- January 12, 2011
- 10:42 am
- Steve Christensen
Ramblers ready to roll
The Loyola University Chicago men’s volleyball team returns for its 16th season in program history and eighth year under head coach and former Rambler standout Shane Davis. Davis, who is 146-55 all-time at Loyola, has guided the Ramblers to two MIVA regular-season titles (2005, 2006).
In 2010, Loyola finished with a 20-6 overall mark, including a perfect 14-0 record at Alumni Gym. Davis was named co-MIVA Coach of the Year and three Ramblers, Kris Berzins, Mike Hutz,and Mike Bunting, were named to the MIVA All-First Team. Loyola reached the finals of the 2010 MIVA Tournament before falling in the fifth and final set to Ohio State, 3-2.
With four starters returning in 2011, the Ramblers are positioned to make another deep run in this season’s conference tournament, while seeking the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Final Four. Loyola returns 11 letterwinners and welcomes seven newcomers to the 2011 roster, many of whom own All-American credentials. The Ramblers were picked to finish third in the 2011 MIVA Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Outside/Opposite Outside Hitters
Mike Bunting, a junior and 2010 All-MIVA First Team selection, returns for a third year after leading the team with 310 kills and 636 total attacks last season. In 25 matches, the Wyomissing, Pa. native, managed a .314 attack percentage and served 21 aces. Against Ohio State in the MIVA Championship match, Bunting lead Loyola with 16 kills. The 6-4 junior will be looked upon early to lead the Rambler offense.
Junior Domenic DeWaele, a 6-6 lefty from Hamilton, Ont., is back at opposite outside hitter after posting 260 kills and 14 service aces in 23 matches last spring. DeWaele put on a career performance against George Mason (3/26), mustering a team season-high 26 kills and a career-high six blocks. For his efforts last year, he earned All-MIVA Second Team accolades.
Redshirt junior Brendan Styler and junior Ryan Mullsteff will provide experience off the bench, as each saw action in eight matches last season. Styler posted 22 kills, including a season-high six stops against MSOE (1/26) and Quincy (3/6). Mullsteff finished the 2010 campaign with seven kills and nine digs, recording a season-high three kills and three digs at George Mason (2/20).
After losing its top two middle hitters to graduation, Loyola will look for Steve Thompson to step into a starter’s role in 2011. Thompson, a junior from Oak Park, Calif., appeared in 12 matches last season, making 28 kills and 22 block in 23 sets of action. Redshirt sophomore Eric Daliege will serve as Thompson’s backup after seeing game action against MSOE last spring.
Redshirt sophomore Kyle Nail will likely make his first career appearance in 2011, while freshmen Tim Frydendall, Danny Podkowa, and Jonas Stalyga will look to move up the depth chart throughout the season.
Senior Mike Hutz, a four-time academic all-conference member and 2010 MIVA All-First Team recipient, returns as the starting setter after notching 1,108 assists (13.04/set), 174 digs (2.05/set), 69 total blocks, and 27 service aces in 2010. In three seasons, Hutz has posted 3,540 career assists, ranking fourth all-time in school history. The Whitefish Bay, Wis., native was fifth in assists in the MIVA last season.
One of two captains this season, Kyle Exline, a native of Oak Lawn, Ill., will back up Hutz after recording 30 assists and four service aces in 20 matches last spring. J.J. Pincoski brings experience to the position, as the now junior recorded 12 assists in five sets a year ago. Sophomore Matt Mirick and redshirt freshman Joseph Smalzer will provide depth at the position.
Senior Tommy Becker returns as the starting libero a season after posting a career-high 182 digs in 26 matches. A native of Manhattan Beach, Calif., Becker joins Exline as a team captain in 2011.
Not shying away from tough competition, the Ramblers will face one of their toughest schedules in the program’s history. Tough may be an understatement, as Loyola meets the four teams that made up the 2010 Final Four last season.
“I am very excited about this year’s schedule, especially the timing of our matches,” says head coach Shane Davis. “Playing tough non-conference teams like Penn State, BYU, UCLA, Cal State Northridge, and Stanford will help us prepare for our conference matches.”
Finishing 2010 with a perfect home record, the Ramblers will welcome last season’s National Champion Stanford (2/5), along with BYU (2/11), and George Mason (3/18), to Alumni Gym.
“We went undefeated in Alumni Gym last season, and we will need that same home-court advantage this year to try and knock off the defending National Champion, Stanford, and a great BYU team in early February,” Davis says.
Away from Chicago, Loyola will make two notable non-conference road trips, starting in late January with matches against Penn State (1/28) and St. Francis (Pa.) (1/29), and a month later, the Ramblers head west to play Cal State Northridge (3/9) and UCLA (3/11) in California.
Finishing second in the MIVA last season with a 10-2 record, the Ramblers will once again face each conference opponent twice this spring, meeting IPFW, Ohio State, Lewis, Quincy, Ball State, and Grand Canyon in a home-home series.
Loyola’s final six matches come against conference teams. The 2011 MIVA Tournament begins April 23, with the winner advancing to the 2011 NCAA Final Four in State College, Pa., May 5 and 7.
Click here for the full season schedule.