NORTHRIDGE, Calif.- Mike Hutz and Mike Bunting posted double-doubles, while Joseph Smalzer added 15 kills, as the No. 12 Loyola men’s volleyball team held off Cal State Northridge 3-1 on Wednesday evening in Northridge, California. Loyola now travels to Los Angeles where they will face No. 8 UCLA on Friday, March 11.
The Ramblers improve to 13-4 (5-1) on the season with the win. Cal State Northridge drops its fifth straight match and moves to 4-15 (3-10).
In a back and forth first set, the Ramblers broke a 7-7 tie with kills from Smalzer and Bunting. The Matadors stormed back with a trio of kills from Matt Stork to even the contest at 12-12. Trading points up to 17-17, Cal State Northridge went on a 5-1 run to bring the set to 23-18. A Smalzer spike and Matador attack error closed the gap to two late in the frame. After a Cal State Northridge timeout, the home team responded with a kill and service ace, leading to a 25-21 set win.
Loyola revamped its offense in the second frame, and quickly moved out in front 7-4. A pair of Matador errors and kills from Bunting, Dainis Berzins and Steve Thompson continued the Rambler lead to 16-14. Cal State Northridge made another comeback with points from John Baker and a team block to tie the game at 16-16. Needing to stop the Matador momentum swing, Loyola went on a run of its own, when Bunting earned back-to-back points with a kill and service ace, followed by a Berzins kill, bringing the score to 20-17. With the Ramblers holding set point, Cal State Northridge made a late push, but managed a service error on the final play, providing Loyola the win, 25-22.
In the third frame, the Ramblers played to a 23-18 lead, but once again had to fight off a late Matador run. Cal State Northridge managed three-straight points to close the gap to two. Leaning on its offense for late production, Smalzer and Bunting came up big with kills to opposite corners of the court to win the frame, 25-23.
Loyola took a 15-13 lead midway through the fourth set, and maintained it to 19-15. As seen on numerous occasions in the match, Cal State Northridge didn't let up on its home floor, tying up the set at 20-20. With the finish line in sight, the Ramblers went on one final run, when Smalzer and Berzins earned two kills apiece, earning Loyola the frame and win, 25-21.
Bunting fired a game-high 19 kills to go with a season-high 11 digs. Hutz managed his third double-double of the season with 44 assists and 12 digs. Berzins posted a career-high 12 digs in the win.
The Ramblers will conclude their west coast swing against the No. 8 Bruins on Friday evening. Match time is set for 9:00 p.m. CST.