Men’s Volleyball Gets Revenge on McKendree in Quarterfinal Sweep

After last year’s heartbreaking loss to McKendree, Loyola pulled together a sweep over the Bearcats. 

The No. 12 Loyola men’s volleyball team earned the No. 2 seed in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament and hosted No. 7 McKendree University in the quarterfinals at Gentile Arena April 13. After last year’s heartbreaking loss in five sets to McKendree, Loyola pulled together an impressive sweep over the Bearcats. 

“Last year was a punch in the gut,” Loyola head coach John Hawks said. “You beat them in every statistical category last year except the final score, and I feel like, I mean, I reminded these guys of that match a lot. I just think we learned a lot and grew.”

The match started with early service trouble for redshirt third-year setter Dan Mangun and first-year outside hitter Jake Read. However, redshirt third-year opposite hitter Parker Van Buren quickly turned the tide with back-to-back kills, one from each side.

Third-year middle blocker Nicodemus Meyer made a solo block before third-year outside hitter Kevin Schuele traded a kill with first-year outside hitter Daniel Fabikovic over the middle. Meyer and Mangun assisted on a block, followed by Schuele and third-year Bearcat middle blocker Rolen Lively with a block assist as the Ramblers trailed by a narrow 5-4. 

After some back-and-forth, Loyola found a slim edge after a Bearcat service fault. Mangun made an ace before the Ramblers went on a brief 3-0 run with kills from Fabikovic and Van Buren.

The Bearcats ended the run with a kill before a Meyer kill and Van Buren ace gave Loyola a 15-10 lead into the half-set break.

The Ramblers found another run with a kill from Fabikovic following an ace from Van Buren. The Bearcats and Ramblers traded attack errors and Van Buren traded a kill with Lively before Loyola head coach John Hawks made a familiar substitution. 

First-year opposite hitter Lukas Anderson was sent in for service, resulting in a block assist from Mangun and Meinhart. Late in set one, as the Bearcats took a timeout, Loyola held a definitive 20-12 margin.

Read and Van Buren each made two kills and Meyer gave the Ramblers set point before a service fault from McKendree second-year right-side hitter Bryce Wetjen gave Loyola set one at 25-18.

The Bearcats got on the board first to open set two after a Rambler setting error. Fabikovic and Wetjen made kills and Lively accumulated an ace, putting McKendree up 3-1. 

Play continued with lead change after lead change all the way up to the set’s final points. Fabikovic and Meinhart extended the Ramblers’ lead to 19-16 with back-to-back kills over the right. The Bearcats responded with a kill and forced a bad set from Mangun in the next play. Van Buren remained steady ahead and tracked back-to-back kills to increase Loyola’s lead to 21-18, forcing a McKendree timeout. 

The Ramblers reached set point with Meinhart serving on a 5-0 scoring run. A block assist from Fabikovic and Meyer ended the second set with another 25-18 Loyola victory.

Mangun scored in the third with an ace before graduate Bearcat outside hitter Kyle Wilson answered with a kill before registering an error on the next play. A block assist from Meinhart and Fabikovic gave Loyola a 3-1 opening lead. 

The Ramblers made a statement with a 4-0 scoring run after two kills from Van Buren and one from Fabikovic and Mangun, going ahead 10-4. The Bearcats settled for an early timeout. 

“Dan was big tonight with his aces,” Van Buren said. “It really starts on the service line, and I was proud of my team for what we did from back there”

Meyer recorded a solo block before Van Buren made his 15th kill of the night. Fabikovic traded a service error with Wetjen, putting Loyola ahead 13-7.

The Ramblers went on another scoring run, this time rattling off five straight points after two kills from Van Buren, an ace from Mangun and a block assist from Meinhart. Van Buren’s kill forced the Bearcats into a timeout on the ropes, now down 18-8. 

A kill from redshirt fourth-year Jack Yentz allowed Loyola to reach match point after a service error from the Bearcats. McKendree kept the Ramblers on set point for three plays before Mangun set up Yentz for another kill to secure the sweep with a 25-16 third set.

The Ramblers advance to the MIVA tournament semifinals and will travel to Muncie, Indiana,  Thursday, April. 18 to face No. 3 Ohio State University. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

“It’s the defense that’ll win it,” Van Buren said about facing Ohio State. “So I’m really stoked, and I’m happy they won the weekend and we go up against them and hopefully take them down for the third time.”

Featured image by Amara Bullard | The Phoenix

Christopher J. Henry

Christopher J. Henry