On the heels of a stirring, five-set win over Lewis in Saturday night’s Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) final, Loyola will face UC Irvine in a national semifinal on Thursday night at 8 p.m. Top-ranked Brigham Young will take on Penn State in the other semi. The matches will be held in Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. Both semifinals will be streamed live on NCAA.com with Saturday night’s championship match airing live on ESPNU.

“UC Irvine has established itself as one of the best programs in the country and have had another great season this year,” says head coach Shane Davis. “Our team has really come together over the last two months, is playing at a high level right now, and are looking forward to the challenge.”

This marks Loyola’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Championship and the Ramblers feature a balanced offensive attack led by 2013 MIVA Player of the Year Joe Smalzer. Smalzer ripped a match-high 20 kills in Saturday’s championship match and he enters the NCAA Championship as the nation’s leader in service aces. Outside hitters Thomas Jaeschke, the MIVA Freshman of the Year, and California native Cody Caldwell provide ample support and each racked up double-doubles against Lewis.

In addition to Caldwell, who grew up in Newport Beach, Loyola features four other Southern California products in Peter Jasaitis (Manhattan Beach), Jeff Patton (Auburn), Torey Darin (Huntington Beach), and Ryan Baine (Landera Ranch).

The teams have met five times previously with Loyola holding a 3-2 edge in the series. However, the Anteaters have won the two most recent meetings, including a 3-0 win in Irvine during the 2009 season.

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