COLUMBUS, Ohio - Despite taking the first set in impressive fashion, the Loyola men's volleyball team couldn't fight off a rejuvenated Ohio State squad, as the Buckeyes won the next three frames with a balanced offensive attack en route to a 3-1 win over the Ramblers in the 2011 MIVA Tournament Championship on Saturday evening at St. John's Arena. Loyola finishes the 2011 season 21-8 overall. Ohio State returns to the NCAA Final Four for the fourth straight year.
Loyola moved out to a 7-4 first set lead, highlighted by an Eric Daliege block and Joseph Smalzer kill. After Ohio State charged back and tied the frame at 9-9, Daliege and Smalzer each blasted a kill to give the Ramblers a two-point advantage at 13-11. Loyola took the lead to 16-14, before the Buckeyes once again evened the set at 16-16 after picking up back-to-back kills. On the ensuing series, Dainis Berzins added a kill and solo block, and the Buckeyes posted an error, creating a three-point Rambler advantage at 22-19. Forcing set point, the visitors picked up a kill on the final play from Mike Bunting to close set one with a win, 25-22.
In the second frame, the teams traded points up to 9-9, before a kill from John Klanac gave the Buckeyes a one-point lead at 10-9. The home team increased the advantage to two at 13-11, when Loyola was whistled for blocking in the net. After a Rambler timeout, the Ohio State frontline continued its fine play in the second set, picking up a block and forcing a Rambler attack error to take a six-point lead at 17-11. At 19-13, Bunting helped Loyola cut the Buckeye advantage to three at 23-20 after posting a trio of kills. Despite the late Rambler run, Ohio State closed the frame with two powerful spikes, leading to 25-20 second set win.
After the 10-minute intermission, Ohio State came out on the attack in the third frame, finding holes in the Rambler defense to jump ahead quickly 7-2. Loyola fought back and made it a three-point contest at 10-7 after Mike Hutz fired a kill and Steve Thompson supplied a service ace. The comeback run was short lived; however, as Ohio State increased its lead to seven at 19-12 after Steven Kehoe and Klanac powered kills for the Buckeyes. Holding the advantage up to set point, Ohio State received the clinching score off a Rambler service ace, ending the third frame victorious, 25-16.
Looking to get back in the match, Loyola moved out in front 4-1 in the fourth set, thanks to an ace from Berzins and kill from Smalzer. As seen in the first frame, Ohio State quickly marched back and tied the set at 4-4. This time around; however, the Ramblers fell behind, rather than match the Buckeye response. Earning key points from the outside attack, Ohio State managed a three-point lead at 15-12 midway through, then increased the advantage to five at 19-14, as Klanac continued to sneak kills past the Rambler blocking unit. Down seven, Loyola made one last comeback attempt, when Bunting blasted a kill off a Hutz set. Unfortunately, Bunting's point was Loyola's last, as Ohio State forced a Rambler error on the final play to win the set, 25-17.
Bunting led the Ramblers with 14 kills and six digs. Smalzer managed 10 kills, while Thompson added seven. In his final game for the Maroon and Gold, Hutz posted 41 assists and three digs.
The Loyola men's volleyball team will now prepare rest and regroup and begin preparing for the 2012 campaign.