Loretto, Pa. – After taking the first two sets, the No. 14 Loyola University Chicago men’s volleyball team dropped the final three sets by a margin of seven points, falling to St. Francis (Pa.) 3-2 (25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 23-25, 23-25) on Saturday evening in Loretto, Pa. Loyola moves to 4-2 this season.
Starting the 2011 campaign 4-0, Loyola has lost its last two matches. The Ramblers are now 6-1 all-time against the Red Flash.
In the tightly played contest, neither team held a lead larger than five points, which came at the end of the first set. The Ramblers fell behind early 3-7, but jumped back into the set midway through thanks to two Red Flash errors and a Steve Thompson kill. With the score 23-19, Joseph Smalzer fired a service ace and Thompson ended the set with a kill to take the opening set, 25-20.
The trading of points continued into set two, with the Ramblers eventually taking the lead at 7-4. Loyola maintained the lead much of the way, moving the score to 17-15. Two more Rambler points and a pair of St. Francis service aces and kills evened the set at 19-19. Not shaken by the Red Flash rally, Loyola stepped up its offense, earning kills from Mike Bunting, Torey Darin and Smalzer to win the second set 25-22.
Ahead 2-0 in the match, the Ramblers tried to close out the Red Flash in shutout fashion, but the home team found its groove in the third and fourth sets, moving the match into a fifth set.
With the score knotted at 9-9, Loyola took the lead at 10-9 with a Red Flash service error. The Rambler advantage, however, wouldn't prevail, as the teams clashed the remainder of the set with neither team letting the other earn a two-point margin for victory. The Red Flash eventually sealed the deal with a kill from Alex Kane to win the final set, 25-23.
For the second straight night, Bunting led Loyola with 17 kills. Thompson put forth a fine performance with .667 hitting percentage and 14 kills. Darin added 13 in four sets. Mike Hutz totaled season-high 60 assists in the loss.
Loyola will return to Chicago and play its next five matches at home, opening with MIVA member IPFW on Friday, Feb. 4. The conference-opener is set for 7:00 p.m. CST.