CHICAGO - Loyola (16-10, 7-3 MIVA) rallied back from a two-set deficit to upset No. 6 Lewis (19-5, 5-2) in five sets tonight at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers took the hard-fought match by scores of 24-26, 25-27, 25-19, 25-20, and 15-12 to split the season series against the Flyers.
In the first set, early errors gave the Flyers a 12-8 lead. Paced by kills from Joseph Smalzer, the Ramblr fought back to draw even at 15. Mike Bunting tallied four kills in the final minutes to help Loyola stay in the race, including the point for the 24-24 tie. After an attack error by Smalzer, Lewis' Matt Gallik finished the game with a kill.
After a Bunting kill tied the score at five in the second set, Lewis scored eight of the next 10 points to race out to a 13-7 lead. Kills from Ian Karbiener and Petty kept a solid lead for the Flyers throughout most of the set. Similar to the first, Loyola evened the score late, this time at 25-25, but Lewis recorded back-to-back points for a 27-25 victory.
Loyola looked steady coming into the third set, seemingly unfazed by the shortfalls. Behind the serve of Steve Thompson, the Maroon and Gold jumped to a 7-3 lead. Bunting and Smalzer combined for multiple kills to push the Rambler lead even farther. Smalzer connected for repeated kills and Thompson put up a solo block to set a 21-13 score. Lewis won the next four points, including two service aces from Jay Petty, to come within three. Bunting launched the kill to bring about set point. A Flyer service error closed out the set, giving Loyola a 25-19 victory to spark the ultimate comeback.
Loyola built a 7-4 lead in the fourth set with help from Bunting and Thompson. Smalzer extended the Rambler lead to 12-7 and then again at 17-11 with kills from the outside. The Flyers answered with three consecutive points to bring the score within 22-19. Smalzer notched his 22nd kill of the night to close out the set, 25-20.
The decisive set was a tight race from start to finish, featuring nine tie scores and five lead changes. Neither team. With the score tied at four, Lewis rattled off three unanswered points to take a 7-4 lead. Smalzer and Bunting notched a trio of kills to eliminate the gap. The teams traded points to until Loyola broke away from a 12-12 tie. After an attack error by Petty placed the game at match point, Caldwell capped the comeback with an ace.
Smalzer once again turned in a record-setting performance, blasting a career-best 26 kills in the match, while also tallying 10 digs for his second double-double of the season. Bunting collected 18 kills and Caldwell added eight. Matt Mirick chipped in a personal-best 60 assists to quarterback the offense.
The Ramblers face another ranked opponent on Friday when they travel to Columbus, Ohio and battle the No. 10 Buckeyes. The match is set to begin at 6:00 p.m. CST and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.