Within 24 hours of its first game — and win — of the 2021 season, the Loyola men’s volleyball team (2-0) grabbed another one, this time against Queens University of Charlotte Jan. 23. The Ramblers powered past the Royals for a 3-0 victory at Loyola’s Alfie Norville Practice Facility.
Loyola is coming into the 2021 season off a 7-11 record in 2020, the only losing season in the program’s 25 year history. However, the Ramblers found success Jan. 23 as redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cole Schlothauer tallied 15 kills — the highest in the game.
Two other Loyola players put up a high number of kills — junior opposite hitter Luke Denton with 10 and sophomore outside hitter Colton Brooks with eight.
Head coach Mark Hulse said Schlothauer is picking up where he left off after his first year was cut short by COVID-19. Schlothauer was named 2020 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Newcomer of the Year and was only the second first-year in program history to lead the team in kills, notching 254 in his first season.
“He had a really really strong freshman year,” Hulse said. “He’s been steady, he worked really hard in the offseason … he’s in a really good place for sure.”
Loyola took a four-point lead early in the first set as the team went on a 5-0 run. The Ramblers later increased their lead to five points, holding the lead for the remainder of the set to win 25-19.
Loyola began with a three-point lead in the second set which tripled by the end to give the Ramblers a 25-16 win. They proceeded to stay ahead throughout the third set, but the Royals fought back to close the gap to only three points late in the set. However, the Ramblers rallied to win 25-21 and sweep the match.
Schlothauer said he thinks Loyola players were losing some of their focus late in the game, bringing up how close the score was in the third set.
“We were really focusing on getting a lot of kills,” he said. “We maybe lost our focus on some of the smaller things, like passing and really good block touches.”
The Royals’ loss to the Ramblers extends their losing streak to four games — three within the last three days. This was the fifth game the team had played this season whereas it was only Loyola’s second.
Loyola also brings in a young team this season with 10 first-years and 18 total underclassmen. Hulse said it was nice to see the younger players play their first college games Jan. 22 and 23.
“It was kind of ‘Welcome to the Show,’” he said. “The guys obviously work hard in practice … but it’s different once you get out there on the court and I thought every single guy responded really well.”
Senior setter Garrett Zolg put up four of Loyola’s eight service aces — compared to only one total for Queens — and 29 assists for the home team in his second game back after sitting out the 2020 season with multiple injuries.
The Ramblers also finished the game with a total hitting percentage of .366 compared to the Royals with only .177. The percentage is found by totalling kills, subtracting hitting errors, and dividing by the total number of attempts.
Loyola was picked to finish second in the 2021 MIVA preseason poll. The Royals, an NCAA Division II team, are an independent program and don’t belong to any conference.
The Ramblers are set to play their next match against St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania Jan. 29 at 3 p.m.