May 1, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. -
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The No. 1 Stanford men’s volleyball team can earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1997 by beating Cal State Northridge in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament final Saturday night at 7, at Maples Pavilion. The winner receives an automatic bid for the four-team NCAA event, which takes place May 6 and 8, also at Stanford. The runner-up, however, also stands a strong chance of advancing through the single at-large spot. Stanford (21-6) needs to buck a trend if it hopes to win its first MPSF Tournament title since its 1997 NCAA championship season. Northridge (23-8), the No. 3-ranked team in the country, is the only conference foe Stanford did not beat this season and the Matadors have won seven of their past eight matches, as well as 16 of 19 since 2004.
Follow the Action
Free live webcasts and live stats are available on gostanford.com. Links to Gametracker live stats and gostanford.com’s All-Access webcasts can be found through the MPSF Tournament Central page, which can be found on Stanford’s men’s volleyball page. Kevin Danna and Jason Mansfield will have the webcast call.
In addition, Stanford radio can be heard on-line through KZSU-2 (kzsulive.com), with Walter Foxworth on the call.
Tickets can be purchased at the door. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students. The first 250 Stanford students are admitted free.
NCAA Tournament Selection Show
The selection show for the four-team NCAA Tournament will be Sunday, between 11-11:30 a.m. on ESPNews.
Stronger than the NCAAs
The top eight ranked teams in the country are playing in the MPSF Tournament, making the conference tournament stronger than the NCAAs. The MPSF claimed 11 spots in the AVCA’s final regular season Top 15, including the top nine places. In contrast, the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association and Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association each own automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament, yet combine for only four ranked teams. The highest of those is Ohio State (MIVA) at No. 10, followed by No. 12 Penn State (EIVA), No. 13 Ball State (MIVA) and No. 15 Loyola-Chicago (MIVA).
The MPSF Tournament
Only the champion of the eight-team MPSF tournament receives an automatic berth to the four-team NCAA tournament, which will be played at Maples Pavilion on May 6 and 8.
First round results, Saturday, April 24 (Hosted by higher seeds)
No. 1 Stanford d. No. 8 UC Irvine, 30-26, 28-30, 30-25, 30-27
No. 2 BYU d. No. 7 UCLA, 30-28, 30-26, 26-30, 30-26
No. 3 Cal State Northridge d. No. 6 USC, 30-17, 31-33, 33-31, 30-26
No. 4 Hawai’i d. No. 5 Pepperdine, 24-30, 30-24, 30-26, 22-30, 18-16
Semifinals, Thursday, April 29 (at Stanford)
No. 1 Stanford d. No. 4 Hawai’i, 30-24, 30-28, 33-31
No. 3 Cal State Northridge d. BYU, 26-30, 30-25, 28-30, 30-16, 15-12
Stanford’s NCAA Chances
Stanford may have secured an NCAA at-large berth already by advancing to the final. The MPSF, which owns the top nine spots in the national rankings, is expected to receive the NCAA at-large bid. Since Stanford is this season’s MPSF champion and is one of the two remaining teams in the MPSF Tournament, Stanford is likely in. However, only the MPSF Tournament champion receives an automatic bid, meaning the Cardinal would ensure its position only by winning. Stanford has not reached the NCAAs since winning the 1997 title.
Stanford in the Postseason
Until its victories over UC Irvine and Hawai’i in the first two rounds of the MPSF Tournament, Stanford carried an eight-match postseason losing streak and hadn’t won a playoff match of any kind since “The Block,” Matt Fuerbringer’s roof of a UCLA smash to win the 1997 NCAA championship final in Columbus, Ohio, with a 15-13 score in the fifth set. Stanford also hadn’t won a postseason match at Maples Pavilion since 1994. If Stanford advances to the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinal will have played the entire 2010 postseason at home.
Stanford has been ranked No. 1 for seven consecutive polls, since March 8. It’s Stanford’s first No. 1 ranking since 2001, and latest such ranking since 1997. Stanford received 13 of 16 first-place votes in the latest poll, with No. 2 BYU (two) and No. 3 Cal State Northridge (one) receiving the others. Stanford has been ranked No. 1 in five previous seasons since the AVCA rankings were created in 1986. Here are the previous Stanford No. 1 seasons and the team’s final rankings during those years: 2001 (No. 5), 1997 (No. 1), 1992 (No. 1), 1990 (No. 4), and 1989 (No. 2). Stanford won its only national title in 1997.
Three Stanford players were named first-team All-American in men’s volleyball on Thursday, the most for the Cardinal in 18 years. Kawika Shoji and brother Erik Shoji repeated on the first team, and were joined by for the first time by Brad Lawson. In addition, senior Evan Romero earned his first All-America honor by being named to the second team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Stanford has not had three first-team All-Americans since 1992 when Duncan Blackman, Canyon Ceman, and Dave Goss were honored. A year later, Ceman would become Stanford’s only National Player of the Year.
Stanford boasts seven players from Hawaii and two coaches. Kawika and Erik Shoji are the sons of longtime UH women’s volleyball coach Dave Shoji. They join Spencer McLachlin and Brad Lawson in the starting lineup. Jordan Inafuku is a defensive and serving specialist. Max Halvorson provides depth, and Chandler Kaaa is redshirting.
Saturday’s Opponent: Cal State Northridge
Though the Matadors have reached the MPSF Tournament nine consecutive seasons, this is the first time they’ve advanced to the final for the first time since 1993 and for the first time under 13th year coach Jeff Campbell. No. 3 seed CSUN outlasted No. 2 BYU, 26-30, 30-25, 28-30, 30-16, 15-12, in the semifinals Thursday at Maples Pavilion to advance. The Matadors are led by two first-team All-Americans: middles Jacek Ratajczak and Kevin McKniff. This is the first time CSUN has had two first-teamers since 1991.
The Cal State Northridge Series
Cal State Northridge is the only MPSF team that Stanford has not beaten this season.
On Jan. 29 at Maples, Brad Lawson had 26 kills and Kawika Shoji had 61 assists and 15 digs in the 25-30, 30-21, 30-25, 32-34, 15-13 loss. Stanford, which was without starter Spencer McLachlin because of injury, took an initial 2-0 lead in the fifth set before CSUN scored five consecutive points to take command. The Cardinal never did catch up, closing within one point eight times before CSUN finally pulled out the victory on a kill by Kevin McKniff.
On April 2 in Northridge, Stanford had its eight-match winning streak snapped, 30-26, 21-30, 31-29, 30-27. The Cardinal got 24 kills from Brad Lawson and 18 from Evan Romero, but hit a season low .240.
Northridge has beaten Stanford in seven of their past eight matches, and is 16-3 against the Cardinal since 2004. Overall, Stanford holds a 29-23 series lead, not including best-of-three early-season tournament matches.
Brad Lawson: MPSF Player of the Year
Brad Lawson, a sophomore outside hitter, has had a breakout season while leading Stanford to a No. 1 ranking and the MPSF title. The Honolulu native emerged as one of the most dangerous hitters in the college game and one of the best all-around players. Lawson leads the Cardinal in kills per game (469, 4.84), service aces (35, 0.36), is third in digs (148, 1.43), fourth in assists (42, 0.45), and fifth in blocks (54, 0.56).
But more than numbers, Lawson was deadly at the net, hitting with great velocity and precision. His backrow attacks were unparalleled and his defensive and passing skills were enough to absorb an opponent’s best shot and set in motion the same for Stanford. Lawson, who has started every match in his two seasons, is hitting .384 and was among Stanford’s most consistent players.
John Kosty: MPSF Coach of the Year
In John Kosty’s four seasons as head coach, Stanford’s teams have indeed gone from “Worst to First,” achieving the goal put forth by the late Al Roderigues, a longtime Stanford assistant, in 2007 when the team struggled through a 3-25 season. Over the past four years, the Cardinal has gone from last place in the MPSF to its first conference championship since 1997.
Kosty was not afraid to test his current seniors early in their careers, providing them with the opportunity to grow in a trial by fire. By challenging his players, and with strong recruiting, Stanford has made progress every year to the point of contending for a national title.
Kawika Shoji: National Player of the Year Candidate
No one has effected the rise of Stanford volleyball more than setter Kawika Shoji. The Honolulu native exercised a leap of faith when he committed to a struggling Stanford program, but became influential in making Stanford attractive to potential recruits, many from his home state of Hawaii. Shoji, a two-time All-American, is averaging 13.70 assists, 2.50 digs, 0.91 kills, and 0.60 blocks per set. But numbers can’t desribe his ability to read the defense, cover ground like a center fielder, turn a wild pass into a perfect set, dump the ball into open space, or unleash a blind one-handed set.
Stanford Storyline: Big Al
Stanford lost a great man and a close friend when longtime assistant coach Al Roderigues died in March after a 16-month battle with stomach cancer. Al, a volunteer assistant at Stanford for 18 years, always was upbeat and positive. During a 3-25 season in 2007, Roderigues created the motto: “Worst to First” to help the team know that better days were ahead. A few days before his death, several players visiting Roderigues in the hospital and presented him with a collage of photos, and two sets of standings: one from 2007 and one from that moment with Stanford on top, illustrating that Stanford had indeed gone “Worst to First,” fulfilling his inspirational wish. The team now wears a simple “AL” on the sleeves of its game uniforms and continues to play “with him,” not “for him.”
Stanford Storyline: Crowd Favorites
The Cardinal has a boisterous and outrageous student section with many appearing in costume. Regulars arrive dressed as figures such as Pac Man, Fat Bastard, Speedy Gonzales, Oscar the Grouch, Jack-In-The-Box, Ernie from Sesame Street, Star Wars rebel fighter pilots, flashers, hospital patients, chefs, cows, bowling pins, pirates, football players, prisoners, leprauchans, and even a clone of coach John Kosty himself. Most of the costumed fans are from the Kappa Alpha fraternity house, but other students have joined in as well, creating an environment unique in collegiate sports.
Stanford records set this season:
• Evan Romero extended his school career record (set last year) for kills in the rally-scoring era. He has 1,736.
• Kawika Shoji broke the career service ace record in the rally-scoring set by Kevin Hansen (2002-05), which was 91. Shoji has 106.
• Kawika Shoji broke the career digs record (rally-scoring era) of 711, once held by Hansen. Kawika Shoji has 818. Erik Shoji is No. 2 at 782.
• Garrett Werner broke the career rally-scoring era record for total blocks, once held by Chris Ahlfeldt (2003-06), who had 289. Werner has 359.
• Kawika Shoji broke Kevin Hansen’s school record for sets played (all eras), which was 392. Shoji has 402. Evan Romero is right behind at 401.
• Kawika Shoji is on the verge of breaking his own season rally-scoring record for assists. Shoji had 1,394 in 2009. He now has 1.315.
Stanford has reached the 21-victory plateau, which matches its highest number since the 1997 national championship team went 27-3. The 2009 team went 21-11. However, Stanford already has clinched its best winning percentage since ‘97, with at least a .714 figure, which would be the fourth-best in school history. The top three are: .900 (27-3 in 1997), .857 (24-4 in 1992), and .806 (25-6 in 1989).
Assists per game: 4th, Kawika Shoji, 13.61 (1,266)
Digs per game: 4th, Erik Shoji, 3.46 (329)
Kills per game: 6th, Brad Lawson, 4.80 (451); 13th, Evan Romero, 4.50 (423)
Aces per game: 14th, Brad Lawson, 0.37 (35)
Hitting percentage: 19th, Brad Lawson, .380 (451-127-853)
Hitting percentage: 1st, .350 (1,583-443-3,259)
Assists per game: 1st, 15.47 (1,516)
Kills per game: 2nd, 16.15 (1,583)
Win-Loss percentage: 3rd, .769 (20-6)
Digs per game: 8th, 11.35 (1,112)
Aces per game: 15th, 1.31 (128)