CHICAGO – In the fifth and final set in a back and forth contest, Mike Bunting shined with six monstrous kills to go with a match-high 23 kills, as the No. 12 Loyola men’s volleyball team outlasts No. 14 Lewis, 3-2 on Tuesday evening at Alumni Gym. The Ramblers stay perfect in the MIVA with a 5-0 record.
With the win, Loyola improved to 10-3 in 2011. Head coach Shane Davis and the Ramblers have won its last five matches. Lewis dropped its first conference match this season and falls to 9-4 (3-1).
In the instant classic match, both teams came out swinging aggressively from the start, starting with the visitors.
Lewis pulled out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, only to see its lead diminish by a three-point run by Loyola to even up the contest at 3-3. At 16-16, freshman Dainis Berzins fired a kill to give Loyola a one point lead. The Flyers answered back on the next serve, picking up a kill from Ian Karbiener. With the set tied at 23-23, Lewis earned a kill and a service ace to take the opening frame, 25-23.
In the second set, Loyola regrouped and attacked consistently throughout set, jumping out to a commanding 14-3 lead. Redshirt freshman Joseph Smalzer performed well in the run with four kills. At 24-11, Smalzer ended the set with a service ace, giving Loyola the set two win, 25-11.
The teams managed to step up their games on both ends in the third and fourth sets, leading to a split in match, with Lewis taking set four, 25-18, and Loyola winning set five, 25-23.
With the match all even, it was on to a pivotal fifth and final set.
As the final frame moved to a 4-4 tie, Loyola broke through with four unanswered points, with Steve Thompson, Berzins and Bunting picking up kills. With the Ramblers taking the lead at 10-6, Lewis stormed back with four straight points to once again even up the set. At 19-19, Loyola ended all hopes of a Lewis upset, as Bunting fired a kill to midcourt, followed by a Berzins kill to the left corner, ending the set 21-19 in favor of the Ramblers.
Bunting led the Loyola offense with a game-high 23 kills, while Smalzer posted 19 and Thompson added seven. Mike Hutz had a solid evening with 42 assists in five sets. The Ramblers managed a .328 hitting percentage on Tuesday.
Loyola returns to action later this week on Friday, Feb. 25, when they take on Juniata at Alumni Gym. Match time is set for 7:00 p.m. CST.