By James Hemker
For the first time in program history, No. 9 men’s volleyball (4-4, 0-1 MPSF) lost to Grand Canyon University (GCU) (8-2, 1-0 MPSF). To open conference play, the Antelopes upset Stanford in just three sets, 25-20, 25-18, 25-19.
On a three-game slide, the Cardinal (4-4, 0-1 MPSF) were without senior setter Paul Bischoff for the third straight match. Redshirt freshman libero Justin Lui took over setting duties for the second time. Lui had 29 assists and the Cardinal hit .274, but it was no match for the Lopes’ .435 hitting percentage.
The injuries at setter have reflected across nearly all positions. With Lui no longer able to pass in the back row, Stanford’s passing has dropped. GCU posted seven aces on Saturday. Corralled balls were often not passed well, which made Lui’s job running the offense all the more difficult.
Junior opposite Jaylen Jasper and freshman outside Will Rottman accounted for 61% of the team’s points. Jasper turned in his second double-double of the season, pacing the team in both kills (12) and digs (11). His play from the service line was another bright spot, serving up two aces at the cost of just three errors.
Rottman was one of Lui’s most efficient options, terminating nine kills on .350 hitting. The freshman was also solid during serves, tallying a single error. On the other side of the net, the Lopes picked on Rottman, who committed two receiving errors.
The team’s unsteady lineup was thrown into further disarray when the referees ejected senior outside Eric Beatty in the second frame with a red card. Junior Leo Henken took over his place, recording three kills on five swings.
Defensively, the Cardinal could not contain GCU. Junior middle Kyler Presho had a solo stuff, and he combined with Henken on a roof for Stanford’s only blocks of the match. Only UC Irvine, who hit .303 against the Cardinal, has come in the neighborhood of the Lopes’ .435 hitting this year.
Outside hitter Camden Gianni led the Lopes with 13 kills on 27 errorless swings and three service aces. Fellow outside Christian Janke added three more aces and 12 more kills on .476 hitting.
As conference play has started, the Cardinal are now in the meat grinder of their season. No. 10 Pepperdine and No. 8 UCLA come to the Farm this weekend.