Family Over Everything
STANFORD, Calif. - The Stanford men's volleyball program has always been about family. The 2021 squad learned just how important family was. In the face of a global pandemic and sport discontinuation, the Cardinal leaned on its alumni, supporters and friends to persevere and form a bond unlike any other.
Without a normal fall to prepare for the spring, Stanford was playing catch up all season long. Due to the pandemic and restrictions in Santa Clara County, the team did not return to campus until late January and, after a quarantine period, it did not begin training until February - after the men's collegiate season had already begun. A young squad, the team leaned on its four seniors, Leo Henken, Kyler Presho, JP Reilly and Mason Tufuga, to help get the freshmen up to speed.
Under the direction of 15th-year head coach John Kosty, the Cardinal finished 3-14 overall and fell to No. 5 Pepperdine in the quarterfinals of the MPSF Tournament at BYU's Smith Fieldhouse on April 22. At the time, it was believed to be the final men's volleyball match in Stanford history.
However, after countless hours of hard work by alumni and supporters of several Cardinal programs, Stanford announced on May 18 that it had reversed its July 8, 2020 decision, and men's volleyball and the other 10 sports slated for discontinuation would remain at the varsity level. A decision that reminded the Cardinal just how important its family was.
ALL-MPSF: Senior middle blocker Kyler Presho earned All-MPSF honorable mention in 2021 and is now a four-time all-conference selection. Setter Nathan Lietzke and outside hitter Will Rottman were named to the All-MPSF Freshman Team. Stanford now has 106 all-conference selections all-time.
ALL-ACADEMIC: Ten Cardinal were named to the MPSF All-Academic Team in 2021. Representing the Cardinal were seniors Leo Henken, JP Reilly and Kyler Presho, redshirt sophomore Justin Lui and sophomores Adam Chang, Nathaniel Gates, Kevin Lamp, Nathan Lietzke, Gabriel Miranda and Will Rottman. The group was recognized for its combined work athletically and in the classroom.
WEEKLY HONORS: Stanford libero Justin Lui was selected as the MPSF/Molton Defensive Player of the Week on April 5. The redshirt sophomore averaged 3.00 digs per set in a pair of wins over Concordia to pick up his first career honor. Stanford freshman Luke Turner was named Defensive Player of the Week on March 22 for his performances against Grand Canyon. The outside hitter averaged 1.00 digs per set and 1.00 blocks per set to go with 3.00 kills and 3.57 points per set in a split with the Lopes.
MPSF STAT LEADERS: Stanford middle blocker Kyler Presho finished third in the MPSF with 1.04 blocks per set (16th nationally) and fifth with a .411 hitting percentage. Outside hitter/opposite Will Rottman was sixth in kills per set (3.43) and seventh in points per set (3.74). Libero Justin Lui was fourth in the league with 1.92 digs per set, while setter Nathan Lietzke was sixth in the league with 9.11 assists per set.
NOTABLE PERFORMANCES: Sophomore Will Rottman's 24 kills in the MPSF quarterfinals against Pepperdine (April 22) were tied for the most in a four-set match by an MPSF player in 2021. Freshman Kupono Browne's 27.0 points against Pepperdine (Feb. 20) were the second-most in a four-set match by an MPSF player in 2021, while his 22 kills against the Waves were tied for the third-most in a four-set match this season. Additionally, senior middle blocker Kyler Presho's eight blocks versus Concordia (April 3) and sophomore middle blocker Adam Chang's eight blocks against Pepperdine (Feb. 20) were tied for the second-most in a match in the MPSF in 2021.
COACHES POLL: Stanford was picked to finish sixth in the MPSF by the league's coaches prior to the start of the 2021 season. BYU, which received six first-place votes, was selected to win the MPSF, while Pepperdine collected the remaining first-place vote and was second.
USA VOLLEYBALL: Seniors Jaylen Jasper and Kyler Presho and sophomore Nathan Lietzke were selected to the United States Collegiate National Training Team in 2021. Additionally, sophomores Nathaniel Gates and Will Rottman and redshirt freshman Ethan Hill were named to the U.S. U19 National Training Team in 2021.
TOKYO BOUND: Three Cardinal alums are Tokyo bound for the 2020 Olympics. Erik and Kawika Shoji are making their second Olympic Games appearance, while Matt Fuerbringer will share the sideline as an assistant coach for the Red, White and Blue. The Shojis helped the U.S. bring home a bronze medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
HEAD COACH JOHN KOSTY: Stanford head coach John Kosty wrapped up his 15th season at the helm of the Cardinal program and his 31st overall on staff. He is now 217-184 in his career. He guided Stanford to the 2010 NCAA national championship and the 2014 NCAA finals. The Cardinal has produced a first team AVCA All-America selection in eight of the past 15 seasons under Kosty. Stanford has appeared in the MPSF Tournament in 12 of Kosty's 15 seasons (missing out in 2007 and 2015. The tournament was canceled in 2020).