QUINCY, Ill. – In the first of a two-game series against Quincy this weekend, the No. 12 Loyola men’s volleyball team couldn’t shut the door on a 2-1 match lead, allowing the Hawks to take the final two sets and earn a 3-2 upset win on Friday evening at Pepsi Arena in Quincy, Ill.
With the loss, Loyola limps to 18-7 overall this season (8-3 MIVA). The Ramblers have dropped two of their last three decisions. After winning its first two conference matches last weekend, Quincy adds win number three to its conference total, improving to 21-12 (3-8 MIVA). The Hawks beat the Ramblers for the first time since Feb. 24, 2001.
In the first set, the teams traded points up until 6-6, when Steve Thompson fired a kill to give Loyola its first lead at 7-6. Quincy answered back a few points later to even the frame at 14-14. On the ensuing two plays, Thompson added another kill, followed by a Dainis Berzins spike to give the Ramblers another lead at 16-14. Down a pair, the Hawks marched back and again evened the contest, taking the set to extra points at 24-24. Looking to close out the frame, Loyola found production from its outside unit, as Joseph Smalzer and Berzins teamed up for back-to-back kills to give the visitors the set win, 26-24.
After falling in set one, Quincy stormed out to a 10-5 advantage early in set two, feeding off Rambler attack errors, while picking up a pair of kills from its frontline. Despite the slow start, Loyola fired back, evening the score at 15-15 thanks to kills from Smalzer, Berzins and Eric Daliege. Trading points until 21-21, the Hawks broke through late in the frame after receiving two kills and two errors from Loyola to win the frame, 25-23.
While the teams altered their game plans at the intermission, the match’s back and forth rhythm didn’t change, as the third set featured 14 ties and six lead changes. All even at 22-22, Loyola found two kills from Smalzer and another from Berzins, good enough for a 27-25 Rambler third set win.
With a 2-1 match lead, Loyola looked to sneak away with the win in the fourth set, moving ahead 7-3 early on. On the opposite of the net, however, Quincy had other plans. The home team fought off numerous Rambler attacks and fired a game-high .500 hitting percentage in the set, leading to a 25-17 fourth frame win and forcing a fifth set.
In the final frame, Quincy took a 4-2 lead and increased its advantage to six at 10-4. Down, but not out, Smalzer, Thompson and Domenic DeWaele put together an 8-3 Rambler run to put the visitors back into the match. Although Dewaele added another kill, the Hawks closed the match with a kill and earned a point off a Rambler error to win the set, 15-13.
Smalzer led the Rambler attack, tying a career-high with 21 kills. Thompson played well in the middle with a career-high 14 kills. Tommy Becker managed a career-high 27 digs against the Hawks. Despite their efforts, Loyola only managed a .216 hitting percentage on Friday.
The teams return to the court tomorrow afternoon, as both will finish their respective 2011 regular season in the final match of the weekend series at 2:00 p.m. CST.