CHICAGO - Despite putting up 12.5 blocks against a heavy offense, the No. 14 Loyola men's volleyball team fell to No. 6 Penn State tonight at Gentile Arena in three sets (25-21, 25-21, 26-24). The Ramblers fall to 3-5 on the season while Penn State climbs to 2-0.
Penn State snuck out to a 3-1 lead in the first set but Loyola battled back with kills from Mike Bunting and Danny Podkowato set the score at 5-7 The Nittany Lions pushed to a six-point lead at 10-16 on a kill by Tom Comfort. Out of a timeout, the teams traded points until three consecutive kills from Jace Olsen extended PSU's lead to 22-14. A kill from Bunting, sandwiched between two from Joe Smalzer, helped the Ramblers fight off five-set points before Sunder ended the match for the Nittany Lions at 25-21.
The second set started just like the first with PSU taking the 3-1 lead. A triple block formed by Bunting, Podkowa and Matt Mirick tied the score at six and a kill from Smalzer tied it up again at nine. Eric Daliege combined with Cody Caldwelland Smalzer and again with Mirick for back-to-back blocks, allowing Loyola to creep within four at 21-17. Penn State's Aaron Russell put away the final kill of the set for a 25-21 end.
Amping up the intensity, the third set showcased 11 tie scores and five lead changes. A service error from PSU's Joe Sunder gave the Maroon and Gold its first lead of the night at 3-1. Smalzer pushed Loyola to a four-point, 11-7, advantage but Penn State worked for a comeback and tied the score at 14. The serve went back-and-forth in the final stretch. It looked as if Loyola was poised for set victory after a Nittany Lion service error at 24-23, but a kill by Olsen tied the score, and Bunting and Caldwell committed attack errors to give Penn State the match.
Smalzer led the offense for the Ramblers with 10 kills. Bunting added eight kills and team-high six digs. Daliege paced the defense, posting six blocks, while Smalzer and Podkowa garnered five block assists each.
Loyola will continue its homestand next weekend against George Mason and St. Francis (Pa.). The Ramblers will host the Patriots on Friday, Jan. 27 before playing the Red Flash on Saturday, Jan. 28. Both games begin at 7:00 p.m. CST.