CHICAGO - Mike Bunting and Eric Daliege led the Rambler offense with 14 and 11 kills, respectively, as the No. 12 Loyola men's volleyball team made up for an earlier season loss to St. Francis (Pa.) on Saturday evening, silencing the Red Flash 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-17) at Alumni Gym.
Loyola improves to 12-3 (5-0) on the year, while increasing its winning streak to seven matches. The Ramblers are now 7-1 all-time against the Red Flash. With the loss, St. Francis falls to 7-8 (2-4)
Playing aggressive in the first set, the Ramblers nailed five straight attacks to take the lead at 9-4. St. Francis stayed competitive, though, and brought the frame to 14-10. At 19-15, the Ramblers fed off three Red Flash errors, and picked up a kill from Joseph Smalzer to win the opening set, 25-21.
In the second frame, Loyola moved out quickly again, taking an 8-4 lead. Moments later, the Red Flash went on their largest run of the match, earning six straight points to take the lead at 10-9. Instead of allowing St. Francis to hang around, the Ramblers went on a run of their own, when Bunting, Daliege and Steve Thompson brought Loyola back with crucial kills to take the lead at 20-14. Two more Bunting kills and three Red Flash errors provided the Ramblers the set win, 25-17.
Racing out to an 8-2 lead in the final set, it was the Rambler defense, led by libero Tommy Becker, that stepped up to seal the win. At 23-17, St. Francis posted an attack error to bring the frame to match point for Loyola. On the final serve, Peter Jasatis sailed the ball over the net, only to see the ball return back to Rambler territory. With the ball floating atop the net, Dainis Berzins sailed in and finished the play with a kill, giving Loyola the set win, 25-17.
Bunting posted a game-high 14 kills in the home victory. The junior has 232 kills in 2011. Dailiege, a redshirt sophomore, finished with a career-high 11 kills on Saturday, leading the Loyola attack with a .714 hitting percentage.
The Ramblers will return to conference play and gear up for their biggest match yet this season, when they take on No. 6 Ohio State next Saturday evening in Columbus, Ohio. First serve is set for 6:00 p.m. CST.