The Loyola men’s volleyball team extended its winning streak to seven games with its fifth three-set sweep of the season after winning 3-0 over Lindenwood University at Alfie Norville Practice Facility Feb. 12.
Loyola’s 7-0 start to the season is its best since the team opened its 2015 season with 13 straight wins while on the way to its second straight NCAA title. The 2021 opening streak is a stark contrast to its 7-11 record in the shortened 2020 season and has led to the team being ranked No. 13 in the NVA/AVCA Division I-II Men’s Coaches Poll.
Loyola redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cole Schlothauer led the game with 12 kills and 27 attacks. Schlothauer came up second for the Ramblers in points with 13 while junior opposite hitter Luke Denton led the game with 13.5.
Lindenwood put the first points of the game on the board, and after a back-and-forth set, a kill by Denton allowed Loyola to keep the lead until the Ramblers won the first set 25-17.
Denton, sophomore outside hitter Colton Brooks and senior setter Garret Zolg each scored aces to help take the first set, two of which forced Lindenwood to take timeouts and regroup.
The second set played out similarly, the score remaining neck and neck until both teams hit 10 points. Then, Loyola started to pull away following three attack errors in a row from Lindenwood. The Ramblers took the second set 25-19, racking up 26 kills while making just four attack errors of their own in the first two sets.
However, Loyola head coach Mark Hulse said the first two sets weren’t reflective of how his team played.
“I think we played okay in our first two sets,” Hulse said. “The scores looked better than our volleyball did.”
Lindenwood came into the third set with an entirely different demeanor, leading for most of the third set after coming back from two opening aces from Zolg. After the Lions came up to tie the game at nine, they went on a 7-1 scoring streak, causing Hulse to call the only two Loyola timeouts of the game.
The tide changed for the Ramblers after redshirt junior outside hitter Henry Payne and sophomore setter Brian Voight joined the game. Payne contributed two kills to help push the Ramblers to a 26-24 win, with Loyola ending on a 6-0 scoring run.
After the game, Hulse praised Payne’s performance, specifically his contributions to the third set rally.
“Payne was awesome, efficient,” Hulse said. “He made some really, really big plays.”
Zolg ended the match with 36 assists, a statistic indicative of his role on the team. As one of only four upperclassmen on the team, Zolg said his role on the team has shifted with his experience.
“I’ve seen the highs, I’ve seen the lows,” Zolg said. “Some of the young guys, they’re getting pumped up or getting a little frustrated so I just try to be the steady force to kind of guide them through it.”
The Ramblers continued their perfect streak against Lindenwood at home, only having lost six sets to the Lions total during their 16 matchups in Chicago. The two will match up again Feb. 13 to finish off the two-game series.
“We’ll recover and watch some video and try to be better,” Hulse said. “I think the guys are ready to get after it again.”
Loyola’s next match against Lindenwood is slated for 5 p.m. at Alfie Norville Practice Facility Feb. 13. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.