Loyola’s men’s volleyball team is set to start its postseason title defense after wrapping up its regular season on April 19. The Ramblers earned a three-set sweep of No. 10 ranked The Ohio State University to close out the regular season as the No. 5 ranked team in the nation.
The 2014 NCAA national champions are on track for a repeat of last year’s success and are looking to become the second team since 2013 (University of California-Irvine) to win back-to-back men’s volleyball championships. Before then, no team had won back-to-back titles since UCLA did it in 1995 and 1996.
Both freshman libero Jake Selsky and Head Coach Shane Davis are looking forward to playing the Lewis University Flyers at some point in the postseason. Lewis is the only team that has beat Loyola this season, and has done so in both Gentile and on its own home court in Romeoville, Illinois.
“I think that’s the one [postseason game] I’m pretty excited about, just given our record this year against them,” said Davis.
Six members on Loyola’s team are new to the program, so they don’t have the experience of playing in the postseason tournament like some of their teammates. Three of those players are freshmen starters Jeff Jendryk, Ben Plaisted and Selsky.
“I know we’re all definitely really excited. We’ve had a long season, a successful season, so I think we’re ready to just kick it up a notch and kick butt in the tournament,” said Selsky.
Getting the new guys ready for the big tournament has more to do with ensuring the players are mentally prepared, rather than having them practice on the court, Davis said. He added that skills-wise, they’re ready to compete with the best of them.
“We’re not necessarily harping on the skill stuff anymore,” Davis said. “It’s more of a how can you continue to build their confidence and make sure that they’re keeping their minds busy out there on what’s going on, versus looking at the bright lights of the playoffs?”
The veterans, such as junior outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke, don’t give advice to the freshmen before the tournament, though. Instead, they step up and help their young teammates during the games if they need it.
“You can just be like, ‘Lean on me, I got you, I’ll take your seam don’t worry about it,’” said Jaeschke. “You can just … help them out more on the court when you know they’re a little nervous.”
By the end of last year’s tournament, the experienced Ramblers were national champions. Davis sees this year’s young team earning a similar result.
“National champions, right?”