Men’s Volleyball Sweeps Home Opener in a Flash Against Saint Francis

Loyola AthleticsSophomore outside hitter Parker Van Buren led the Ramblers with 17 kills in their home opener Jan. 14

The Loyola men’s volleyball team (1-2) swept Saint Francis University 3-0 to grab its first win of the 2022 season in Gentile Arena Jan. 14. Loyola entered the match ranked No. 8 in the nation in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll

The win comes after the Ramblers dropped both of their road competitions to No. 1 University of Hawaii Jan. 5 and 7. The Jan. 14 game served as Loyola’s home opener after its previously scheduled match against University of California Irvine Jan. 1 was canceled. 

“We’re obviously really happy with the result,” Loyola head coach Mark Hulse said. “I don’t know if anyone’s ever played a game against Saint Francis that wasn’t tough and hard fought … I thought the [team] did a good job digesting the scouting report … we did a really good job on our side.”

The Ramblers took the lead early into the first set thanks to a kill from redshirt senior setter Garrett Zolg. From then on, Loyola continued to pull ahead with help from sophomore outside hitter Parker Van Buren, who contributed six kills in the set.

The Red Flash rallied with a 5-0 scoring run to close in on Loyola 19-17, but the offensive effort proved to not be enough for Saint Francis to make a comeback. The Ramblers took the first set 25-20. 

A service error from Saint Francis gave Loyola the first point of the second set, but the Ramblers didn’t take a commanding lead right away. The two teams were back and forth, but a service ace and a kill from Van Buren gave Loyola a 6-5 lead. 

After that, Loyola never gave up the lead to Saint Francis and went on to capture the second set 25-17. Junior outside hitter Colton Brooks pitched in six kills, while Van Buren added another five and Zolg contributed 12 assists.

The third set was much closer, with the scoreboard tying ten times throughout the set. An attack error from Brooks tied the game 20-20, but Loyola was able to pull ahead thanks to a service error from the Red Flash which gave the Ramblers the momentum to finish the set 25-21.

Van Buren led Loyola in scoring by hitting .593 to score a career high 19 points off 17 kills. Brooks was behind him, contributing 10 kills. Meanwhile, Zolg led both teams in hitting and assists with .667 on hitting and 33 assists. 

The Jan. 14 game was the first Van Buren was able to play in Gentile, which he said added an extra level of excitement.

“Even though it’s my second year, I hadn’t had the honor of playing in Gentile,” Van Buren said. “It was awesome to be there. It was super sweet to put up a bunch of kills, and it was really easy because our [passers] were just dropping dimes.”

Loyola is scheduled to continue its three game homestand Jan. 15 against New Jersey Institute of Technology. Despite the quick turnaround, Hulse said the team will have time to recover and prepare before meeting its next competitor.

First serve is slated for 7 p.m. and the game is set to be broadcast on ESPN+. 

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