After sharing their last of them 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 Game 1, the Cardinal fought back for a tighter Game 2 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 wins represented a career high and also set a new school record.
The Lopes made quick work of a seemingly bewildered Stanford side on Thursday night, needing just three sets and less than 90 minutes to win the opener.
The first set started as close as the teams’ tight NCAA rankings suggest. Although Stanford was plagued with service errors, the work of Rottman and fellow junior outside hitter Kevin Lamp at net helped keep the Cardinal within striking distance of the Lopes. It was not enough, however, to beat the momentum of the opposition. Grand Canyon faced slugger Hugo Fischer, who played for the Belgian national team, sealed the first set with a kill, 25-21.
The second set followed a similar pattern. As both teams continued to struggle with serve errors, Fischer, outside hitter Camden Gianni and middle tackle Kyle Thompson dominated the offense for GCU. The steady efforts of Stanford’s middle blockers, redshirt sophomore Ethan Hill and junior Nathaniel Gates, once again kept the set from getting out of hand. But the Lopes still managed to win comfortably, 25-20, and led the match 2-0.
Grand Canyon rode an 11-2 streak early in the third set to post a convincing 13-5 lead. Strong attacks and a block from Lopes, coupled with continuing problems with Stanford’s serves, prevented the Cardinal from returning to the set. Gianni closed out the night 25-15 with an ace of service as GCU easily won the match in straight sets.
The Cardinal posted a season-low overall hit percentage of just .141 Thursday night, compared to the Grand Canyon’s .400. Rottman led the team with eight wins; Lamp had five and Gates had four. Junior setter Nathan Lietzke had two kills and 20 assists. He also contributed to four digs, as redshirt junior libero Justin Lui and outside second hitter Luke Turner each had three. Stanford’s blocking game was conspicuously absent on Thursday: The team recorded just one block on the night, significantly less than its season average of more than six blocks per game.
Cardinal force four
Stanford looked to bounce back on Saturday from GCU’s performance two nights earlier.
The teams remained close at the start of the first set, but continued pressure from Fischer, Gianni and Thompson proved difficult for the Cardinal to contain. Lopes took a comfortable 23-14 lead and looked set to take the set easily. Although Stanford managed to narrow that gap slightly, GCU ultimately won the set 25-20.
The Cardinal fought back in the second set. Led by Rottman, a threat at net on Saturday, they kept GCU close and eventually took a 19-18 lead. Despite Lopes’ attempts to work their way to a two-set lead, they only managed to save one set point before Hill and Rottman denied Fischer a block to seal the set 25-21.
Stanford looked to carry that momentum into the next set, but struggled to find footing against GCU’s seemingly relentless offense. The set went to Lopes 25-20, giving them a 2-1 lead on aggregate.
In a fourth set, the start of which echoed the three before it, GCU kept their cool and managed to keep the Cardinal at bay. It was clear, however, that Stanford wasn’t quite ready for the end game. A Lamp ace tied the game at 16 all, and the two teams battled for the lead. Rottman denied the match to Lopes and tied the score at 24-all with a kill. He did it again a few points later, registering another kill to level the set at 25. Those efforts only held GCU up temporarily, as a kill from central blocker Colin Lovejoy gave Lopes the set 27-25. and the game.
Outside striker Christian Janke played a vital role in GCU’s victory, with 10 kills on Saturday. Fischer and Gianni also recorded 10 wins each.
Along with Rottman’s outstanding performance, the game also saw Lamp register his second double-double of the season. He had 14 kills and 12 digs, a performance that matched his previous career highs in both categories. Lietzke had 46 assists and Lui had a season-best eight to go with 13 digs. The Cardinal also improved on his block from the night before, with six in total.
Stanford will next face BYU (8-12, 3-5 MPSF) in two home conference games. The first service of the weekend doubleheader is scheduled for Friday at 7:00 p.m. PT.