Projected preseason top 10 national rankings: No. 5 Stanford

Stanford is projected by Off the Block to be No. 5 in the preseason national rankings.

Off the Block throughout December will reveal its projected men’s volleyball preseason top 10 national rankings and will profile a top-10 team each day. The Off the Block projected preseason rankings were created independently of the AVCA Coaches Poll and the Volleyball Magazine Top 10 Media Poll.

The college men’s volleyball season begins on Jan. 3 and concludes with the Final Four in May.

Check out what to know about Stanford as it enters the 2012 season.

Coach John Kosty has six starters from last year returning for the upcoming season, including All-American outside attacker Brad Lawson and All-American libero Erik Shoji. Lawson, the 2010 MPSF Player of the Year, was seventh in the nation last season with a 4.33 kills per game average. In addition, Shoji was third in the nation last season in digs per game average and enters his senior season having already set the school record for career digs. Stanford was projected to finish the conference in third place in the MPSF Preseason Coaches Poll.

The Cardinal as the defending-NCAA champions ended the regular season in third place and was No. 3 in the national rankings. However, Long Beach State upset Stanford on its home court in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals. The loss prevented the Cardinal from receiving the at-large bid to the Final Four. Stanford in non-conference play last season won a road match against Loyola but lost at home to Cal Baptist, the 2011 NAIA national champions.


Stanford will play a non-conference home match against Loyola on Jan. 14. Loyola ended last season ranked in the top 15 coaches poll and reached the MIVA championship match for the second consecutive season. This will be the second straight year the two teams have played each. Stanford defeated Loyola in four games in Chicago last season. For more on Stanford’s upcoming schedule, check out the team’s complete schedule breakdown.

Off the Block: Coach, your team was able to play in some preseason matches this fall. What stood out the most for you about your team’s preseason?

John Kosty: I have to say I’ve been really pleased with our sophomore class. All of them turned it on this year, and I find that after their freshman year they are coming on as their own this year — Steve Irvin, Brain Cook, Eric Mochalski and Daniel Tublin, who was a little injured this fall and didn’t get to play much. Those four guys really did a great job improving this offseason and will have a really good season.

OTB: Can you talk a little bit more about what this sophomore class has improved upon during the offseason?

JK: It’s been their entire game. They have done a very good job. One of the things is physically they have been preparing for a long MPSF season over the summer and have spent time in the weight room. It’s a very long season, and we started training in late September. It’s a long haul and they have done a good job preparing for what they need to be doing as players both physically and mentally.

OTB: We’ve talked about your younger players but you have several All-American seniors returning this year. What are you thoughts about Erik Shoji and Brad Lawson and the types of seasons they can have in 2012?

JK: I’m hoping for their best years yet. Erik is playing very well. He’s a game changer, and he wins matches for you coming up with those digs. He is the most reliable passer. Brad Lawson is Brad Lawson. He will be the horse this year. I’m projecting his best season of volleyball yet. The other nice thing is having Gus Ellis back as our starting middle blocker. He was starting for us during our championship year. We have a nice balance of senior leadership, and we’re ready for the year. The other person coming back is also our starting setter Evan Berry, who’s coming into his own this year.

OTB: You ended last season being upset on your home floor by Long Beach State and as a result missed out on the Final Four. Is that loss something your team used for motivation this offseason?

JK: Long Beach is a talented team. We both battled, and we were disappointed that we lost. Last season was last season and we put that behind us and are not looking in the past for motivation. To get better, and the way we do it, we try not to use external motivation. It sometimes doesn’t bring the best out of your team. The opponents are different and even though lots of our players return we are a different team from last year.

OTB: This season in non-conference play you are traveling Columbus, Ohio, for matches against Penn State and Ohio State in the Dunlap Invitational. What are your thoughts on those big non-conference matches?

JK: We got to play them. It was a great opportunity to play two of the top teams in the nation. When the opportunity comes we have to take it, because it doesn’t come around that much with how many league matches we play and how many total weekends Stanford is a allowed to play. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s something that if we are going to make a championship run, we got to go on the road and compete.