The Ramblers look to extend a three-game winning streak against Grand Canyon this weekend.
 
The Ramblers look to extend a three-game winning streak against Grand Canyon this weekend.
 
 
Men's Volleyball Poised For Weekend Series At Grand Canyon

March 22, 2012

CHICAGO -

Loyola at Grand Canyon
March 23 & 24, 2012
8:00 p.m. CST
Phoenix, Ariz.

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.).

Grand Canyon Scouting Report...
In his second season as head coach, Jeremy Price has guided the Antelopes to a 14-9 overall record so far this season. Among those returning to the roster are Trent Bruns, an All-MIVA First Team player, and  Ben Ponnet. Bruns, who was tabbed to repeat his post-season honor with a preseason All-MIVA selection, currently holds 192 digs for the ‘Lopes. Ponnet has tallied 318 kills to rank ninth in the nation with 3.83 kps. Grand Canyon has taken the conference top spot with a series sweep over IPFW last weekend.

Series History...
Loyola is undefeated against Grand Canyon, having won all eight of the previous match-ups. The two teams last met in the opening round of the 2011 MIVA Conference Tournament where Loyola came away with the sweep to advance.

Catching Fire...
Having won the past three straight matches, tying its longest streak of the season, the Ramblers might be finally hitting their groove this season, and with perfect timing too. The next few weeks are crucial for Loyola if they want to keep their NCAA hopes alive. After two weekend matches against Grand Canyon this weekend, the team moves to face its biggest conference threats, No. 6 Lewis and No. 10 Ohio State on Tuesday and Friday of next week, respectively.

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, for 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.

History In The Making...
Adding this season’s 202 kill total to his previous three years at Loyola, senior Mike Bunting has tallied 1,234 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. After tallying four service aces Tuesday against Ball State, Smalzer has solidified a spot among the career record list. His 83-ace total places him tenth on the list, with the next step, held by Ted Groves, only two marks away.

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 230 kills to lead the team on offense, also averaging a second-place 3.33 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 801 assists to his hitters, averaging 10.68 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.