After a big win against No. 11 Ball State University and a tough loss to No. 5 Lewis University, the No. 9 Loyola men’s volleyball team is heading on a four-game road trip and looking to pick up momentum.
Head coach Mark Hulse said the Ramblers’ key to momentum is themselves. While Hulse said winning does give the team more energy, its success this season has come from the Ramblers’ attitude during practices. Instead of focusing solely on winning, the team has taken a more holistic approach.
“We’ve done [a] really good job and a pretty mature job of coming in saying ‘Hey. We’re going to get better today,’” said Hulse. “And if you feel like you are getting better, the guys are usually pretty into it. You can create your own momentum.”
Sophomore outside hitter Collin Mahan, the recipient of last week’s Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Offensive Player of the Week, said the team’s practices set the tone for the mentality heading into its away games.
“Our practices have been stellar the last couple of weeks, and that really allowed us to be prepared for Ball State and Fort Wayne to really take care of them,” said the Victor, New York, native. “As long as we have a good week of practices this week, I think we’ll have a good chance.”
The Ramblers kick off their road-trip against two MIVA opponents: Quincy University and Lindenwood University. Loyola played Quincy earlier this season in Gentile Arena and easily swept the Hawks in three sets. Loyola hasn’t lost to Quincy since 2011 and holds an all-time record of 46-4 against the team.
After its trip to Quincy, Illinois, the team travels to St. Charles, Missouri, to take on the Lindenwood University Lions. Loyola has also never lost to Lindenwood with a 17-0 edge all-time over the Lions.
Hulse said preparation for Loyola’s MIVA opponents will differ slightly the second time around.
“We’ll go a little bit more in-depth with them,” Hulse said. “They both have a lot of new faces from the last couple of years, so we’ll have a pretty good sense of what did they try to do against us the first time and what do we think they’re going to try and do the second time.”
After its MIVA games, Loyola travels to California, where it will face No. 12 California State University Northridge (CSUN) and No. 2 Long Beach State University. The Ramblers trail the Matadors 1-4 in the all-time series, but have not played them since 2012. CSUN is 11-6 this season, 4-6 in the Big West Conference (BWC).
Loyola has only played Long Beach State three times, but hasn’t won any of the matches. The last meeting between the two teams was in 2013, when Long Beach State, who has a 15-2 (11-1 BWC) record this season, beat Loyola in three sets.
Hulse said the coaches will spend time watching film in preparation for the team’s non-MIVA opponents. He said most of the team’s preparation will be internal and working on itself, because Loyola isn’t as familiar with the west coast teams.
“If we’re good at what we’re going to do, you can’t worry about what they’re going to do as much because, frankly, we just don’t know,” Hulse said. “But, hey, it goes both ways.”
Hulse said the down time on the road is what can be the most draining on the team. But, Mahan said he will be in charge of giving his teammates an extra boost of energy.
“[I’ll] probably just pump up my teammates [and] keep everyone’s minds focused,” Mahan said. “Sometimes, being on the road and all, driving five hours, people can trail away from volleyball. But we have to stay focused, and I try to keep them on the path, so we can stay focused on the game.”
The Ramblers take on Quincy University on March 3 at 7 p.m. in Quincy, Illinois.