Coming off consecutive wins against Saint Francis, No. 7 Stanford men’s volleyball (4-0, 0-0 MPSF) remained undefeated this weekend with back-to-back victories over No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (1-4, 0-0 Big West) at home in Burnham Pavilion. The Cardinal swept the Gauchos in the first game and won the second matchup in a close five-set thriller.
Stanford’s Friday sweep
(25-16, 26-24, 25-18)
Freshman outside hitter Theo Snoey and senior outside hitter Kevin Lamp led the Cardinal on Friday with 11 kills each. Overall, Stanford posted a .420 hitting percentage and held the Gauchos to a cumulative .125. Senior middle blocker Nathaniel Gates led the Cardinal in blocks with a season-high of seven.
Head coach John Kosty commended the middle for his standout performance: “I think Gates played a really nice match, from blocking balls, he had that spectacular dig-kill, and so I think he had a special night tonight.”
The first set started close, with Stanford and Santa Barbara trading points. But the Cardinal soon found their stride. With a four-point run, including a block from Gates and senior setter Nathan Lietzke, Stanford overtook UCSB’s 7-6 lead and never looked back.
The Cardinal built on their lead with an impressive block from Lamp and redshirt junior middle blocker Ethan Hill, which gave Stanford a 16-11 advantage and prompted UCSB to call a timeout, but to no avail. The Cardinal ultimately won the set 25-16 thanks to a kill from Lamp.
Although the match remained close throughout, Stanford never trailed in the second set. The Gauchos eventually tied the Cardinal at 22-all, leading to a nerve-wracking ending. Stanford and Santa Barbara exchanged points before a kill from Snoey gave the Cardinal set point at 25-24. Hill came through with a solo block to close the set and give Stanford a 2-0 advantage in the match.
The Cardinal sealed the deal in the third set. Hill posted Stanford’s only ace of the game, while Gates had an impressive dig-kill to tie the Gauchos 10-10.
From there, the Cardinal took the lead. A kill from senior outside hitter Will Rottman brought the score to 18-15, leading to a timeout from UCSB. Again, it failed to stop Stanford’s momentum, with the Cardinal scoring the next three points. A block from Gates and Snoey brought on set point, and a kill from Lamp concluded the sweep.
Lamp credited a solid team effort and the atmosphere in Burnham Pavilion for the win: “Everyone played really well…I mean the fans were awesome, the bench was awesome…the energy was great.”
Five Set Fight
(20-25, 25-22, 24-26, 26-24, 15-12)
Unlike the first match, the second was not smooth sailing. But the Cardinal ultimately grinded out the win, even though Santa Barbara out-attacked them .297 to .271 overall. Rottman led Stanford with a season-high 22 kills, followed by Snoey and Lamp with 10 each. Redshirt senior libero Justin Lui finished with a career-high 19 digs, while Lietzke and Hill led the team in blocks with four each.
Once again, the Cardinal got out to a slow start in the first set. Back-to-back kills from Rottman brought the Cardinal ahead 17-15, but a Stanford service error and a kill from Santa Barbara tied it up. Even with kills from Lamp and Rottman, the Gauchos prevailed, winning the set 25-20.
An ace from Lamp and consecutive kills from Rottman brought the Cardinal ahead 11-8 in the second set, but Santa Barbara kept it close. When Stanford took their next big lead at 20-17, the Gauchos came back to tie it up at 21-all. In the end, a service error from Santa Barbara helped Stanford to win the second set 25-22.
The Cardinal were ahead for most of the third set but the Gauchos gained the lead near the end. A service error from Santa Barbara tied the game at 24-24, but a hitting error from Stanford gave the Gauchos the set and a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set was the most intense, with six lead changes and 15 tied scores. A Stanford service error foiled the team’s first set point and tied it up again at 24-24. But the Cardinal managed to pull ahead and Lamp’s hit deflected out of bounds won Stanford the set 26-24 and forced a fifth.
The Cardinal finished the job in the fifth set. Lietzke had a one-time kill and an ace. A kill from Snoey brought the game to match point and a service error from Santa Barbara clinched the win for Stanford, 15-12.
Anticipating the rest of the season, the team is optimistic. This season, the program brought in six new players, the first full recruiting class since 2020
“We’re super balanced, which is kind of new for us and exciting…Something I haven’t really had since my freshman year,” Rottman said. “It’s obviously great. You’re not constantly worrying about having only twelve guys. It was hard to even get a full practice sometimes.”
Lamp agreed: “We’re confident in what we can do this year…I think we’re in a really good spot to make a deep run into playoffs.”
“We have a lot of tests this season. We play all of the top teams in the country,” Kosty said, but he echoed his players in expressing excitement for the challenges ahead. “I like what I see from our guys, and I’m hopeful about the season.”
The Cardinal continue their season next weekend at the First Point Collegiate Challenge in Austin, Texas with games against No. 15 Lewis (3-2, MIVA 0-0) on Friday and No. 4 Penn State (4-0, EIVA 0-0) on Saturday.
First serve against the Flyers is scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. PT.