The #5 ranked UCLA men’s volleyball team (6-2) is in the heart of the polar vortex, Chicago, Illinois, to face the #7 Loyola of Chicago Ramblers (6-2) tonight. It’s minus four degrees in Chicago, as of the time of this writing, and feels like -22 with the wind chill. First service is tonight at 5 pm PT.
Hopefully, UCLA Head Coach John Speraw has the team prepared to deal with the weather outside as well as the opponent inside, because Loyola of Chicago is no pushover in men’s volleyball.
In fact, the Ramblers have faced four Top 12 teams so far this season. Of those teams, Loyola has beaten #12 Cal State Northridge in straight sets at Northridge (where UCLA was swept earlier this season) and #6 Pepperdine in a five-set match. The Ramblers have lost to #4 UC Irvine and #9 UC Santa Barbara, both of which are very good teams. Make no mistake, this will be a tough test on the road in every sense.
Last Time Out
It took four sets for UCLA to dispatch UC San Diego (3-6) in La Jolla last Friday night, with UCLA dropping the first set, 20-25, before getting into a groove and winning the next three, 25-17, 25-15, 25-23. The Bruins cannot afford a slow start like that tonight.
Against the Tritons, the Bruins were led by Brandon Rattray, who smashed a career-high 21 kills. Rattray also recorded three service aces. The Bruins hit .449 as a team, while UCSD only managed a .289 average.
Daenan Gyimah also had a great match for the Bruins, recording nine kills to go with four blocks. Gyimah also was outstanding on service, recording two aces, both in the pivotal third set.
Loyola of Chicago
The Ramblers have quickly become a hot team for men’s volleyball in the midwest. Back-to-back National Championships in 2014 and 2015 will do that for a program. Although the Ramblers missed the postseason since then, they have been competitive and were conference champions of the MIVA last year.
This season, Loyola has played a very tough schedule and has gone 2-2 against top teams. Loyola will give UCLA a run for its money on its home court.
The Bruins will need to contain Collin Mahan. Mahan leads the Ramblers in kills (90) and also has twenty blocks, good for second in the team. Mahan also has 13 service aces.
Will Tischler is right behind Mahan for second place in kills with 83. Paul Narup leads Loyola in blocks with 36, and also has a .446 hitting percentage.
The engine behind it all is setter, Garrett Zolg, who averages 10.9 assists per match.
I am not even going to try to call this one. Who knows what the UCLA team is going through outside of volleyball with the weather the way it is in Chicago? Can the Bruins push all of that aside and play well against a tough opponent? I give a slight edge to Loyola. I think that this match goes to five sets but, in my opinion, you can flip a coin as to which team is victorious.
This is your UCLA men’s volleyball versus Loyola open thread. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.