Jan. 19, 2013
CHICAGO – It was a team effort for Loyola University Chicago on Saturday night, as the Ramblers defeated George Mason, 3-0 (25-21, 28-26, 25-23). Through a well-balanced attack and strong defensive play, Loyola was able to extend its four-game win streak as it heads into its final East Coast match against Penn State on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Freshman Nicholas Olson (New Berlin, Wis.) had a breakout game, posting a career-best five total blocks and putting away seven kills. Joseph Smalzer (Palos Heights, Ill.) led the attack with 13 kills and collected four total blocks, while Diego Rodriguez (Oak Park, Ill.) finished with 34 assists.
The first set started with the teams vying for the lead, battling closely as they settled into play. A block by Rodriguez and Eric Daliege (Orland Park, Ill.) initiated a 6-1 run for Loyola, highlighted by three consecutive service aces from Smalzer.
With the Ramblers in the lead, 14-8, George Mason took advantage of Loyola errors, coming within two, 16-14. A timeout by Loyola gave the team a chance to regroup and Daliege returned to play, connecting with Rodriguez to put away a kill and stop the Patriot run. Errors plagued both teams at the close of the set, but Loyola took the first frame, 25-21, holding the Patriots to a .053 hitting percentage.
The second set played out much different with no team taking clear control of the match. A kill by Daliege followed by a block from Olson and Rodriguez put Loyola ahead, 8-4, but George Mason would rally, tying the game 14-all. The teams stayed within two of each other, swapping the lead eight times. With George Mason ahead, 26-25, Loyola rebounded as Smalzer knocked down a kill to tie the set, 26-all. Dainis Berzins (Brinklow, Md.) immediately followed with a kill of his own and Smalzer capped the late 3-0 run with another kill to give Loyola the second set, 28-26.
The Ramblers started the third and final set with Thomas Jaeschke (Wheaton, Ill.) putting away a kill followed by a block from Smalzer and Daliege to give the team a 2-0 lead. George Mason battled hard to stay in it, but Smalzer had other plans, knocking down four kills to extend Loyola’s lead, 11-7.
The Patriots worked to regroup, capitalizing on a trio of Rambler errors to trail, 12-11. A timeout by Loyola halted the Patriots comeback as the Ramblers won the battle at the net, making a 4-1 run ending with a solo block from Olson. A final kill by Daliege followed by a trio of errors from George Mason allowed Loyola to take the win, 25-23.
“The match went back-and-forth with both teams grinding it out and playing well,” said head coach Shane Davis. “Fortunately, we had a few players come up with some big plays at the end of the second set to give us the final set point. It was a hard-fought battle and it was great to see the team stay clam and execute the game plan.”
Loyola concludes its East Coast trip on Tuesday, Jan. 22, when the Ramblers take on No. 6 Penn State at Alumni Gym. First serve is set for 6 p.m. CST.