The Loyola men’s volleyball team (17-7, 11-2) swept No. 7 Ball State University 3-0 April 7 to take the regular season series between the two Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) teams 2-0.
The Ramblers, who currently sit at No. 11 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II men’s volleyball poll, are now 11-2 in MIVA play — tying them for first with Ball State in the conference.
The last time the two teams met was on the road in Muncie, Indiana, where the Ramblers took down the Cardinals 3-1 Feb. 19. As of the April 7 game, Loyola has dealt Ball State its only two losses in conference play.
“It felt like playoff volleyball tonight,” Hulse said after the April 7 win. “We knew they were going to come in and be pretty sharp offensively, but I thought we were really good offensively as well. … We competed hard and we knew we’d have to do that if we were going to beat a team like Ball State.”
The first set started fairly even with the Ramblers and Cardinals staying close on the scoreboard, but Loyola went on a 10-5 scoring run to close out the set 25-18. Redshirt junior outside hitter Cole Schlothauer led the Ramblers in the first set with five kills.
Loyola was able to pull ahead early in the second set thanks to a 8-1 scoring run that put the Ramblers up 15-7. Although Ball State managed to chip away at the point gap, a kill from redshirt first-year outside hitter Parker Van Buren allowed Loyola to take the set 25-19.
The third set was the closest yet, with the two teams tying twelve times throughout. The Cardinals took the lead with a 4-0 run to put them up 7-3, but Loyola tied it up 14-14 deeper in the set thanks to a service ace from redshirt junior outside hitter Andrew Lyons.
Ball State reached set point 24-21, but a pair of errors from the Cardinals along with a kill from Van Buren tied it up again 24-24. Loyola continued to put the pressure on Ball State, going on a 3-0 run with a kill from redshirt senior setter Garrett Zolg to take the set and sweep the Cardinals.
Zolg, who will celebrate his senior night April 9 against Ohio State University along with Lyons and redshirt senior outside hitter Henry Payne, said the win over Ball State will provide the team with a lot of momentum heading into its final regular season matchup.
“It’s been a long ride, it’s been a good one,” Zolg said. ”Looking to cap it off with something we’ve never done before [in my career]. … It’s really important to me, but also to the team, to try to secure that first spot and really get after it in the playoffs.”
After the penultimate game April 7, there are three possible scenarios for the Ramblers heading into their regular season closer. Because Loyola and Ball State are tied for first in MIVA play, the outcome of the games on April 9 will determine who takes the regular season title.
If Loyola defeats Ohio State and Ball State falls in its match against Purdue University Fort Wayne, the Ramblers will capture the MIVA regular season title for the first time since the 2015 season.
If both teams win their regular season closing game, they will share the MIVA regular season title. However, Loyola will take the No. 1 seed in the MIVA Tournament because it has a 2-0 record over Ball State this season. The same outcome will occur if both teams lose.
Finally, if Loyola falls to Ohio State but Ball State defeats Purdue Fort Wayne, the Cardinals will take the MIVA regular season title, along with the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Meanwhile, Loyola would be the No. 2 seed.
“They’re really, really good,” Hulse said about the upcoming matchup against Ohio State. “They’ve been tough all year, they’ve been tough to slow down… it’s what we talk about all year, it’s a step for where we want to get to, so when you get an opportunity to take that step, be ready to go.”
The matchup between the Ramblers and the Buckeyes will be at Gentile Arena April 9. First serve is slated for 3 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago.