No. 2 seed Loyola (23-6, 11-3) took on No. 3 seed Ball State University in the semifinal game of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) tournament at Gentile Arena Wednesday night. After a close four sets, the Ramblers won the match 3-1 and advanced to the championship game.
The first set went back-and-forth. The teams had equal kills going 14-14, but the Ramblers had a 66 percent attack percentage compared to Ball State’s 73 percent. Kills by senior opposite Ricky Gevis and senior middle blocker Jeff Jendryk allowed Loyola to pull within one point, but the Ramblers couldn’t capitalize and lost the set 25-22.
“We were just moving fast, and maybe the playoff thing had something to do with that, but we settled down and we made some tactical changes as well,” head coach Mark Hulse said after the game. “The guys showed a ton of maturity in just being able to settle themselves and regroup and trust in what we are doing.”
The Ramblers were able to get back on top during the second set, leading during most of the set — only trailing and tying four different times. Gevis was a driving force for the Ramblers and led the match with eight kills going into the third set.
The Ramblers began the third set with a running start. After Ball State scored once, Loyola pulled ahead 7-1 with a 5-0 scoring run. The Ramblers never gave up the lead due to the strong offense from Gevis and junior outside hitter Collin Mahan, who both ended with double-digit kills. Mahan broke out as the leader in kills with 11 over three sets over Gevis’ 10. The set ended with Jendryk driving it home to finish 25-15.
“I would say [the key to it] comes with passing,” Mahan said. “It’s a tough serving team, Ball State is, and sticking in there and making sure there were good passes so that [first-year setter] Garrett [Zolg] can deliver the ball.”
The fourth set was also back-and-forth, featuring 13 ties and four lead changes. Both teams were playing strong defense, but Loyola was able to finish off the match with a 25-22 win in the fourth set thanks to a 65 percent attack percentage compared to Ball State’s 58 percent.
During the final set, the Ramblers received two yellow cards, or warnings from the referee — one each to junior middle blocker Paul Narup and first-year setter Garrett Zolg. Hulse brushed it off and said there was a miscommunication on the court due to an untimely water break taken by Narup.
Loyola is scheduled to head to Columbus, Ohio to take on No. 1 seed The Ohio State University April 21 in the MIVA tournament championship game for a chance at an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. During the regular season, the Ramblers went 1-1 against the Buckeyes — winning in five sets at Gentile but losing in four sets in Columbus.
“We know the team [and] we know the guys,” Hulse said. “It’s just buckling down and being real good at what [we’re] good at. Being good at being under pressure and finding a couple nuance differences at what you can be better at. We will try and wrap our heads around a bear of Ohio State but we’re ready.”