CHICAGO - Despite a slow start in the season's opening set, the Loyola University Chicago men's volleyball team found their groove late in the first frame and in the final two sets to blank Carthage 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-16) at Alumni Gym on Wednesday evening.
The Ramblers (1-0) win their 11th straight season opener, dating back to the 2000 campaign. Loyola is now 9-0 all-time against the Red Men, who fall to 0-1 with the loss.
The Ramblers moved ahead 1-0 in the first set off a Carthage error, then earned seven more points off Red Men mistakes to move ahead 8-4. After trading a handful of points, Carthage stormed back midway through the set, eventually tying the contest at 11-11. A service error by the visitors provided Loyola a spark it needed for the remainder of the frame, as junior Domenic DeWaele added a kill to make the score 14-11. After another Red Men comeback, which evened the score at 22-22, Mike Bunting and Steve Thompson added a combined three kills to close the first set 25-22.
In the second set, Loyola again took the early lead, moving out to a 12-3 advantage. Cartage didn't fold, however, earning six straight points to get back into the contest 12-9. After trading points, Loyola looked to its experienced setter, Mike Hutz, who set up teammates Joseph Smalzer and Torey Darin for game-breaking kills to move the Ramblers ahead 19-14. A late Carthage time-out wasn't enough to regroup the Red Men, as Loyola closed with a 6-3 run to take set two 25-17.
Bunting got the ball rolling in the third and final set with a kill off a cross-court pass from Hutz, putting Loyola out in front 1-0. Carthage took the lead with a string of four points to take the lead 4-2. Brendan Styler followed with two kills and Bunting added a service ace to gain the lead for Loyola at the set's midway point. From here, it was all Ramblers, as the home team ended the final frame on an 11-6 run to take the set 25-16.
Bunting posted a game-high 15 kills, while freshman Tim Frydendall began his Rambler career with seven kills. Smalzer added five kills in the victory. Hutz led Loyola with 38 assists.
The Ramblers return to action next week when they welcome MSOE to Alumni Gym. First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.