Men's Volleyball Ready For IPFW In Final Regular Season Contest

loycMUSTANGS.COM After a hot streak in March, Joe Smalzer was named Loyola's Male Athlete of the Month.
loycMUSTANGS.COM
After a hot streak in March, Joe Smalzer was named Loyola's Male Athlete of the Month.
loycMUSTANGS.COM

April 11, 2012

CHICAGO -

No. 14 Loyola vs. IPFW
April 14, 2012
6:00 p.m. CST
Fort Wayne, Ind.

Weekly Notes PDF Version

Last Time Out...
The No. 14 Loyola men's volleyball team turned in its best performance of the season, blasting 11 service aces and limiting the Lions to a meager .087 hitting percentage, to secure the sweep (25-15, 25-20, 25-11) against Lindenwood last Wednesday in Gentile Arena. Dainis Berzins played spectacular for the Ramblers, leading the team with 13 kills, hitting a .632 (13-1-19) rate of success, and posting two service aces and three blocks. Mike Bunting added 11 kills, one ace, and four digs. As a team, the Ramblers triggered a .342 hitting percentage.

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 seven newcomers, including Volleyball Magazine’s High School Player of the Year Cody Caldwell (Newport Beach, Calif.).

IPFW Scouting Report...
IPFW returns six starts to the 2012 roster, including two All-MIVA second team selections Eddie Rivera and Corey Frain. With a 5-5 conference record (13-12 overall), the Mastodons head into the week on the heels of a redemptive 3-1 victory over Ball State. Senior Ivan Matos leads the IPFW offense with 343 total kills and a 3.99 kill-per-set average on the season. Sophomore Eddie Rivera is also playing well for the Mastodons, having collected 209 kills, including a game-high 15 against the Cardinals.

Series History...
Loyola and IPFW are now tied 19-19 in the all-time series against each other after the Mastodons upset the Ramblers with a 3-2 victory back in February. Mike Bunting led the offensive attack with 17 kills and a .353 hitting percentage while Peter Jasaitis posted a then-career-best 17 digs for the defense.

Tournament Outlook...
With an outlook to finish third in the conference, Loyola is positioned to host one of the first round match-ups. As the rankings stand now, Ball State, IPFW, and Grand Canyon remain in a tight race for the fourth seed. Absent of an upset, the schedule suggests IPFW will come out above the others due to tie-breaker rules. However, all three teams have become known for shake-ups this season (IPFW beat Loyola and Ball State defeated Ohio State, while Grand Canyon topped both the Mastodons and the Cardinals in regular season play). So who will the Ramblers face in the first round? It just may be too soon to tell.

Aces Wild...
As a whole, the Ramblers have collected 125 service aces to rank first in the conference headed into the week’s events. Joe Smalzer, who is closing in on his previous season’s total of 47, leads the team by far with 43 aces and also holds the top spot among the conference with a 0.49 per-set average. Trailing Smalzer is Cody Caldwell with 19. Mike Bunting adds 18 to the collective, while Dainis Berzins and Matt Mirick own 14 and 11, respectively.

Loyola has notched a service ace in all but two matches this season and has tallied four or more in 14 of the last 28 games. The team pulled together a season-high 11 aces against Lindenwood last week.

Back On The Board...
The Ramblers have taken back their place on the AVCA Division I-II Men’s Coaches Top 15 Poll, due largely to its dominating performance against then-No. 6 Lewis on March 27. This week, Loyola received 30 points to earn the No. 14 spot, trailing Pacific at No. 13 by only seven.

Cup Of Joe...
After a record-breaking month in which he set five personal-best marks and reached double-digit kills in seven matches, sophomore Joseph Smalzer has been named Loyola University Chicago's Male Athlete of the Month in March.

Smalzer excelled in 11 March matches, helping Loyola to an 8-3 record by racking up 133 kills (3.69 per set), 56 digs (1.56), 50 assists (1.39), 13 service aces (0.36) and 20 total blocks (0.56), while hitting a blistering .418 (133-39-225).  

On March 27, Smalzer was hailed as the Sports Imports/AVCA Men's Division I-II National Player of the Week after his performance against Ball State and for totaling 30 kills and a staggering .595 (30-2-47) hitting percentage in a pair of victories at Grand Canyon, March 23-24. He also was named Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Offensive Player of the Week on March 26.

Anchoring the Backline...
On defense, libero Peter Jasaitis has totaled 245 digs so far this year, placing him fifth among the program’s season record list. He currently dominates the conference with a 2.72 digs-per-set average and, as of April 8, leads the nation with the same statistic. Jasaitis has had some breakout performances in the past month. On March 23, the California native played for a career-best 18 digs to help the Ramblers claim the series sweep over the Antelopes. In the match against Lewis, he made multiple key saves and scrappy dives to continue the rally against a hard-hitting Flyer offense, tallying 14 digs on the night.  

History In The Making...
Adding this season’s 266 kill total to his previous three years at Loyola, senior Mike Bunting has tallied 1,298 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 (1996-2000).

Block Party...
Junior Eric Daliege has been a combative force for the Ramblers at the net. Boasting eight solo and 82 assisted blocks, the middle hitter reigns as the team-leader in the category with the nearest teammate trailing with 48 blocks (Joseph Smalzer). Earlier this season, Daliege established a new career-best of nine blocks against IPFW (Feb. 24) and recently tied that mark at Grand Canyon on March 23. Headed into the week, Daliege is averaging 0.99 blocks per set, ranking sixth in the MIVA.

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. Mirick broke the 1,000 mark with a 38-assist performance at home against Lindenwood. All together, Mirick has gathered 1,016 assists to his hitters, averaging 10.92 assists per set and already ranks sixth Loyola’s all-time career record list.

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 3.59 kps and 3.50 kps, respectively. Smalzer is also among the best in serving, holding the top spot among the MIVA and the sixth spot among the nation with 0.49 service aces per game. Setter Matt Mirick currently sits first among MIVA student-athletes and fourth nationwide with a 10.92 assists average.

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.