CHICAGO – Junior Mike Bunting fired 18 kills and managed four digs, as the No. 2 seed Loyola men’s volleyball team ousted No. 6 Quincy, 3-1 in the 2011 MIVA Tournament Semifinals on Wednesday evening in Chicago. The contest was the final Rambler sporting event played in Alumni Gym. For the second consecutive year, Loyola advances to the MIVA Tournament Championship match, where they will once again face the No. 1 seed Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, April 30 at 6:00 p.m. CT.
With the win, Loyola has won eight of its last 10 matches, and moves its 2011 record to 21-7 overall. The Ramblers are now 207-38 all-time at home, and 31-4 against Quincy. Despite the loss, the Hawks finish the season with a school-record 22 wins to 14 losses.
Looking to move out quickly in the match, Loyola did just that in the first set, taking a 7-4 lead after picking up two kills each from Bunting and Joseph Smalzer. Quincy flew back a short time later and tied the contest at 10-10, thanks to a kill from Hawk Kyle Volstad and a Loyola error. The teams traded point until 13-13, when the Ramblers broke through with a 6-2 run to take the lead at 19-15. Taking the lead up to set point, Loyola ended the frame when Smalzer picked up an accurate pass from Steve Thompson, then fired a spike to win set one, 25-19.
In the second set, the Ramblers started slow and fell behind early 9-12. Before Quincy could increase its lead, Loyola stormed back with three straight points to tie the set at 12-12. After trading serves up to 15-15, the Hawks forced an error and Bunting powered a kill to give the home team a two-point lead at 17-15. Increasing the margin to three at 24-21, Loyola once again returned to Smalzer, who received a pass this time from Mike Hutz and finished with a powerful kill to give the Ramblers a 25-21 second set win.
Seeking to close out the contest, Loyola begin set three strong, earning a kill from Hutz and forcing two Hawk errors to take a 5-3 lead. Unfortunately, the advantage wouldn’t last. Quincy evened the contest at 5-5 and didn’t let go of the lead the rest of the frame. The visitors drew its biggest advantage at 18-13, and finished the set with three kills in the final six plays to win outright 25-22.
In the fourth and would be final frame at Alumni Gym, the Ramblers and Hawks continued to battle for points early on, with Loyola taking a one-point advantage at 10-9. From here, the home team turned up the heat. After two Quincy attack errors, Loyola played off Quincy's struggles, and paced forward to a 15-11 lead. At 20-15, Hutz passed another picture perfect set to a waiting Smazler, who fired one of his 10 kills to make it a five-point contest at 21-16. Despite a late Quincy timeout, the Ramblers saw the end in sight, and on the final play in Alumni Gym, Thompson leaped forward at midcourt and dialed in with a strong kill to close out the set, 25-19.
The Rambler offense put forth its best showing in two weeks on Wednesday, posting a .431 hitting percentage. Bunting notched a game-high 18 kills in the win. Eric Daliege played near perfect with 12 kills, while hitting .846 against the Hawks. For the final time at home, Hutz left on a high note, adding 46 assists and nine digs.
Loyola will now return to the practice court to prepare for Ohio State, with the winner advancing to the 2011 NCAA Final Four. In the 2010 championship match, the Buckeyes came back from a 1-2 match score to beat the Ramblers, 3-2 in Columbus.
Saturday’s championship match will be streamed live free of charge on “Buckeye Vision.” Check back to loyolaramblers.com for more information.