By James Hemker
Stanford and Lewis played 361 total points in eight frames spanning two four-set matches. The Flyers won 13 more points than the Cardinal — 187-174 — across the entire weekend. Despite the slim margins, the only numbers that mattered in the end were Lewis’ two tallies in the win column.
Against No. 5 Lewis (15-4, 6-1 MIVA), a lack of consistency and experience proved fatal for the No. 13 men’s volleyball team (6-11, 2-4 MPSF), which was unable to maintain solid gameplay to pull out the wins on Friday and Saturday.
Midway through the fourth set in match one, junior middle Kyler Presho left after twisting his ankle coming down from a block. Freshman Nathaniel Gates — the younger brother of middle blocker Madeleine Gates on the women’s team — finished out Friday night and got the start on Saturday.
Between Gates, outside hitter Will Rottman, redshirt libero Justin Lui and setter Nathan Lietzke, the Cardinal fielded four freshmen on Saturday. While the young athletes had plenty of opportunities to show off their skill, they lacked the experience and focus of a veteran squad. The Cardinal consistently fell behind Lewis early before nearly recouping their losses at the end of sets, only to fall short in the final points.
Stanford opened the weekend with an emphatic first-set 25-15 win. Five Cardinal aces held the Flyers to hitting in the negatives, while Stanford soared at a .421 clip. It would be the only time in the two matches that Lewis hit below .300 in a set and Stanford hit over .300.
Lewis responded with its own 25-14 frame before eeking out two 25-23 wins to secure Friday’s victory. Saturday saw Stanford take set two 25-22 after falling 25-18 in the first frame. Again, the Flyers escaped with consecutive 25-23 wins to close out the match.
Once both teams passed the 20-point mark, Lewis would surge while Stanford would fall short. In three of the four 25-23 losses, the Cardinal held a lead five or less points from victory before allowing Lewis to scrape together runs of four and five points.
The Cardinal offense faltered Friday night due to poor passing, but the back row rallied on Saturday, allowing higher involvement from the middles. Senior middle blocker Stephen took 13 swings on Saturday and connected on eight of them, committing just one error to lead the team with a .538 hitting percentage.
In both matches, Lietzke turned to junior opposite Jaylen Jasper the most. Jasper put up nearly identical statlines, recording 18 kills both nights alongside eight and nine errors on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Jasper was the only Stanford attacker to reach double digits on Friday, but in the second match he was joined by Rottman, who tallied 14 kills.
Defensively, the Cardinal regressed during the weekend. Lewis hit just .264 in the first match but came back at a .374 clip on Saturday. While Stanford nearly doubled its blocks from six on Friday to 10 on Saturday, the front row was less imposing. Lewis committed just two unforced errors in that second match.
The Cardinal will return to action on March 13 with a rematch against BYU.