Lions, Mastodons, Hawks, oh my. The team names in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association sound formidable enough, but Loyola Men’s Volleyball hasn’t had all that hard of a time keeping its conference foes at bay.
The Ramblers’ victory over Ohio State to cap the regular season not only extended the team’s winning streak to 22 games, it also pushed their conference record to a perfect 13-0. This is the first time a MIVA team has gone undefeated within the conference since, go figure, Ohio State did so back in 1998.
Loyola has made it look deceivingly easy, dropping only seven sets to conference opponents all season. But with three other nationally ranked teams featured in the MIVA, the Ramblers know that these upcoming matchups can’t be taken lightly.
Loyola will open its conference title defense at home against the Quincy University Hawks on Thursday, April 17, at 7 p.m. Should the Ramblers win, they will be susceptible to play any team left in the field. I sat down with Head Coach Shane Davis to get his analysis of what he believes is the deepest field of talent the MIVA has ever seen.
Teams are listed in order of their MIVA Standings.
Record: 21-6, 11-3 MIVA
Against Loyola: Outcome of Feb. 5 match: Loyola 3 – Lewis 1 at Lewis; Outcome of March 18 match – Loyola 3 – Lewis 1 at Loyola
Coach’s take: “They have a huge junior class. [Geoff] Powell and [Greg] Petty are juniors, their opposites [Tom Logan and Eric Fitterer] are juniors, their libero [Andy Orf] is a junior. There’s been some inconsistent play between Petty and their opposite Fitterer. Powell is going to get a lot of sets and when it’s crunch time, he’s going to get even more. We need to slow him down. Along with Ball State, they’re the best blocking team. They do a good job at the net with getting in front of attackers.”
Record: 21-7, 10-4 MIVA
Against Loyola: Outcome of the Feb. 20 match – Loyola 3 – Ball State 1 at Ball State; Outcome of the March 27 match – Loyola 3 – Ball State 2 at Loyola
Coach’s take: “Very, very physical in the middle. They have a great setter [Graham McIlvaine]; just a big, physical guy. They have a lot of experience on the floor. … They’re a very upperclassmen-heavy team and they’re going to give anyone problems just because of their blocking and defense. It’s going to be tough for anyone to play them because their upperclassmen don’t want their season to end.”
Record: 19-6, 8-5 MIVA
Against Loyola: Outcome of Feb. 22 Match – Loyola 3 – IFPW 1 at Loyola; Outcome of March 29 match – Loyola 3 – IFPW 0 at IPFW
Coach’s take: “They’re a very emotionally driven team. Sometimes points come easy — never with them. We beat them by a decent amount at their place, but it never felt ‘good.’ We had to grind it out. The coach has been there for 34 years, he has a lot of volleyball knowledge and he’s known for throwing a wrench into things. He’s been known to start the entire second team for a match and bring in the first team later. You just never know what you’re going to get. It almost depends on what they feel week to week.”
Record: 11-15, 6-8 MIVA
Against Loyola: Outcome of Feb. 1 match – Loyola 3 – OSU 0 at Loyola; Outcome of April 11 match – Loyola 3 – OSU 1 at OSU
“[It’s] the name on the back of the jersey right now with those guys; that’s the biggest thing to get by. They’re a very physical team and their freshmen are getting better. They have really good pin hitters [such as Michael Henchy]. They also have a stud middle [Driss Guessous], so they’re going to give tough battles. It’s been weird watching them. They’ve tried to run slower, they’ve flipped their outside hitters, now they’re trying to run fast. But sometimes teams switch things up late in the year and it works. They could make a run in the tournament.”
Record: 19-10, 4-9 MIVA
Against Loyola: Outcome of Feb. 28 match – Loyola 3 – Lindenwood 0 at Lindenwood; Outcome of April 3 match – Loyola 3 – Lindenwood 0 at Loyola
“They’re a tough team to play, even at our place, because there are so many local guys on that team. They bring a good fan base, they’re a gritty team that will make you beat them. They’re not going to give you any points, and they serve the crap out of the ball [leading the nation as of April 6 with 1.8 aces per set]. Skill level, they’re a bit behind where we are, but they’re a team that can score some big points with aces and blocks or big kills and play at the net.”
Record: 14-17, 2-12 MIVA
Against Loyola: Outcome of Feb. 14 match – Loyola 3 – G. Canyon 0 at G. Canyon; Outcome of Feb. 15 match – Loyola 3 – G. Canyon 0 at G. Canyon
“They’re a team that has had some success in the tournament. Last year, they beat Ohio State in the tournament at Ohio State. They’re not afraid. They’ve shuffled their lineup a little bit and have had their go-to guy [Ben Ponnet] lead the league in kills  and kills per set [4.17]. They moved him to the right side to allow him to hit even more balls, so they’re a tough, scrappy team. We had a heck of a time with them down at their place.”
Record: 13-18, 0-14 MIVA
Against Loyola: Outcome of Feb. 27 match – Loyola 3 – Quincy 0 at Quincy; Outcome of April 5 match – Loyola 3 – Quincy 0 at Loyola
“They had a really good middle [hitter] but he’s no longer with the team. Ian Lawson is a good left side that they have who has actually played on the same club team as Thomas Jaeschke, so they know each other well. They have a good opposite Jack Gamache; he’s a sophomore, lefty, 6-foot-4, big kid who could cause some problems for you. Other than that, everyone’s pretty much a role player. We have to focus on stopping those two guys and serve well.”