The Loyola men’s volleyball team (15-5, 9-5) will move on in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) tournament after defeating McKendree University 3-2 April 17 at the Alfie Norville Practice Facility.
“I think we had a pretty darn good response on our end,” Loyola head coach Mark Hulse said. “They were really good, [McKendree] deserves a ton of credit for what they were doing at the beginning… I don’t think we were ready.”
The first set started with a 3-3 tie between McKendree and Loyola, but a 5-0 scoring run allowed the Bearcats to take the lead. They hit .364 to lead to their victory over the Ramblers 25-17.
McKendree’s dominant offense continued to be a problem for Loyola in the second set as the Bearcats improved their hitting average to .385. The Ramblers suffered their biggest deficit at the end of the set when they fell to the Bearcats 25-12.
The third set told a different story, with an immediate service ace from senior setter Garrett Zolg setting the tone for the Ramblers. Loyola managed to fight back from trailing McKendree 9-5 to come up and take the set 25-23.
Loyola quickly took the lead 5-1 into the fourth set, although McKendree later tied it at 18-18. The Ramblers responded to each of the Bearcats’ points, eventually going on a 3-0 scoring run to take the set 25-22 and force a fifth set.
The Ramblers opened the final set 4-1, giving them an edge to win a speedy 15-9 victory over McKendree and take the match.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Cole Schlothauer and junior opposite hitter Luke Denton led Loyola with 13 kills apiece. Following behind them was sophomore outside hitter Colton Brooks with 11 kills and one service ace.
Meanwhile, Zolg recorded a double-double, bringing in 44 assists and 13 digs for the Ramblers, along with two service aces. Zolg said that the key to winning this match was staying together as a team.
“I’ve lost in the playoffs a couple times and I know what it feels like,” Zolg said. “The worst thing we could do was break ranks and start getting angry at each other. We had to stay together and stay disciplined and try to get back to Loyola volleyball.”
The April 17 win over McKendree marked Loyola’s fifteenth straight victory against the Bearcats to remain undefeated over the team. However, this was the first time the two teams met in MIVA tournament play.
“I wish we weren’t [undefeated] in a way,” Hulse said. “It makes them so hungry. They’re a really tough team and from the get-go they were really good. It’s a rivalry in the way that you know you’re going to have a really good team on the other side of the net.”
Loyola will play No. 1-seeded Lewis University in the MIVA championship April 24 in Romeoville, Illinois. This game will be a rematch of the last MIVA Tournament final where the Flyers swept the Ramblers 3-0.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and broadcast information has not yet been released.