CHICAGO - Three Ramblers scooped up double-digit kills en route to a 3-1 victory over the Mastodons tonight in Gentile Arena. After falling in the first set, Loyola came back to win the next three and take the match by scores of 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-19.
Early on it was evident IPFW came up to play, jumping to a 5-1 lead. Loyola slowly crept back to a 12-12 tie and the two teams traded points until IPFW took advantage of Rambler errors to break away (17-19). With the help of a heavy block at 19-22, the Mastodons tallied the next three points to place them close to the win. After a kill by Dainis Berzins and a block from Mike Bunting and Steve Thompson stalled the end, Eddie Rivera put away the win.
The second set showed a tighter beginning as the teams stayed close until a bullet from Eric Daliege gave the Ramblers a three-point advantage at 10-7. Back-to-back kills by Berzins extended the lead to four (13-9) and a six-point run, paced by the serve of Joseph Smalzer, catapulted the Ramblers to 21-15. Another string of errors allowed IPFW to creep back in until Berzins notched the kill to call for set point followed with the finale, ending the second 25-21.
With the score tied at six in the third set, Daliege combined with Matt Mirick for a block that kick-started a breakaway. Berzins and Bunting followed with kills and a service ace from Danny Podkowa set the score at 9-6. Podkowa and Smalzer tallied consecutive kills at 17-12. IPFW used its blocking game, much at the hands of Ramon Burgos and Elon Fyfield, to bring back the tie (20-20). Bunting sandwiched a pair of kills around that of IPFW's Corey Frain to close the set, 25-22.
Loyola shot to a 9-3 lead in the fourth and final set, triggering a timeout from the Mastodon bench. A kill from Fyfield brought the score within three at 12-9 but that is all the Ramblers would allow as they held at least a four-point lead for the remainder of the match. A Bunting kill pushed the score to 17-11 and a bullet from Berzins widened the gap at 22-15. Once again, the Mastodons were able to fight off a set point, but Omar Rivera committed a heartbreaking service error to give the Ramblers the win.
Bunting and Berzins led the Ramblers with 18 and 17 kills, respectively, while Smalzer was the third Rambler to collect double-digit kills with 14. Mirick dished out 39 assists while Jasaitis held as anchor for the defense with 14 digs on the night. The Mastodons put up a fight at the net, collecting 17 team blocks to the Ramblers' nine.
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight going in," said head coach Shane Davis. "You are hardly ever going to beat IPFW in three. They are going to find a way to win. They are going to keep grinding it out and that is what they did here tonight. They are just a great team to play and a fun team to play."
With the win, No. 3 seed Loyola advances to the semifinals of the MIVA tournament next Wednesday where it will face No. 2 seed Lewis. The match will take place in Romeoville, Ill. and is set for 7:00 p.m. CST.