CHICAGO - Junior Mike Bunting posted a season-high 31 kills, including nine in the second set to lead Loyola past IPFW, 3-2 (28-26, 24-26, 25-19, 23-25, 15-9) at Alumni Gym on Friday evening.
With the win, the Ramblers 5-2 (1-0) extended its home winning streak to 22 games. With the loss, IPFW falls to 5-4 (0-2) on the season. The all-time series between the two programs is now tied at 18-18.
For the second straight match, Loyola went into a fifth and deciding set, only this time they came out victorious. The visiting Mastodons, however, made Loyola work for each and every point.
In the first set, IPFW took an 8-6 early lead after a Mike Hutz service error. A Mastodons attack error led to Rambler comeback of six unanswered points and a 12-8 lead. At 19-19, the teams traded points the remainder of the set, until Loyola made a late break at 26-26. Bunting powered a kill and Hutz added a service to earn the first set win, 28-26.
The fireworks continued into the second set, but this ending didn't favor the Ramblers. Again tied late at 20-20, IPFW stepped up its offense from all over the court, earning kills from four different Mastodons to finish with a 26-24 win.
After moving out in the third set 11-9, Loyola regained the match's momentum with a solid defensive effort, totaling four team blocks in the frame. Bunting also stepped up his game with six kills, as Loyola strolled to 25-19 third set win.
With IPFW taking the fourth set 25-23, it was on to a fifth set, the second time in as many matches for Loyola.
The Ramblers came out firing in the final frame, moving out quickly to a 7-1 lead. IPFW regrouped, however, after a timeout and went on a three-point rally of their own to make the score 7-4. The comeback, however, was too late, as Joseph Smalzer powered five kills and Tim Frydendall added two, giving Loyola the fifth set and the win, 15-9.
A solid Rambler team effort was given on Friday, but Bunting stole the show with a game-high 31 kills. Smalzer performed well late and finished with 15 kills. Freshman Dainis Berzins made his first career start in a Rambler uniform. The Maryland native earned four kills and three digs in his Loyola debut. Hutz made 52 assists in five sets of action. He also totaled five kills.
The Ramblers will now prepare for its highest ranked opponent of the season, when No. 4 Stanford enters Alumni Gym tomorrow evening. Match time is set for 7:00 p.m. CST.