CHICAGO – In the opening round of the 2011 MIVA Tournament, the No. 2 seed Loyola men’s volleyball team took control of the match’s momentum from the opening set and never trailed the entire evening, leading to a 3-0 sweep over the No. 7 seed Grand Canyon on Saturday at Alumni Gym in Chicago.
Loyola blasted 34 kills in the win, moving its 2011 record to 20-7. Grand Canyon finishes the season 8-24 with the loss.
The Ramblers notched a .268 hitting percentage, while holding the Antelopes to a .000 mark. Mike Bunting led Loyola with 11 kills, while hitting .474 in the match. Erik Daliege had seven kills and Joseph Smalzer posted five to go with three service aces. Mike Hutz had another steady evening from the setter’s spot, tailing 29 assists and four digs.
In the first frame, Antelope Taylor Galliano provided Loyola the first point of the match after misfiring on a kill attempt. All tied at 3-3, the Ramblers went on a 3-1 run, picking up two kills from Bunting and another from Steve Thompson to make the score 6-4. The teams traded points until 10-6 in favor of Loyola, when the home team broke through on 8-4 run after forcing six Grand Canyon errors, taking the set to 18-10. As the Ramblers drew set point at 24-15, Antelope Ben Ponnet sailed an attack out of play, giving Loyola a 25-15 first frame win.
After a Daliege kill got the second set rolling for Loyola, the home team took a 7-4 advantage just a few points later off an Antelope attack error. While Grand Canyon cut the Rambler lead to two at 11-9, that is as close as the Antelopes would come in the second frame, as Loyola put on a fierce offensive showing in the middle set. The Ramblers grew the lead to six at 16-10 after Smalzer totaled three-straight service aces midway through frame. Despite a late Grand Canyon run, Bunting fired a kill on set point to give Loyola the set win, 25-22.
In the final set, the Ramblers moved out in front 4-0 after picking up a team block from Thompson and Dainis Berzins, a Smalzer kill and two Antelope errors. Loyola took the lead to 13-10, before Grand Canyon fought back with a kill and forced a Rambler error to make the score 13-12. Ahead only a single point, Loyola put together one of its biggest runs of the 2011 season to end the match. Subbing in Peter Jasaitis to serve, the Ramblers closed on a 12-2 run to win the set 25-14. In the final stretch, the home team caused six Grand Canyon attack errors and Berzins came through with a pair of kills of his own.
Loyola will now prepare for the No. 6 seed Quincy in the MIVA Tournament Semifinals, which takes place on Wednesday, April 27 at Alumni Gym. Match time is set for 7:00 p.m. CT.