CHICAGO – Facing MIVA member Grand Canyon for the second time in three days, the Loyola men’s volleyball team outplayed the Antelopes from start to finish, earning a 3-0 win (25-23, 25-20, 25-20) on Monday evening at Alumni Gym.
Loyola (8-3, 3-0 MIVA) has won three straight matches. With the home victory, the Ramblers remained perfect all-time against Grand Canyon (7-0). In the program’s 16-year history, Loyola is 4-2 on Valentine’s Day. The Antelopes lose their fifth straight match, dropping to 5-12 (0-2 MIVA) in 2011.
Starting four freshmen out of the gate, head coach Shane Davis focused on giving his younger players a chance to compete against a competitive conference opponent in Grand Canyon. Although the young Ramblers made freshman errors early on, they recovered from their mistakes in a timely fashion, providing the shutout win. The victory didn’t come easy, though.
Down 11-8 in the first set, Loyola fought back quickly to even up the contest thanks to a Mike Bunting kill and three Antelope errors. With the set tied at 20-20, a Grand Canyon service error gave Loyola the late lead, one they would hold on to the remainder of the frame. Two more Bunting kills to go with a Joseph Smalzer point provided the Ramblers a close, but victorious 25-23 first set win.
Even again at 4-4 in the second set, the teams traded points to bring the contest to its 15th tie midway through. An Eric Daliege kill broke the knotted score, giving Loyola the momentum and the lead. At 11-10, the Ramblers turned up the offense with Bunting adding three kills and Smalzer posting two kills of his own, bringing the frame to 19-15. A Dainis Berzins kill to the right side of the court a point later all but sealed the set, as the Ramblers picked up five more points to win the frame, 25-20.
In the third and final set, Grand Canyon pulled out to a 1-0 lead off a Berzins attack error. Not shaken, the Ramblers marched back, taking the lead at 6-5. Ahead at 17-15 in favor of Loyola, Grand Canyon gave back important points off a pair of attack and service errors. On the final two plays, Smalzer ended the match with two heated service aces to no return from the Antelopes, giving Loyola a 25-20 third set win.
Bunting and Smalzer paced the Rambler attack with 13 and 12 kills, respectively. Daliege added five kills and Tim Frydendall posted three kills. Loyola triggered a .351 hitting percentage in the match.
Davis and the Ramblers will compete in their first conference road contest this season on Saturday, Feb. 19 against Ball State in Muncie, Ind. Match time is set for 6:30 p.m. CST.