No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball (5-1, 0-0 MPSF) traveled to Austin, Texas this weekend to compete in the First Point Collegiate Challenge. Although the Cardinal beat No. 15 Lewis (3-4, 0-0 MIVA) 3-1 on Friday, the team then suffered its first loss of the young season, falling to No. 4 Penn State (6-0, 0-0 Big Ten) 1-3 on Saturday.
Stanford vs. Lewis (24-26, 25-23, 25-20, 25-22)
Stanford had a strong showing on Friday night against Lewis. The team posted a .339 cumulative hitting percentage and kept Lewis to .282 overall. Freshman outside hitter Theo Snoey had a dominant performance, hitting .500 with a career-high 21 kills, seven digs, two aces and two blocks. The Cardinal also saw career highs from senior outside hitter Will Rottman, with seven assists, and senior setter Nathan Lietzke, who racked up three kills in his hometown.
Stanford got out to an early lead in the first set. Up 10-4, the Cardinal looked confident. However, a 5-point run from the Flyers brought them back into the game. Lewis ultimately tied Stanford at 24-all, before a Flyer kill brought them ahead for the first time in the set. Another kill sealed set one for Lewis.
While they never pulled away, the Cardinal led for most of the second set. Back-to-back kills from Snoey brought Stanford ahead 20-16 and prompted a Flyers timeout. It failed to stop the Cardinal, however. A kill from senior outside hitter Kevin Lamp, followed by a solo block from Snoey, gave the Cardinal their largest lead of the set. Rottman landed a kill to claim the set, tying the match 1-1.
In the third set, the Cardinal took the lead 5-4 with back-to-back kills from Snoey and held onto it for the rest of the set. Senior middle blocker Nathaniel Gates also came through with consecutive kills to help Stanford maintain its advantage. An attack error from the Flyers gave set three to the Cardinal, putting them ahead in the match 2-1.
As in the previous two sets, Stanford and Lewis traded the first few points. The Cardinal then pulled ahead with a 4-point run, including back-to-back kills and aces from Lamp and Snoey, respectively. The Cardinal kept a comfortable lead and a kill by Snoey sealed the set 25-22 and the match 3-1 for the Cardinal.
Stanford vs. Penn State (18-25, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25)
Saturday was a different story for Stanford, as it brought the team’s first loss of the season thus far. Playing against the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions, the Cardinal were not helped by the absence of starting setter Lietzke. While freshman setter Theoren Brouillette saw his first career start on Saturday, replacing Lietzke, Penn State’s dominance was clear as they led Stanford in hitting percentage, kills, digs, blocks and aces.
Rottman led the Cardinal with 14 kills. Snoey and redshirt junior middle blocker Ethan Hill each had eight, while the Nittany Lions had three players finish with double-digits in the kill category.
Stanford stayed close with the Nittany Lions at the start of the first set. However, five consecutive points from Penn State brought their lead to 13-9 and the Cardinal were unable to recover. A block gave the Nittany Lions set one, 25-18.
While the score was tight to begin set two, half of the Cardinal’s first 10 points came from Penn State service errors. Similar to the first set, the Nittany Lions gained a comfortable 12-9 lead with 4 consecutive points. The team maintained their advantage with an impressive .500 hitting percentage in the set, which a Stanford service error wrapped up the game 25-17 in Penn State’s favor.
The Cardinal finally found their stride in the third set. Kills from Gates and both Rottman brothers — Will was joined on The Farm this season by his younger brother and fellow outside hitter, freshman Alex Rottman — gave the Cardinal an early 5-2 lead, which they maintained for the rest of the set. Stanford earned its first set win of the match with an attack from Will, 25-20.
The fourth set was a again must-win for the Cardinal, and they showed it with persistent play. Redshirt senior libero Justin Lui demonstrated why he was recently back-to-back MPSF defensive player of the week with an impressive save that led to a successful attack from Will, putting Stanford ahead 18-17. But the Nittany Lions came roaring back for a 24-22 lead. Hill extended the match with a kill, but Penn State claimed the next point to win the set, 25-23 and the match, 3-1.
Next, men’s volleyball will head to Santa Cruz to take on UC Santa Cruz (5-0). First serve is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. PT.