In its undefeated start led by first-year Head Coach John Hawks, the Ramblers were placed at no. 13 in the latest AVCA poll.
Loyola Chicago Men’s Volleyball Off to a Strong Season Start
The Loyola men’s volleyball team (7-2) hit the ground running to start the 2023 season. In its undefeated start led by first-year Head Coach John Hawks, the Ramblers were placed at no. 13 in the latest AVCA poll. Loyola’s compelling start to the regular season has given a spotlight to the program before their MIVA conference season begins.
“Our ranking doesn’t mean anything to us,” Hawks said. “It’s nice for media, and it’s nice for marketing and all that, but truthfully, it doesn’t mean anything right now.”
Hawks said the team is focused on getting better to compete for the conference championship. He said despite being proud of their start this season, there’s still several games left and they have to take them one by one.
After the 2022 season, the Loyola men’s volleyball team lost four of its starters, leaving big shoes to fill. According to Hawks the new players stepped up, picking up on the new methods of training and eager to take advantage of the chance.
The team has introduced new systems that have been very demanding to learn, an opportunity coach Hawks said the team has capitalized on. Hawks said the practice gym is filled with competition which pushes the players, adding to the depth of his roster and allowing him to switch the starting lineup for specific matches.
According to Hawks, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Parker Van Buren, redshirt sophomore setter Dan Mangun and redshirt junior setter Brian Voight are the team’s vital players stepping up to fill those graduated starting spots. One of these vacancies was left by former setter Garrett Zolg, which Van Buren said has been filled by Mangun.
“Dan is filling his shoes beautifully,” Van Buren said. “Dan’s our new leader. He’s our new setter. He runs things around here on the court and off the court. He’s one of our captains as well.”
Mangun has stood out so far this season, starting in all matches with 264 kills, 55 digs, and 30.5 points. This weekend he registered 49 assists and 5 blocks in a single match versus No. 3 Long Beach State University.
Van Buren said despite losing two games in the team’s weekend trip to California — against no. 3 Long Beach State University and Concordia University — he loves playing with the guys and competing.
Going into the week, Van Buren said he envisions the games towards the end of the week as a reward. He added he’s most looking forward to competing in the postseason, hoping his team’s hard work in conference play sets them up for a high conference tournament seed. Van Buren also said his passion for volleyball stays strong through losses because they provide experience.
Hawks said he has high expectations and a drive to improve all aspects of their game. Hawks said he’s set a championship standard in the practice gym and it starts in how the team acts and how they treat each other. The team is ready to face whatever challenge and adversity the season has in store for them according to Hawks, adding the team will accept it all as a learning moment.
Redshirt senior outside hitter Cole Schlothauer, a vital player to the team, has high hopes for his team this season looking towards the start of the MIVA conference season.
“I’m looking forward to winning the conference,” Schlothauer said. “I think we have a good chance to do some things this year. We showed we can compete with the best this past weekend and I’m looking forward to winning the title this year.”
The Loyola men’s volleyball team will head to Quincy, Illinois to face Quincy University for its first MIVA conference matchup of the season Feb. 10. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. and the broadcast information has yet to be announced.
Featured image courtesy of Steve Woltmann for Loyola Athletics