanford played two matches as No. 1 – beating Pepperdine on Feb. 24 and losing to USC on Feb. 25. Other No. 1’s this season have been BYU (which lost twice to Stanford while holding the top ranking), UCLA, UC Irvine, and current No. 1 USC.
Record Breaker: Brad Lawson broke the Stanford record for service aces, last Friday. Lawson was tied with two-time first-team All-America Duncan Blackman (1989-92) with 115 going into last weekend’s matches at Pepperdine and USC. Lawson now has 123 after a pair of four-ace performances.
Last Week: Stanford resumed play after a 22-day layoff because of winter quarter finals and split a pair of road matches at Pepperdine (Friday) and USC (Saturday). They were the first of seven matches Stanford will play after the break. Last year, Stanford was 14-4 going into spring break and went 5-5 after, losing in the first round of the MPSF tournament. However, the break seemed to have the opposite effect in 2010, when Stanford was 12-4 before the break and 12-2 after, going on to win the national championship.
Tuesday’s Opponent, Pacific: The Tigers are fighting for their first MPSF tournament berth since 2003 and are seeking to avoid the MPSF cellar for the first time since 2007. Pacific (7-16, 4-13), in 10th place, 1 ½ games behind eighth-place Cal State Northridge for the final playoff position.
The Pacific Series: Stanford leads the all-time series 32-10 and has won the past eight meetings with the Tigers. Pacific’s last win against the Cardinal was a sweep on Jan. 30, 2008 at Burnham Pavilion.