Volleyball men sweep home opener in a flash against Saint Francis

Loyola’s men’s volleyball team (1-2) defeated Saint Francis University 3-0 to take its first win of the 2022 season at Gentile Arena on January 14. Loyola entered the game as number 8 in the nation in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll.

The win comes after the Ramblers dropped both of their road games to the No. 1 University of Hawaii on January 5 and 7. The January 14 game served as Loyola ‘s home opener after the previously scheduled game against University of California Irvine on January 1 was canceled .

“We are of course very happy with the result,” said Loyola head coach Mark Hulse. “I don’t know if anyone has ever played a match against Saint Francis that wasn’t hard and hard fought… I thought the [team] did a good job processing the scouting report… we did a really good job on our side.”

The Ramblers took the lead early in the first set thanks to a kill from red shirt senior setter Garrett Zolg. From then on, Loyola continued to take the lead with help from sophomore outside hitter Parker Van Buren, who contributed six kills in the set.

The Red Flash rallied for a 5-0 scoring run to close in on Loyola 19-17, but the offensive effort proved not enough for Saint Francis to make a comeback. The Ramblers took the first set 25-20.

A service foul by Saint Francis gave Loyola the first point of the second set, but the Ramblers didn’t take the lead straight away. The two teams went back and forth, but a service ace and a kill from Van Buren gave Loyola a 6-5 lead.

After that, Loyola never gave up the lead to Saint Francis and captured the second set 25-17. Junior outside hitter Colton Brooks threw six kills, while Van Buren added five more and Zolg contributed 12 assists.

The third set was much closer, with the scoreboard tied ten times throughout the set. An offense by Brooks tied the game at 20-20, but Loyola was able to take the lead thanks to a Red Flash service foul that gave the Ramblers the momentum to finish the set 25-21.

Van Buren led Loyola in scoring by hitting .593 and scored 19 points on 17 kills. Brooks was behind him and contributed 10 kills. Meanwhile, Zolg led both teams in batting and assists with .667 in batting and 33 assists.

The January 14 match was Van Buren’s first to play in Gentile, which he says added an extra level of excitement.

“Even though it’s my second year, I wouldn’t have had the honor of playing in Gentile,” said Van Buren. “It was great to be there. It was super sweet to put on a bunch of kills, and it was really easy because our [passers] just dropped dimes.”

Loyola will continue his three-game homestand on Jan. 15 against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Despite the quick turnaround, Hulse said the team will have time to recover and prepare before meeting its next competitor.

The first service is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the match will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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