There are only a handful of position changes in the AVCA March 8 poll, but they’re significant
changes. Stanford grabs the number one spot for the first time in nine years, and UCLA drops three positions after an upset last Friday.
The big news this week was Stanford overtaking Pepperdine to achieve their first number one ranking in an AVCA coaches poll since February of 2001. The Cardinal is just three years out of a dismal 3-25 season, but things are looking up under fourth year coach John Kosty.
Stanford took 13 of the 16 available AVCA votes, with Pepperdine getting the remaining 3. A big factor was undoubtedly the Cardinal’s 4-game win over Long Beach State on Friday, while Pepperdine’s 8-match winning streak came to an end when they dropped a match to BYU (4) the same night. Pepperdine rebounded on Friday, however, taking an easy 3-game win from the Cougars.
Pepperdine and Stanford have met only once this season, when the Waves swept the Cardinal. Stanford maintains a half game lead over Pepperdine in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which includes 11 of the top 15 ranked teams.
Another Stanford highlight came on Friday night when their All-American setter Kawika Shoji broke the school record for career aces (the new record is 91) in the rally scoring era (post-2001).
Hawaii and UCLA:
While Pepperdine and Stanford traded the #1 and #2 spots, Hawaii and UCLA traded #5 and #8. The Warriors had a brutal schedule last week with four games in five days, but managed to go 1-1 with both USC and Cal State Northridge. They’re just two losses behind the league leaders Pepperdine and Stanford.
Meanwhile, the Bruins suffered a major upset on Friday when they lost to UC Irvine (12) (who moved up to number 11 in this week’s AVCA poll) in a 4-game match that lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes. Despite their 3-0 win against Lewis in the same week, the Bruins dropped to number eight this week with Hawaii taking their place at number five.
Stanford takes two weeks off for Dead Week and finals, after which they’ll take on visiting NAIA powerhouse Cal Baptist on March 20. The Cardinal (10-4 in conference) won’t return to conference action until March 26 at UC San Diego. The last few weeks of the regular season will find Stanford playing six of its last eight matches on the road.
Pepperdine has a six game home stand in their future (Ball State, UC Santa Barbara, Hawaii (2 games), UCLA and UC Irvine) before finishing their regular season with four away games (Stanford, Pacific, Long Beach State and UC San Diego).
The Warriors return to Honolulu to host Long Beach State on Friday and Saturday. Then they travel to Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara, with a two-game match up against UC San Diego rounding out their pre-tournament schedule.
UCLA will get another shot at UC Irvine on March 27 before moving on to Pepperdine on March 31. The Bruins face a difficult April schedule, with matches against USC (7), Long Beach State (6), UC San Diego (13), Stanford (1) and Pacific before the start of the championship tournament on April 24th.