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Host Loyola has eyes on NCAA volleyball prize

Loyola's Thomas Jaeschke (25) spikes ball over hands Lewis' B.J. Boldog Bobby Walsh (15). | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media

Loyola's Thomas Jaeschke (25) spikes the ball over the hands of Lewis' B.J. Boldog and Bobby Walsh (15). | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media

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THE SCHEDULE

At Gentile Arena, Loyola

Tuesday

• No. 3 Stanford vs. No. 6 Erskine, 6 p.m.

• No. 4 Lewis vs. No. 5 Penn State, 8 p.m.

Thursday (coverage on NCAA.com)

• No. 2 BYU vs. Stanford/Erskine, 6 p.m.

• No. 1 Loyola vs. Lewis/Penn State, 8 p.m.

Saturday (coverage on ESPNU)

• Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.

The timing for the NCAA men’s volleyball championship being held this week at Loyola couldn’t be
better for Ramblers coach Shane Davis. It also couldn’t be worse.

Davis has his best team in 11
seasons, and Loyola is the top-ranked team in the country going into the first NCAA championship of any kind being hosted by a Chicago university. He also is about to become a father for the second time any day now.

‘‘Hopefully it all works out,’’
Davis said.

It certainly has this season for the Ramblers (27-1), who will face No. 4 Lewis or No. 5 Penn State in the semifinals Thursday. The final is scheduled for Saturday.

‘‘It’s been a dream season,’’ Davis said. ‘‘The stars aligned as far as our chemistry, recruiting and training and the guys maturing as you plan. And it’s a great thing we’re hosting the tournament.’’

Gentile Arena will host the
‘‘final six’’ of the tournament.
No. 2 BYU, No. 3 Stanford and No. 6 Erskine are also in the field.

Loyola has played every team but Stanford this season and
defeated each. The Ramblers’ only loss came to then-No. 11 USC in January.

‘‘We are a one-match-at-a-time team, so we can’t devise a game plan yet, but those teams know us, too,’’ Davis said.

They know Loyola has a first-team All-American in 6-6 sophomore Thomas Jaeschke and three honorable-mention selections in 6-6 junior Cody Caldwell, 6-10 sophomore Nicholas Olson and 6-8 senior Joe Smalzer.

‘‘I didn’t start playing until I was 15, and I remember when I was 16 watching UC-Irvine win and thinking, ‘I want to do this,’ ’’ said
Jaeschke, who played at Wheaton Warrenville South. ‘‘You don’t peg Loyola to host an NCAA championship, but I think we have a super venue for it.’’

Officials are expecting capacity crowds at the 5,000-seat arena for the three-day event, which
begins Tuesday with matches featuring Stanford against Erskine and Lewis against Penn State.

‘‘When I was a player, I never made it to the big show,’’ said
Davis, who played for Loyola before becoming the Ramblers’ coach. ‘‘We got to the Final Four last year, and now it’s just winning two more matches [for the national title]. A lot of our guys haven’t played in this kind of setting, but I feel good about who we are and our chemistry.’’

Email: tginnetti@suntimes.com

Twitter: @toniginnetti



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