CHICAGO - Mike Hutz moved into fifth place on the all-time Loyola career list with 98 career service aces, and led Loyola with 46 assists on Friday night, as the No. 11 Ramblers fought-off a feisty George Mason squad, 3-1 at Alumni Gym.
Loyola has won its last seven matches at home, and improves to 14-5 (5-1) on the season. George Mason drops to 11-7 with the loss.
Hutz got the ball rolling in the first set by opening with four serves, leading to two Patriots errors and kills from Joseph Smalzer and Steve Thompson to give Loyola a quick 4-0 lead. George Mason cut into the Rambler advantage a few points later to trail by just one at 9-8. A Mike Bunting kill, followed by a Smalzer spike regained the momentum for Loyola as it took the lead late into the set at 20-17. Patriot Mark Jones fired a kill a point later to close the gap to two, but from here on out, it was all Loyola. The home team fed off four George Mason errors and found a kill from Hutz to take the set, 25-21.
In the second frame, Loyola again jumped out to a 4-0 lead, receiving kills from Smalzer, Thompson and Dainis Berzins. At 12-7, the Ramblers went on their first big run of the match, earning eight points to just four from George Mason to increase the lead to nine. While the Patriots found two kills from Piotr Dabrowski, the comeback effort wasn't enough, as Berzins and Thompson teamed up late to earn a kill a piece, providing the Ramblers a 25-15 set win.
As the teams regrouped for the third frame, George Mason took its first lead of the match at 11-10. The Patriots increased their advantage to four at 17-13, before Loyola marched back to tie the set at 17-17. However, the Rambler response lasted only a few points, as the Patriots picked up three kills and fed off a trio of Rambler errors to win the third frame, 25-22.
In the fourth and final set, Loyola regained form early, and jumped ahead 5-2, thanks to two Thompson kills and points from Smalzer and Bunting. The teams traded points all the way until 18-15, when Bunting and the Ramblers saw the end in sight. A Berzins spike, followed again by a pair of Smalzer kills proved to be enough, giving Loyola the 25-20 final set win.
Smalzer fired a game-high 18 kills and managed seven digs in the home win. Bunting finished with 15 kills, and Berzins added 10 and six digs. Hutz kept the team afloat with another 40+ assist performance to finish with 46 to go with four digs.
Loyola will return to Alumni Gym tomorrow evening when they face NJIT at 7:00 p.m. CST