CHICAGO - The Loyola men's volleyball team toppled over George Mason to win tonight's match, 3-1, by scores of 25-19, 25-13, 20-25, 25-23. The Ramblers improve to 4-5 with the victory while George Mason falls to 3-3 on the season.
In his first start of the season middle hitter Kyle Nail was a fresh power for the Ramblers in the first set. Nail started off with two kills to help build the Ramblers a 5-2 lead off the whistle. Back-to-back service aces gave the Patriots room to close the gap to 11-10 before senior Mike Bunting pounded a kill that sparked a four-point run that put Maroon and Gold on top 15-10. Rambler attack errors and kills from GMU's Andrew Dentler allowed the Patriots to once again creep back to 22-18. Out of a timeout, Nail put away a kill and soon followed with a fourth to make it set point. An attack error by George Mason closed out the first set 25-19.
Loyola jumped to an 11-3 lead in the second set off of an attack error from Pete Cuppernull. George Mason tried to fight back with a kill from Joe Norton to set the score at 12-5, but that is as close as they would come to the Ramblers. A Cody Caldwell kill made it 17-8 and gave the Ramblers a nine point lead which they would hold for the remainder of the set. Bunting, Eric Daliege, and Joe Smalzer each posted kills in the final rallies to help Loyola to a dominant 25-13 finish.
"Overall I think we did a really good job coming out with a fast start and that was key to the sets we won. We were able to come out right away and make some big plays," said head coach Shane Davis. "In that sense, we have definitely improved since last week and we hope to keep making those improvements as the season goes on."
Out of intermission, George Mason came out hungry for a battle. The two teams kept the score tight at the start of the third, trading points up to an 8-8 tie. After a service error from Matt Mirick and an attack error from Caldwell gave the Patriots a 12-9 lead. A trio of kills from Patriot Mark Jones edged his team out even further for a 21-16 mark. The Ramblers fought off two set points before ultimately falling 20-25 on a kill from Norton.
The final set was another battle in which the teams battled back from small deficits and dueled to a tight end. Down 13-15, Caldwell and Bunting paced a steady comeback, tying the game at 21 and again at 22 before taking the 23-22 lead. A kill from Smalzer made it 24-23 and an attack error from Jones handed the Ramblers the four-set victory.
Caldwell and Smalzer led the Ramblers with 13 kills apiece, while Bunting also reached double-digits by adding 11 kills. Nail ended his season debut with a .462 hitting percentage (8-2-13). Caldwell also paced the defense with 11 digs and Smalzer continued to be a threat with his serve, notching three aces on the night.
The Ramblers are back at Gentile Arena tomorrow night when they host Saint Francis (Pa.) at 7:00 p.m. CST.