Loyola Welcomes Conference Rival Ball State To Gentile Arena

Current team leader Mike Bunting and the Ramblers look for the season sweep over Ball State tonight.

Current team leader Mike Bunting and the Ramblers look for the season sweep over Ball State tonight.

March 20, 2012

CHICAGO -

Loyola Ramblers vs. Ball State Cardinals
March 20, 2012
7:00 p.m. CST
Gentile Arena

PDF Version - Weekly Notes

Last Time Out...
On a day for celebrating the senior class, veteran players dominated the scoreboard as the Loyola men's volleyball team blasted Limestone in straight sets by scores of 25-22, 25-16, 25-20. Mike Bunting finished with a team-high 12 kills while also leading the team with five digs and four service aces. Steve Thompson hit for an impressive .700 average, notching eight kills and Domenic DeWaele collected seven, five in the first set. Dainis Berzins continued his outstanding play, hitting for a career-best .643 percentage and 10 kills on the match, while Matt Mirick and J.J. Pincoski split duties as the setter and gathered 22 and 16 assists, respectively.

Season At A Glance...
After posting an overall record of 21-8 and finishing second in the conference (9-3) last season, the Loyola Ramblers are poised for another successful season and a strong run for the program’s first-ever NCAA appearance. Head coach Shane Davis returns all but one starter to the 2012 squad, including AVCA All-American Mike Bunting and 2011 MIVA Freshman of the Year Joseph Smalzer. Loyola also returns 11 additional letterwinners and welcomes eight newcomers, including Volleyball Magazine’s High School Player of the Year Cody Caldwell (Newport Beach, Calif.).

Ball State Scouting Report...
After being tabbed to tie for fourth in the MIVA conference preseason poll, Ball State has begun the 2012 season with a 12-7 record. Head coach Joel Walton, in his fourteenth year at Ball State, returns 11 letterwinners to the Cardinal roster, including three starters and the libero. Among the veterans are sophomore setter Graham McIlvaine, who was picked as a preseason All-MIVA selection, and 2011 All-MIVA selections Tommy Rouse and Larry Wrather. McIlvaine has collected 519 assists so far this season, while Rouse and Wrather lead the team with 167 digs and 174 kills, respectively. Coming into this week, the Cardinals are fresh off a big five-set upset over No. 10 Ohio State.

Series History...
Earlier this season, the Ramblers battled the Cardinals in Muncie, Ind. Freshman Cody Caldwell led Loyola to a four-set victory, improving its all-time series lead to 21-18 over Ball State.

Berzins’ Breakout...
Loyola men's volleyball sophomore Dainis Berzins (Brinklow, Md./Sherwood) was named MIVA Co-Offensive Player of the Week, sharing the weekly honor with Greg Herceg of Ball State, his breakout efforts in back-to-back sweeps over King and Limestone. Over the two matches, Berzins played well above his season averages, tallying marks of 3.50 kills per set, and 1.17 digs per set, while hitting for an impressive .515 rate of success (21-4-33). Against King, Berzins led the team in almost every category, finishing in a three-way tie for the team-best five digs and collecting four blocks (one solo, three assists). In the victory over the Limestone Saints, Berzins hit a career-best .643 by collecting 10 kills on 14 swings with just one error. The award is a career-first for the outside hitter. It also marks the second week in a row that a Rambler has nabbed the title after Mike Bunting took the top vote last week.

Among The Best...
Many of the Ramblers have established themselves as some of the best in both the conference and the nation. Mike Bunting and Joe Smalzer have led the Rambler offense all season, culminating to sit fifth and seventh in the conference with 3.56 kps and 3.20 kps, respectively. Smalzer is also among the best in serving, holding the top spot among the MIVA and the third spot among the nation with 0.49 service aces per game. Setter Matt Mirick currently sits fourth among MIVA student-athletes and seventh nationwide with a 10.69 assists average, while Eric Daliege dominates all conference players with a .449 hitting percentage. On defense, libero Peter Jasaitis has totaled 181 digs so far this year to lead the conference with a 2.72 digs-per-set average, a statistic that also puts him second nationally.

History In The Making...
Adding this season’s 196 kill total to his previous three years at Loyola, senior Mike Bunting has tallied 1,228 kills while wearing a Rambler jersey to place him fourth among Loyola’s career leaderboard. The next step up the ladder is Ted Groves’ third-place record of 1,435 kills, set during his 1996-2000 collegiate career.

Ace of Cakes, Cup Of Joe...
Last year, Joe Smalzer quickly established himself as a monumental threat when it came to the art of serving, notching 47 service aces throughout the season. With a combined total of 79 service aces during his two-year career, Smalzer is only two aces away from breaking into the career record list by tying Scott Greene’s (2002-2005) record of 81 for the No. 10 spot.

Smalzer has also been an offensive powerhouse for the Ramblers when it comes to the front row attack. Thanks to a six-kill performance against George Mason (2/17), Smalzer has passed the impressive mark of 500 total kills early in his career. So far this season, Smalzer has gathered 208 kills to lead the team on offense, also averaging a second-place 3.20 kills per set.

Set Me Up...
Junior Matt Mirick has taken the place of the graduated Mike Hutz at the starting setter position. A former High School All-American, Mirick competed in 44 sets last season, recording a career-high 24 assists against NJIT on March 19. So far this season, Mirick has dished out 759 assists to his hitters, averaging 10.69 assists per set. Mirick has already more than doubled last season’s personal-best with a 56 assist performance against BYU on Jan. 6. With his total this season, Mirick already ranks sixth Loyola’s all-time career record list.

Fab 50 Freshmen...
It is safe to say that Loyola scored big when it comes to fresh talent this season. In addition to an already strong core of returning players, the Ramblers added seven newcomers to the 2012 roster (two transfers and five true freshmen). All five freshmen, namely Ryan Baine, Cody Caldwell, Robert Chilcoat, Kurtis Mirick, and James Zaluski, were designated to Volleyball Magazine’s ‘Fab 50’ recruits from the 2011 senior class. Loyola was the only school to sign five ‘Fab 50’ players, claiming the second most of any school, trailing Pepperdine and USC who each welcomed seven to their respective squads.