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Newly-minted No. 1 Cardinal travels south to UCLA, UCSB

There is a new No. 1 on top of the men’s volleyball national rankings, and that team is Stanford. Thanks to three impressive victories and an undefeated record, the Cardinal (3-0) moved from the No. 4 spot to No. 1 this week. Stanford will look to continue its dominant performance while on the road this weekend, hoping to avoid defeat and maintain its position as the team to beat.

Senior outside hitter Daniel Tublin (above) is second on the Cardinal with 33 kills through three matches, and leads the team with six aces. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

Senior outside hitter Daniel Tublin (above) is second on the Cardinal with 33 kills through three matches, and leads the team with six aces. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal is heading south and will face No. 6 UCLA on Friday and No. 11 UC-Santa Barbara on Saturday. Both teams have proven difficult opponents on their home courts in recent seasons.

But in the opening weeks of the season, Stanford has demonstrated its strength as an experienced and versatile team. The offense has proven its ability to be both aggressive and consistent, with 152 kills so far this season. The defense has been critical as well, keeping the average attack percentage of the Card’s opponents at .240, compared to Stanford’s .361 percentage. And the Cardinal’s stellar service game — with 22 aces and an average of two aces per set — is truly setting Stanford apart from its opponents.

This will not be Stanford’s first match against UCLA this season. The two teams met in their season openers, and the Cardinal came out victorious, winning the match in four sets and outhitting UCLA .433 to .252.

But Stanford cannot underestimate UCLA, which has gone on a three-match winning streak — including a victory against No. 10 Hawaii at the Outrigger Hotels Invitational — since that Jan. 4 loss to Stanford. Senior outside hitter Robart Page was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, leading UCLA to its victory over Hawaii with 16 kills. Page demonstrated ability to excel in a high-pressure environment and had critical points late in the match.

Stanford will also face UCSB this weekend. Stanford must look to control and limit both senior outside hitter Matt Hanley and senior middle blocker Ryan Thompson, who both provide UCSB with offensive leadership. The two players led UCSB to a .420 hitting percentage in its win against UC-Santa Cruz.

But over the past two weeks, Stanford has appeared to be both the more experienced and consistent team. UCSB’s offense will find it difficult to answer the Cardinal’s attack if Stanford plays as aggressively and balanced as it has shown it can.

Stanford will face UCLA on Friday at 3 p.m. and UCSB on Saturday at 7 p.m. The UCLA match will be broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks.

Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’ stanford.edu.