No. 9 Stanford men’s volleyball (4-0, 0-0 MPSF) has started the 2019 season with a bang, going undefeated in their first four games of the season for the first time since 2016. The Cardinal hopes to continue this win streak on Thursday and Saturday with a double-header against their toughest competition yet — No. 2 University of California, Irvine (5-0, 0-0 Big West).
The Irvine roster is stacked with tall, strong players, who can serve, pass and hit effectively and consistently. No player on their roster is under six foot, and they have four players that are 6’9” or above. On the Stanford side, however, the tallest player is 6’9” junior middle blocker Stephen Moye. In a game of inches, even the slightest height difference could give the advantage.
In the last 10 years, Irvine has won the national championship three times while Stanford has only won it once. Although the powerhouse Anteaters may appear at first glance to be unstoppable, the Cardinal are certainly still contenders. When looking at statistics, the teams are nearly neck and neck. Stanford has the slight serving advantage, averaging 2.4 aces per set — while UCI averages 1.2 aces, respectively. Irvine, however, has a slight hitting and passing advantage with 12.9 kills and 9.7 digs per set, compared to the Cardinal’s 12.3 kills and 6.9 digs per set. Both teams average 2.2 blocks per set.
On Monday, Stanford’s junior setter Paul Bischoff was named MPSF Defensive Player of the Week. Last week, he averaged a team-best 2.0 digs and 1.0 blocks per set. Another team leader to watch against the Anteaters is sophomore outside hitter Jaylen Jasper. Jasper boasts a team-best 47 kills on the season, averaging 3.62 kills per set. Bischoff and Jasper both have six aces on the season and will pose a threat from the service line.
On the opposite side of the net, UCI brings power of its own. Freshman outsider hitter Joe Schneidmiller leads the team in kills and has already racked up 85 career kills, averaging 4.47 per game. Schneidmiller also leads Irvine in aces with 12 on the season — double Stanford’s ace leader.
For Schneidmiller, a Saratoga High School alumnus, the road trip to the Bay Area will be somewhat of a homecoming. Anteater middle blocker Ben Sebastian is also a Bay Area native and prepped at Sir Francis Drake High School.
Stanford is currently one of two teams in the Mountain Pacific Conference that remain undefeated; No. 5 Pepperdine also boasts four wins and no losses. If the Cardinal manage to topple the Anteaters and improve to 6-0, this will be the best season start since 2001.
Contact Cybele Zhang at cybelez ‘at’ stanford.edu.