By James Hemker
For the second-straight year, men’s volleyball opened its season by hosting Menlo College and UC Santa Cruz. Mirroring last season’s efforts, the seventh-ranked Cardinal (2-0, 0-0 MPSF) took down both opponents in straight sets. All available players listed on the roster saw action on the court, with six men making their collegiate debuts.
Menlo (1-1) dropped in a 25-23, 25-17, 25-18 decision on Jan. 3 that saw Stanford heat up as the game went on. Eight Cardinal service errors contributed to the first frame woes, but freshman outside Will Rottman made the most of his collegiate debut. The Santa Barbara native paced his team with 10 kills on .421 hitting and added five digs, two blocks and an ace.
The Cardinal passing was on point, as both middles — senior Stephen Moye and junior Kyler Presho — each found six kills on just nine swings. The big men combined for nine blocks while Stanford ended with 10.5 team blocks.
Senior setter Paul Bischoff commanded his offense to hit at a .444 clip with 34 assists. Bischoff was 3-for-3 with his own attacks, and he contributed six digs and three blocks defensively. Junior opposite Jaylen Jaspen terminated five kills and had a hand in five blocks.
Redshirt freshman libero Justin Lui took to the court for the first time after riding the bench behind veteran Kyle Dagostino. Lui, who hails from Pickering, Ontario in Canada, upped a match-high seven balls and added four assists, helping the Cardinal to control out of system balls.
Returning to action the next day against the Banana Slugs, Stanford smothered the UC Santa Cruz defense. The Cardinal hit .267 and they held the opposition to -.058 in the 25-17, 25-18, 25-13 match.
Fifteen blocks and 35 digs sealed UC Santa Cruz’s fate as their offense failed to ever hit positive in the match. Lui’s presence was tangible as the young libero tallied 12 digs, already surpassing the three-set career-high of his predecessor.
A new face in the front row controlled the net this game, with freshman middle Nathaniel Gates’ five blocks pacing the floor. His older sister Madeleine — also a middle blocker — transferred to the Farm at the beginning of the women’s volleyball season, helping to guide the program to another NCAA championship.
Bischoff led the offense through the first two sets, ending with 20 assists, before freshman outside Kevin Lamp took over. The normal back-up setter, freshman Nathan Lietzke, was out with injury. Despite the position change, Lamp racked up 12 assists in just a single frame.
Senior outside Eric Beatty paced the floor with 10 kills on .333 hitting. He added six digs and three blocks to his statline. Jasper started the match and accumulated six kills, two blocks and an ace at the time of his exit at the end of the first frame. Senior Eli Wopat took over for him and posted six kills of his own with four digs and two blocks to boot.
After these two opening home games, the Cardinal now have five of their next six games on the road. This week, they travel to Pennsylvania to take on St. Francis on Jan. 8 before heading south to Virginia to do battle with New Jersey Institute on Jan. 10 and George Mason on Jan. 11.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.