Jan. 2, 2013
CHICAGO - Shane Davisknows he has a team loaded with talent. Entering his tenth season as head coach of Loyola University Chicago, Davis expects nothing short of success. The 2013 Ramblers are a team characterized by a unique mix of experience and youth as they return six starters and debut six newcomers. With fresh faces and seasoned veterans, Loyola has a well-balanced team with a single expectation: to win.
After finishing 19-12 overall in the 2012 campaign, the Ramblers have settled into their positions and continue to improve as they look to make their first NCAA tournament appearance in program history.
Fifth-year seniors Eric Daliege and Kyle Nail, anchor the Loyola squad with their experience at middle hitter. The two players led Loyola in blocking during the 2012 season with Daliege averaging 0.98 blocks per set and Nail with 0.86 blocks per set. Freshman Nicholas Olson adds youth to the mix as he looks to enter the rotation after gaining invaluable experience during the fall season. Also acting as key reserves are redshirt freshman James Zaluski, junior Danny Podkowa and senior Pat Adler.
With the graduation of Mike Bunting, junior Dainis Berzins and sophomore Cody Caldwell look to step up and fill the role of outside hitter. Both players accumulated significant playing time last season as Caldwell posted 200 kills (.229) while Berzins had 188 kills (.254). True freshmen Trevor Novotny and Thomas Jaeschke add considerable depth to the outside hitter position and will battle for playing time along with senior Jeff Patton and sophomore Ryan Baine.
Redshirt junior Joseph Smalzer returns as the top opposite for the Ramblers, garnering Second-Team All-American recognition after being ranked sixth in the nation with 0.49 aces per game and leading Loyola with 337 kills (.279). Smalzer is backed by redshirt sophomore Matt Phillips and junior Torey Darinwho look to continue gaining experience on the court.
In his third year at libero, redshirt junior Peter Jasaitis gives Loyola experience in the back row after ranking second in the nation with 2.73 digs per game. As Jasaitis looks to continue growing in his role he will have the support of redshirt freshman Robert Chilcoat, who makes the transition from outside hitter to libero, and senior Pete Aronchick.
The Ramblers return starting setter Matt Mirick in 2013, but also look to debut true freshman Diego Rodriguez. Mirick saw action in 30 matches last season, recording a career-high 60 assists against Lewis (3/27). The setters will help to define Loyola as both players look to spark the Rambler offense and are backed by freshman Peter Hutz and junior Kevin Maxwell.
As the 2013 season is set to begin, Loyola is poised for success. The Ramblers will battle top teams in the nation as they look to contend for the MIVA championship while also hoping to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth. Loyola opens the season on Friday, Jan. 4 in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the Ramblers will take on Long Beach State at 12 p.m. CST.