CHICAGO - In a match filled with numerous lead changes and intense rallies, the Loyola men's volleyball team fought off a late-charging BYU squad to oust the No. 2 Cougars, 3-2 on Friday evening at Alumni Gym.
With the win, Loyola moves to 6-3 (1-0) on the season. BYU falls to 9-3 (6-2) with the loss. The Ramblers pick up its first-ever win over the Cougars (1-4). The last time Loyola beat a top-5 opponent was back on Feb. 21, 2009, when they ousted then-No. 1 Penn State.
As witnessed in the Stanford match a week ago, the Ramblers came out confident against BYU, not holding back to a top-ranked opponent. Down 9-11 early in the first set, Loyola fed off two Cougar attack errors to even up the frame at 11-11. After trading points until 17-17, Mike Bunting powered a kill to the midcourt to give Loyola the lead, 18-17. Service errors from both squads pushed the game into its later stages, where the Ramblers took control. At 22-20, Loyola mustered three kills, two from Bunting and one from Eric Daliege, to take the frame, 25-20.
In the second set, BYU regained the momentum with five kills to take the early lead at 10-6. At 12-8 in favor of the Cougars, Loyola used three straight BYU errors to get back within a point. Late in the set, Bunting turned up his game and stole the show, adding a solo block and four kills to close the set, 25-20.
Late into set three, Loyola had a chance to close out the match with a 24-23 lead. The Cougars, however, earned a controversial point to make the set 24-24. Despite a late Tommy Becker service ace and another Bunting kill, BYU managed four points to win set three, 27-25.
Looking to even up the match, BYU came out with a surge in the fourth set. The visitors moved out to an 11-4 lead and never looked back, posting kills and adding numerous service aces to win the frame, 25-11.
With the match tied at 2-2, Loyola fed lefty Joseph Smalzer often to upstart a startled offense. After misfiring on passes earlier in the match, Smalzer came out accurate in the final frame with eight of Loyola's 12 kills. The career high performance paid off, as the Ramblers held on to down BYU 15-9 in the final set and earn the hard-fought victory.
In the upset win, Smalzer finished with 13 kills, while Bunting posted a game-high 21 kills. Daliege had a fine night for the Ramblers with eight kills.
Loyola will return to the court in 24 hours when they welcome MIVA opponent Grand Canyon to Alumni Gym. Match time is set for 7:00 p.m. CST.