ROMEOVILLE, Ill. - The Loyola defense held Lewis to a season-low .168 hitting percentage, while Mike Bunting and the Loyola offense took care of business late in the match, as the No. 11 Ramblers picked up an important 3-2 conference road win over the No. 12 Flyers at Neil Carey Arena in Romeoville, Ill. on Tuesday evening.
Loyola moves to 16-5 (6-1) this season and firms its stand on second place in the MIVA with the win. Lewis drops to 15-7 and 3-3 in the conference. The Ramblers have now won six straight matches over the Flyers.
In the first set, Lewis jumped out to a 6-3 lead after picking up a trio of kills from outside hitter Jay Petty, along with three team service aces. Bunting and the Ramblers quickly responded when the junior and Dainis Berzins each picked up a kill to tie the set at 8-8. The Flyers regained the lead at 14-13, and then increased the advantage to four at 18-14. After a Rambler timeout, Bunting and Joseph Smalzer answered back with a pair of kills to cut the Flyer lead to two. Ahead 18-16, Lewis managed a late-run by scoring six of the next nine points to close out the first set 25-19.
The teams traded points early in set two, before Loyola took its first lead of the match at 10-7. Three Flyer points a short time later tied the set at 10-10, forcing a Rambler timeout. After the 60-second break, Smalzer powered a pair of kills, while Lewis forced four errors to give Loyola a 16-12 lead. The Ramblers stepped up their game the rest of the set, putting together a 7-2 run to move the score to 23-15. To close the set, Berzins posted a kill and the Flyers managed an error, giving the Ramblers a much needed second frame win, 25-15.
Loyola continued its fine play in the third set by moving out to a 5-1 advantage. Smalzer managed two kills and a dig to lead the attack. As seen the second frame, Loyola increased its advantage to six, then eight after Smalzer and Bunting continued to find holes in the Flyer defense. With Loyola ahead 21-13, Berzins became a one-man blocking wall after forcing two Flyer attacks back the other direction. At set point, Lewis took a Mike Hutz serve and spiked the ball right to a waiting Smalzer, who dropped a block down into Flyer territory, giving Loyola the 25-15 frame win.
In the fourth set, Lewis made adjustments to its lineup and stormed ahead 6-1. The Ramblers closed the gap to three at 14-11 after Bunting added two kills and the Loyola frontline totaled two blocks. The comeback effort wasn't enough, however, as the Flyers spread the ball around to all sides of the court and forced the match into a final frame after winning set four, 25-17.
In the fifth and deciding set, the teams traded points up until 5-5, when the Ramblers broke through and picked up two kills from Smazler and a blocking error from Lewis to take a 8-5 lead. Lewis responded with a kill on the next play to close the gap to two, but that was as close as they would come. The Ramblers returned to their outside attack, and the move paid off, as the visitors closed with four kills to win the final frame, 15-11.
Bunting paced Loyola with 19 kills, while Smalzer posted 15. Hutz finished with the evening with 42 assists and nine digs in the win. This is the second time this season Loyola beat Lewis in five sets.