After suffering a tough loss in its senior night game and losing out on a share of the regular season title, the No. 11 Loyola men’s volleyball team will be hitting the court one week later to fight for a chance at the conference championship.
The men’s volleyball team — which plays in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) rather than the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) — will begin its conference tournament with the quarterfinals April 16, and is looking to improve on some mistakes from its final regular season game.
The Ramblers closed out their regular season with a 3-0 loss to Ohio State University at Gentile Arena April 9, putting their share of a regular season title in jeopardy. Until the loss to the Buckeyes, Loyola was tied with Ball State University for first place in the MIVA with a 11-2 conference record.
With Ball State University’s win over Purdue University Fort Wayne later that night, the Cardinals became the sole holders of the 2022 regular season title and the Ramblers finished in second place, heading into the tournament as the second seed.
Following the loss to Ohio State, redshirt junior outside hitter Andrew Lyons said he was appreciative of the chance to play in Gentile Arena in his final season and his four years at Loyola overall, and is now focused on the competition ahead.
Redshirt senior setter Garrett Zolg added that the intensity of the upcoming tournament is highlighted by how a team’s season could end in a single loss.
“We’re gonna make sure we’re gonna be really prepared, have a great week of practice, and really come out with a lot of intensity and a lot of focus to make sure what happened [against Ohio State] is not going to happen in the playoffs,” he said. “We’re playing for our careers right now, playing for the boys.”
As the No. 2 seed, Loyola will face off against No. 7-seeded Lindenwood University. The Ramblers defeated the Lions 3-1 in their first matchup Feb. 12 and swept them 3-0 in the second matchup March 31.
Although Loyola is heading into the tournament after a tough loss, Lyons said the team’s preparation doesn’t change since they still need to work hard and try to get better before facing their opponents.
“You have to keep pushing because everybody else is really, really good,” he said. “If we don’t get better, we’re gonna lose some games. We’re gonna come in this week and get a lot better.”
Zolg said he’s thankful the Ramblers will play their MIVA quarterfinal matchup on April 16, giving the team a whole week to watch film and practice before playing their first game.
Loyola head coach Mark Hulse said although the Ramblers will get a week to prepare before their first MIVA Tournament matchup, they’ll have less breaks between games should they advance. He said they’ll be using this time to look at their own play as much as they’re looking at their opponent’s.
“I think we still have a long way to go in terms of getting better and improving things on our side of the net, I don’t think that should stop at the end of the year,” he said. “So we’ll improve some things on our end while … figuring out what we need to do to be successful against another team that no doubt is gonna be good enough to beat you.”
When looking at things to improve on, especially after the Ohio State loss, redshirt senior outside hitter Henry Payne said his team felt “disconnected” during the matchup. He said the team will need to work on communication in its upcoming practices, and he personally wants to improve his eye contact while on the court.
When it comes to the tournament overall, Payne said the biggest lesson he’s learned from the regular season is to not “count anyone out.” Lyons also mentioned the importance of being prepared for each game and opponent.
“You just gotta bring it every day,” Lyons said. “Gotta have that fight and that [competition] level at every point, every point matters in the regular season and we’re gonna take that into the playoffs.”
Loyola will play its MIVA quarterfinal matchup against the Lindenwood Lions at Gentile Arena April 16. First serve is scheduled for 5 p.m. and broadcast information has yet to be announced.