Loyola Tops IPFW, 3-1, In Regular-Season Finale
FORT WAYNE, Ind. - No. 14 Loyola found revenge against IPFW tonight at the Gates Sports Center with a four-set victory (18-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-21), spoiling senior night for the Mastodons and finishing the regular season with an 8-4 MIVA record (18-11 overall).
Loyola got off to a slow start, losing the first set 25-18. The two teams traded points to open the match. With the score tied at 10, IPFW tallied consecutive points to establish a solid lead that it would hold for the remainder of the set. After Mike Bunting notched a kill to make it 18-21, the Mastodons went on a four-point run to finish the set.
The Ramblers came off strong in the second set and never looked back. At the 3-6 mark, consecutive kills from Bunting followed by a pair of service aces from Joseph Smalzer set the Ramblers in motion for a comeback. Steve Thompson blasted two aces to push the score to 13-8. Dainis Berzins sandwiched a pair of kills around that of Bunting to close out the set, 25-18.
In the third set, Loyola jumped to an 8-5 on a kill from Eric Daliege. A block from Corey Frain brought the Mastodons back to a 16-15 score but Smalzer, Berzins, and Bunting each notched points to bring the Ramblers back to a safe lead (21-16). After a Berzins kill brought the game to set point, Bunting followed with a service ace for a 25-20 end.
Loyola opened the final set with an 8-5 edge. Berzins tallied a kill at 13-10 and again at 16-13 to maintain the Rambler lead. Bunting and Berzins scored back-to-back shots for a five-point lead at 20-15. IPFW fought back with kills from Ramon Burgos and Omar Rivera but Bunting and Thompson set a block to put the Ramblers back on course. IPFW dodged two match points before Bunting put away the final kill.
Berzins led the Ramblers with 15 kills and 12 digs on the night while hitting for a .520 success rate. Bunting tallied a match-high 16 kills and also added three service aces. Smalzer pitched in eight kills and four aces while Daliege and Thompson gathered four blocks each. Loyola played without three usual starters, who were suspended due to a violation of team rules.
With an 8-4 conference record, the Ramblers end the regular season with a third-place ranking, positioning them as a first round host for the MIVA Tournament which begins next week Friday. Loyola will host IPFW on April 20 at 7:00 p.m. CST.