With two weeks left in the regular season, the IPFW men's volleyball team has a lot more to worry about than the bruises left from a 3-0 loss to No. 1-ranked Loyola on Saturday. The Volleydons' spirit is crushed and so might be team unity.
The No. 14 Volleydons never challenged the Ramblers who won their 19th straight match at Gates Sports Center. Actually, IPFW lost this match before it ever started because the Volleydons, 17-6, have not recovered from losing Thursday night at No. 11 Lewis where IPFW led 13-7 in the deciding fifth game before falling apart.
Still stinging, the Volleydons never got started on Saturday as the Ramblers dominated from the first serve. With almost everyone back from an NCAA Tournament team, the Ramblers have been building several years toward this season. They have five seniors on a big, powerful team that doesn't make many mistakes with the exception of a few service errors.
Height and athletic ability allows Loyola to play the game on a higher level, and dominate the net and smother opposing offenses. It was Loyola's fast-paced sets against IPFW's slow-paced dishes, and the Ramblers blockers were waiting in the air for the IPFW hitters to swing. Defensively, IPFW couldn't guess quick enough to get in the way at the net or in the backcourt as Loyola's hitters held target practice.
The Volleydons were consistently off-balance. No part of IPFW's game was comparable to the Ramblers' efficiency. IPFW coach Arnie Ball would call a play during a timeout, and the Loyola blockers were usually waiting to swat it back.
After getting blown out 25-20 and 25-13 in the first two games, IPFW rallied somewhat in the third to tie 17-17, but the Ramblers simply raised their level of play and were too consistent to win 25-22.
The Ramblers hit 42 percent to IPFW's 9 percent as Thomas Jaeschke, Joe Smalzer and Cody Caldwell each hit double-figure kills and setter Peter Hutz finished with 38 assists. The Ramblers had 11 blocks and 36 digs compared to IPFW's four and 24.
After the second game was completed, IPFW star Eddie Rivera stormed away from a team huddle. Following the match, IPFW coach Ball left one way, setter Omar Rivera sat away from his teammates as they signed autographs and Eddie Rivera separated himself from everyone to sit under the bleachers.
With two weeks left in the regular season, the loss drops IPFW to 6-5 in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. IPFW needs a win at Ohio State on Thursday or it likely won't host a match in the conference tournament. Even if the Volleydons can survive a quarterfinal match, they'll have to play the Ramblers at Loyola in the MIVA semifinals.