The Loyola men’s volleyball team opened their season on Jan. 4 in Santa Barbara, California for the Asics UCSB Invitational. The Ramblers got off to a rocky start due in part to the fact that 12 of the 15 players came down with the flu during the tournament. Loyola dropped three matches to Long Beach State, Cal Baptist and UC Santa Barbara.
Head Coach Shane Davis said this tournament was a new experience for him and his team.
“It’s something I’ve never been a part of,” Davis said. “Twelve of our 15 came down with flu within five days. We were battling match to match figuring out what line-up we could use. Some of the guys were only out for 12 hours while others were out three to four days.”
However, Davis believes there was a silver lining to his team’s illness.
“There were great opportunities for guys to get playing time and maybe play in some different positions.”
Even though the flu took out nearly the entire team, Davis feels they can’t use the flu as an excuse and still has to take accountability for the three losses. Redshirt junior Joe Smalzer echoed this sentiment.
“[The flu] is not an excuse whatsoever for losing three in a row,” Smalzer said. “We should have done a lot better, but we’ll make up for it in the rest of the season.”
The Ramblers have already bounced back from the California trip, defeating St. Ambrose 3-0 during Loyola’s home opener on Jan. 12.
With each new season comes a new roster and freshman class. Smalzer is excited about the newest members of Ramblers.
“I think by far the biggest addition is our freshman class. They’ve given us a lot of depth compared to last year. Not that last year’s freshman class wasn’t great, it’s just that this year’s give[s] us a lot of depth and a lot of option to our coaches. It gives them a lot of availability to change line-ups, especially when people get hurt.”
Davis has been impressed by the maturity he has seen from his squad thus far.
“They work hard, they are disciplined and very calm. They don’t get rattled very easily. We have three freshman starters, a couple of juniors and one senior on the floor. They are cool, calm and collected at this point. Even when guys are coming off the bench they have the same demeanor. We haven’t had a team like this in a few years.”
As far as players who are poised for standout seasons, Davis believes fans should keep an eye on Smalzer and redshirt junior Peter Jasaitis.
“I think obviously Smalzer, he’s our returning All-American. Definitely Jasaitis as well, he’s a great leader and player. But it’s really hard to say because we’ve been stressing trying to be a more balanced team. We’ve got a lot of great players this year.”
The Ramblers’ next competition is at Gentile Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 16 when they face Carthage. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.