Despite a number of unforeseen injuries, the Loras College men’s volleyball team still executed three game sweeps making their overall record 17-4, the most wins in program’s history. After picking up two conference wins, the team has tunnel vision on post season.
“Even with all the recent injuries, we are a deep team and have a bunch of people who can step up and fill into positions,” said sophomore setter Patrick Hollander. “The connections that all of our hitters have with our setters makes the transition much easier, especially when people get banged up.”
Last Friday, March 15, Loras took on Men’s Collegiate Volleyball League Conference match-up Olivet College here at the Athletic and Wellness Center on Lillis Court. The team was able to hold Olivet’s top hitter to only six kills. This was definitely a game of runs with Loras going on a 5-0 run in the middle of the first set to level at 14 all.
Another 3-0 run by Loras finished the first set 25-23. Then, the Duhawks opened the second set with a 4-0 run which eventually turned into a 14-3. The Duhawks then scored 11 of the next 18 points to win 25-10. Olivet wasn’t giving up that easily, in the third set they were hanging with the Duhawks until about 15-12 when Loras pulled away making it 18-12. First-year middle hitter Patrick Mahoney came off the bench to finish the game off, putting away three kills on three swings, including the match winner at 25-17.
Ooms led the team with 11 kills while sophomore outside-hitter Mihajlo Gomez led the team in digs with 12. Junior middle blocker Ian Walsh finished with a season high of seven blocks and seven kills on the night. Hollander stepped up as senior setter Alfredo Lopez sat this weekend out with a torn hip-flexor. He is expected to return next week.
“I think with a solid week of practice and the trust that my hitters have with me, that coming off the bench wasn’t a problem,” said Hollander. “It felt good to begin out there and I was just trying to give everyone the best opportunity to be successful and they did a great job swinging.”
Hollander finished with a career-high of 42 assists on Friday and then reset the record with 47 assists on Saturday against Adrian College. The 3-0 (25-23, 25-10, 25-17) victory sparked the fire Loras needed to take down their other two opponents on Saturday, March 16, Adrian College, and North Park University of Chicago. Gomez fueled the fire starting out with 3 consecutive aces and leading a 4-0 run to set the score 5-1 early in the game.
The Duhawks started the second set with a 4-1 run. Adrian tried to start a spark with a 4-0 run which cut the lead to two, 17-15. Loras carried this set out 25-20. Hollander started the third set strong with a 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs battled back but Loras once again broke away and finished the set 25-17.
Loras also left the switch on for North Park. The two teams have met previously and Loras won in three last time. This time was the same thing, Loras finished the weekend winning in three and was able to execute with getting almost all the players on the bench into the game. The Duhawks are now preparing for two high level conference games this weekend against North Central College and Carthage College, which were two teams ranked higher than them last year at the Conference tournament.
“I’m looking forward to this next weekend to see if we are the team we like to say we are,” said Ooms. “We are facing the No. 1 team in the nation in Carthage and another top 10 team with North Central. If we play well against them, I believe it can be a turning point for our season that could lead us to great success.”