May 4, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. -
Complete Release in PDF Format
NCAA Semifinals • Maples Pavilion • Thursday
No. 2 Cal State Northridge (23-9) vs. No. 3 Penn State (23-7), 6 p.m.
No. 1 Stanford (22-6) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (22-7), 8 p.m.
NCAA Final • Maples Pavilion • Saturday
Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.
The No. 1 Stanford men’s volleyball team hopes to complete a “Worst to First” journey that began in 2007 when the current senior class endured a 3-25 season as freshmen. That class, which includes All-Americans and Stanford record-setters Kawika Shoji and Evan Romero, now hopes to lead the Cardinal to its second-ever NCAA title and first since 1997. Heading into the first NCAA final four ever held in Northern California, Stanford is the No. 1 seed and the nation’s top-ranked team. The Cardinal (22-6) plays host to No. 4-seeded Ohio State in the 8 p.m. nightcap to Thursday’s semifinal doubleheader at Maples Pavilion that begins with No. 2 Cal State Northridge (23-9) against No. 3 Penn State (23-7) at 6 p.m.
Follow the Action
The ESPN family of networks will broadcast each match live, with Justin Kutcher and Karch Kiraly calling the action:
• The Northridge-Penn State semifinal will air on ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN3.com.
• The Stanford-Ohio State semifinal will air live on ESPNU, and will be rebroadcast at 10 a.m. PDT Friday on ESPN2.
• The championship final will live air on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
• Gametracker live stats will be available through gostanford.com. Look for the NCAA Tournament Central page for links, schedules, and results.
• Live radio broadcasts of Stanford’s matches can be heard online on KZSU-90.1 FM (look for the link on kzsulive.com. Walter Foxworth will call the action.
Tickets can be purchased by phone, by calling 1-800-STANFORD, or online, at gostanford.com. Single all-session tickets range from $15-$25, while single match tickets range from $8-$15. Group rates are also available, in addition to an all-session VIP package.
Stanford’s Postseason History
Stanford is coming off its third-ever conference tournament championship and is making is its fourth trip to the NCAA final four. The Cardinal is 4-2 all-time in the NCAA final four, reaching the championship match each time -- in 1989, 1992, and 1997 -- and winning once (in 1997). Stanford is 3-0 against out-of-conference opponents in the semifinals: beating Ball State, 3-1 (1989), Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, 3-2 (1992), and Ball State again, 3-0 (1997). Here are Stanford’s final four results:
1989 (at UCLA): d. Ball State, 15-13, 8-15, 15-9, 15-13
l. to UCLA, 15-1, 15-13, 4-15, 15-12 (championship)
1992 (at Ball State): d. Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, 15-11, 15-11, 11-15, 13-15, 15-10
l. Pepperdine, 15-7, 15-13, 16-14 (championship)
1997 (at Ohio State): d. Ball State, 15-6, 15-9, 15-10
d. UCLA, 15-7, 15-10, 9-15, 6-15, 15-13 (championship)
Worst to First
In 2007, Stanford struggled through a 3-25 season. That year, longtime assistant coach Al Roderigues took a talented yet raw freshman class under his wing and insisted that better days were ahead. During those long van rides after losses, Al instilled his belief that Stanford would one day go from “Worst to First,” partly to lift their spirits and build their confidence, but also because he saw the potential in a special group.
On March 19, Roderigues died of cancer. However, just days before his death, the team presented him with a photo collage that included a copy of the standings from 2007, with Stanford in last, and the new standings from 2010, with Stanford in first. Barely a week earlier, Stanford had risen to No. 1 in the national rankings and to first place in the conference for the first time in years. This week, Stanford has a chance to complete the “Worst to First” journey as it hosts the NCAA semifinals and final at Maples Pavilion. The team has the name “AL” stitched to its uniform shirtsleeves, and insists that it’s playing “with Al” rather than for him.
Work in Progress
Since the the 3-25 season, which was John Kosty’s first season as head coach after 16 years as an assistant, Stanford has made steady progress. The following is a yearly breakdown:
||MPSF First Round
||MPSF First Round
Year Overall Ranking MPSF Place Postseason 2007 3-25 -- 2-20 11th (tie) -- 2008 17-11 9 12-10 4th (tie) MPSF 1st Rnd 2009 21-11 6 14-8 4th MPSF 1st Rnd 2010 22-6 1 16-6 1st NCAA Semis
Strongest Conference in the Country
Stanford captured its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season title since 1997 by edging BYU and Cal State Northridge on the final night of the regular season. Stanford and BYU entered their season finales tied and BYU had the tiebreaker edge. But the Cougars lost to visiting Northridge, and Stanford won at UC Irvine to claim the outright title and the No. 1 seed for the MPSF playoffs. Stanford coach John Kosty withheld the news of the BYU result from his team, which didn’t learn it had won the title until UCI announced the score following Stanford’s victory, sparking a wild celebration.
The top nine teams in the AVCA national rankings are all from the MPSF, including ninth-place UC Santa Barbara, which didn’t make the eight-team MPSF Tournament. Current MPSF teams have won 35 of the 40 national titles since the NCAA Tournament was established in 1970 (not including a vacated title).
Since the MPSF began tournament play in 2002, only two teams have ever captured the regular season, conference tournament and NCAA tournament titles in the same year. Those were Pepperdine in 2005 and BYU in 2004. Stanford is aiming to become the third.
Thursday’s Opponent: Ohio State
Ohio State captured its third consecutive Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament championship by rallying to a five-set victory over Loyola-Chicago on Saturday. The Buckeyes are playing in their third consecutive NCAA championship and the 17th in the history of the program. OSU has a 7-21 record in the tournament and has advanced to the final twice, in 1977 (losing to USC) and 2000 (losing to UCLA).
Ohio State hosted the championship in 1997, the year Stanford won. Now, it hopes to capture its first title on Stanford’s home court. Other than a vacated title by Lewis in 2003, no MIVA team has won an NCAA title.
Ohio State has won 12 consecutive matches and is led by two second-team All-Americans, junior setter Steven Kehoe -- the younger brother of graduated Stanford women’s volleyball first-team All-American setter Bryn Kehoe -- and sophomore opposite hitter Shawn Sangrey. The Buckeyes are coached by 10-time MIVA Coach of the Year Pete Hansen, now in his 26th season.
The Stanford-Ohio State Series
The Cardinal is 8-0 all-time against the Buckeyes, but they have never played in the postseason. The teams last played on Jan. 16, 2009, when Stanford returned to St. John Arena for the first time since winning the NCAA title there in 1997. Stanford won, 30-28, 30-26, 36-34, while the outside temperature was minus-3 degrees. Freshmen Brad Lawson and Gus Ellis finished the match with a stuff block, but it wasn’t the pivotal play. That took place in the first set, when an Evan Romero kill broke a 28-28 tie. Before that, the teams hadn’t played since 1997.
Stanford vs. the NCAA Field
The following are Stanford’s all-time records against possible NCAA opponents: • vs. Cal State Northridge, Stanford leads 30-23 (Note: This does not include best-of-three matches).
• vs. Ohio State, Stanford leads series 8-0.
• vs. Penn State, Penn State leads series 5-4.
The following are Stanford school records that have been broken this season:
• Evan Romero extended his school career record (set last year) for kills in the rally-scoring era. He has 1,755.
• Kawika Shoji broke the career service ace record in the rally-scoring set by Kevin Hansen (2002-05), which was 91. Shoji has 108.
• Kawika Shoji broke the career digs record (rally-scoring era) of 711, once held by Hansen. Kawika Shoji has 822. Erik Shoji is No. 2 at 790.
• Garrett Werner broke the career rally-scoring era record for total blocks, once held by Chris Ahlfeldt (2003-06), who had 289. Werner has 361.
• Kawika Shoji broke Kevin Hansen’s school record for sets played (all eras) of 392. Shoji has 405. Evan Romero is right behind at 404.
• 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 1.364.
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, Cookie Monster, 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.
Four Stanford players were named AVCA All-Americans this year, with three -- Kawika Shoji, Erik Shoji, and Brad Lawson -- earning first-team honors. Evan Romero was named to the second team.
• Brad Lawson, soph., outside hitter: Lawson was selected as the MPSF Player of the Year and was named to the MPSF’s All-Tournament team. The Honolulu native has had a breakout season, emerging 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 (484, 4.84) and service aces (36, 0.36), is third in digs (155, 1.55), fourth in assists (44, 0.44), and fourth in blocks (56, 0.56).
But more than numbers, Lawson is 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 .376 and was among Stanford’s most consistent players.
• Evan Romero, sr., opposite hitter: Romero was named the MPSF Tournament Most Valuable Player after combining for 37 kills, 11 digs, seven blocks and two aces in Stanford’s sweeps of Hawai’i and Cal State Northridge. He also hit .409 in the two matches. Romero is Stanford’s all-time kills leader in the rally-scoring era with 1,755.
Such honors were unlikely when he arrived at Stanford as incredibly raw prospect who only took up the game in high school and didn’t play club ball until his junior year in the Miami area. Also, Romero, a son of Cuban immigrants, is very proud of his heritage and prides himself on the passion that he brings to the court.
• Kawika Shoji, sr., setter: A contender for National Player of the Year, which will be awarded May 5, Shoji is a two-time first-team All-American, and a returning academic All-American. No one has affected the rise of Stanford volleyball more than 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 is averaging 13.78 assists, 2.46 digs, 0.89 kills, and 0.61 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.
• Erik Shoji, soph., libero: Only a sophomore, Shoji may be revolutionizing the game. As a freshman, he earned first-team All-America honors while establishing a national season record for digs, with 447 (3.92 per set), and was named AVCA Newcomer of the Year. This year, Shoji led the MPSF with 343 digs (3.40).
Shoji has an innate ability to read the opposing hitters, picking up on subtle changes in body position, and the placement of the block, to anticipate the path of the ball. Shoji also is an excellent setter and is second on the team in assists, with 78 -- all out of the back row because of the limitations of his position.
John Kosty: MPSF Coach of the Year
Fourth-year head coach John Kosty recently earned his first MPSF Coach of the Year honor for his work in leading Stanford to improved seasons each year as coach. Kosty has been on the Stanford staff since 1992 and has been a part of four conference championship teams and assisted on Ruben Nieves’ 1997 NCAA championship team.
Stanford’s records in certain situations:
• Record in three-set matches: 11-1
• Record in four-set matches: 9-3
• Record in five-set matches: 2-2
• Record at Maples this season: 13-1
• Record when winning first set: 21-2
• Record when losing first set: 1-4
• Record when ahead two sets to zero: 15-0
• Record when down two sets to zero: 0-2