The Loyola men’s volleyball team (21-6, 11-3) finished the regular season as co-Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) champions, sharing the title with The Ohio State University. The Ramblers will be the No. 2 seed heading into the MIVA tournament where they will face No. 7 seed Lindenwood University.
As a higher seed, Loyola will be hosting its quarterfinal game, meaning the team won’t have to make the five hour trek to St. Charles, Missouri for the second time in less than two weeks. Sophomore libero Jake Freeman said its April 5 loss to the Lions was a wake-up call for the team.
“The first time we played [Lindenwood], we handled them pretty easily in [Gentile]. We were pretty fired up for it,” Freedman said. “The second time we played them at their place, they kind of just outplayed us. We didn’t play awful; they just kept up with us and in the end, they got it. I think we are pretty fired up for this game.”
Having home-court advantage for the first round gives the Ramblers an edge on many different levels, according to junior setter Dane Leclair. The Ramblers went 15-1 in Gentile Arena and could potentially play three more games there this season.
“The parameters [of the court], the environment is really different pretty much everywhere you go,” Leclair said. “Your depth perception is a big thing in volleyball, so home advantage is kind of awesome.”
All eight MIVA teams have played each other twice already — once at home and once away. Playing teams for a third time can be more difficult than one would think, according to head coach and MIVA Coach of the Year Mark Hulse. With both teams putting everything out on the court in the last two games, he said it could be harder to catch the other off guard.
“I think it’s nice when the team can add some wrinkles down the stretch,” Hulse said. “Hopefully, we will be able to do a couple things differently than we did during the season and give them something of a different look. It’s tough, and it’s going to [be the same] with everybody we play the rest of the conference playoff. Everyone will know each other very well.”
At the beginning of the season, the players set goals for themselves to reach by the season’s end, according to Hulse. One of those goals was being one of the top two seeds going into playoffs. Hulse said they worked hard to get into one of the top spots and it’s right where they want to be.
“We said at the beginning of the year you need to be the top two seeds to be where you want to be,” Hulse said. “Historically, the number one or two seed of our regular season are the only teams that ever make it to the NCAA [tournament]. It’s almost 50/50 whether it’s the one seed or the two seed. One of those teams is going to make it and the three seed rarely does, if ever.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to play Lindenwood April 14 in the quarterfinal round of the MIVA tournament at Gentile Arena. First serve is set for 7 p.m.