May 2, 2013
LOS ANGELES - Third-seeded Loyola gave second-seeded UC Irvine all it could handle but the defending NCAA champions won the key points to earn a 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 29-27) win over the Ramblers tonight in a national semifinal at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. Loyola, who advanced to the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history, sees its season end with a 22-10 record. Irvine (24-7) advances to Saturday night's championship match against the BYU/Penn State winner.
The opening set was close throughout with an Irvine service error and a Joe Smalzer kill giving the Ramblers an 8-6 lead. The Anteatersbattled back to tie at 11 but the Ramblers regained a two-point lead later on another Smalzer kill and they took a 20-17 lead late in the set after a Cody Caldwell put-away. Although Irvine rattled off the next four points to regain the lead, Loyola had the first crack at the set after an Eric Daliege kill gave LU a 24-23 advantage. A Colin Mehring kill erased the opportunity and kills from Scott Kevorken and Zack La Cavera gave UCI the opening set, 26-24.
A Peter Hutz ace gave the Ramblers a 9-7 lead in the second set but Irvine battled back to take a 15-14 lead at the technical timeout. The teams traded points to 16-15 before the Anteaters closed the set with a flurry, rattling off nine of the last 12 points, taking a 2-0 lead in the match with a 25-18 triumph. After hitting .308 in the first set, Loyola hit just .062 in the second with Caldwell providing four of the team's 10 kills.
Irvine scored the first three points of the third set as it looked to put the match away but two Caldwell kills stemmed the tide. The Ramblers still faced a 9-4 deficit but began to slowly chip away. A Thomas Jaeschke ace followed kills from Smalzer and Caldwell to make it a 12-10 game and an Anteater error later pulled LU within a point, 18-17. A Mehring kill gave UCI three match points with a 24-21 lead but the Ramblers made one last push. A Jaeschke kill erased the first one and Smalzer found the floor to make it 24-23. Irvine hit wide to send the set to extra points where kills from Daliege and Jaeschke gave the Ramblers a set point with a 26-25 lead. A service error even the frame at 26 and an Irvine service error gave LU yet another chance to send the match to a fourth set. However, a Connor Hughes kill made it 27-all and the Anteaters closed it out with a block and another Hughes kill.
Caldwell led the way for Loyola with 12 kills while Smalzer added 11 kills and six digs. Kevin Tillie led Irvine with 14 kills.
Loyola now sets its sights on returning to the 2014 NCAA Championship, which it will host at Gentile Arena.