The No. 2-seeded Loyola men’s volleyball team (21-7, 12-2) defeated No. 3 seed Purdue University Fort Wayne 3-1 in the semifinals of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Tournament Wednesday night at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers will advance to the tournament championship for the second straight year.
“First off, just a ton of respect to [Purdue] Fort Wayne,” Loyola head coach Mark Hulse said after the match. “They were doing some pretty good stuff defensively … a strength of ours is that we can hurt you is a bunch of different ways.”
The Ramblers, who went into the match ranked No. 10 in the nation, saw four Ramblers tally double-digit kills, led by senior outside hitter Will Tischler’s 13. Sophomore setter Garrett Zolg recorded his sixth double-double of the season, tallying 44 assists and 15 digs. Senior libero Avery Aylsworth had 14 digs to move into seventh on Loyola’s all-time list.
“It’s a team effort … we all touch the rock,” Aylsworth said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the team.”
Purdue Fort Wayne was ranked No. 13 in the country heading into the match. The Ramblers had beaten the Mastodons 3-1 in both of their regular-season matchups. Outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas led Purdue Fort Wayne with 14 kills.
The Ramblers came out with a rocky start in the first set and couldn’t seem to get things going on the offensive end, trailing by as many as nine points as the Mastodons took the first opening stanza 25-19.
Loyola started putting it together from there, especially when Tischler and senior outside hitter Collin Mahan started finding their strides. The second and third sets were all Loyola as the Ramblers never trailed by more than one. They would go on to take the second and third sets 25-21 and 25-18, respectively, to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set was back-and-forth as neither team was able to change ahead, leading to eight lead changes throughout. But a late, 7-2 run helped the Ramblers pull away to take the set 25-23 and seal the 3-1 victory.
Loyola is set to face off against arch-rival Lewis University in the MIVA Tournament championship April 20. It’ll be the third meeting between the two teams after the No. 1-seeded Flyers beat the Ramblers twice in the regular season. The winner will get the MIVA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“I think our [competitive] level is really good and its unsurprising for this group,” Hulse said. “This time of year, we’ve been sharp … we know Lewis and they know us.”
First serve between Loyola and Lewis is set for April 20 at 7 p.m. The match will be played at Lewis, which is located in south suburban Romeoville.