After splitting their last two MPSF double-headers, No. 12 Stanford men’s volleyball (10-11, 2-6 MPSF) traveled to Phoenix for two conference games against No. 10 Grand Canyon University (16-9, 6-4 MPSF). After a shaky performance in the first match, the Cardinal fought back for a closer second match but still remain winless on the road this season.
Despite the loss, junior outside hitter Will Rottman was dominant at the net on Saturday. His 34 kills amounted to a career-high and also set a new school record.
The Lopes made quick work of a seemingly discombobulated Stanford squad on Thursday night, needing just three sets and less than 90 minutes to win the opening match.
The first set began as tightly as the teams’ close NCAA rankings would suggest. Though Stanford was plagued by service errors, the work of Rottman and fellow junior outside hitter Kevin Lamp at the net helped keep the Cardinal within striking distance of the Lopes. It was not enough, however, to best the opposition’s momentum. Grand Canyon opposite hitter Hugo Fischer, who has played for the Belgian national team, sealed the first set with a kill, 25-21.
The second set followed a similar pattern. While both teams continued to struggle with service errors, Fischer, outside hitter Camden Gianni and middle blocker Kyle Thompson were dominant on the attack for GCU. Consistent efforts from Stanford’s middle blockers, redshirt sophomore Ethan Hill and junior Nathaniel Gates, once again prevented the set from being a runaway. But the Lopes still managed to win it comfortably, 25-20, and led the match 2-0.
Grand Canyon went on an 11-2 scoring run early in the third set to post a convincing 13-5 lead. Strong attacks and blocking from the Lopes, coupled with persisting trouble with serves for Stanford, kept the Cardinal from getting back into the set. Gianni closed out the night 25-15 with a service ace, as GCU easily claimed the match in straight sets.
The Cardinal posted an overall hitting percentage of just .141 on Thursday night, a season’s low, compared to Grand Canyon’s .400. Rottman led the team with eight kills; Lamp had five and Gates had four. Junior setter Nathan Lietzke had two kills and 20 assists. He also contributed four digs, as redshirt junior libero Justin Lui and sophomore outside hitter Luke Turner each managed three. Stanford’s blocking game was noticeably absent on Thursday: the team recorded just a single block on the night, markedly less than their season average of over six blocks per match.
Cardinal force four
Stanford looked to bounce back on Saturday after GCU’s performance two nights earlier.
The teams kept it close early in set one, but continuous pressure from Fischer, Gianni and Thompson proved difficult for the Cardinal to contain. The Lopes raced out to a comfortable lead of 23-14 and looked poised to take the set easily. Though Stanford managed to narrow that gap slightly, GCU ultimately won the set 25-20.
The Cardinal battled back in set two. Led by Rottman, a menace at the net on Saturday, they kept GCU within reach and eventually took a 19-18 lead. Despite the Lopes’ attempts to claw their way to a two-set lead, they only managed to save one set point before Hill and Rottman denied Fischer with a block to seal the set 25-21.
Stanford sought to carry that momentum into the next set but struggled to find a foothold in the face of GCU’s seemingly relentless offense. The set went to the Lopes 25-20, giving them a 2-1 lead overall.
In a fourth set, whose beginning mirrored the three which had preceded it, GCU held its composure and managed to keep the Cardinal at bay. It was clear, however, that Stanford was not quite ready for the match to end. An ace from Lamp tied the score at 16-all, and both teams fought back and forth for the lead. Rottman denied the Lopes the match and evened the score at 24-all with a kill. He did so again a couple points later, recording another kill to tie the set at 25. These efforts only staved off GCU temporarily, as a kill from middle blocker Colin Lovejoy gave the Lopes the set 27-25 and the match.
Outside hitter Christian Janke was critical in GCU’s victory, with 10 kills on Saturday. Fischer and Gianni also recorded 10 kills apiece.
In addition to Rottman’s standout performance, the match also saw Lamp record his second double-double of the season. He turned in 14 kills and 12 digs, a performance which matched his previous career bests in both categories. Lietzke had 46 assists and Lui recorded eight, a season’s best, to go with 13 digs. The Cardinal also improved their blocking from the night before, with six total.
Stanford will next face BYU (8-12, 3-5 MPSF) in two conference matches at home. First serve in the weekend doubleheader is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. PT.