FORT WAYNE – They lost to them in four sets in Chicago, back in February. They lost 3-0 in the Gates Center a month later.
So what’s different this time, as IPFW again heads to Chicago tonight to take on once-beaten, No. 1 Loyola for the third time this season, this time in the MIVA semifinals?
Well, it’s not that third-time-is-a-charm thing. It’s a little more concrete than that.
It starts with the fact that, in the quarterfinals, the Mastodons (21-6) brushed aside an Ohio State team with whom they’d twice gone five tough sets, sweeping the Buckeyes 3-0. And that started with a young man from, yes, Chicago, whose insertion into the lineup gave a team already playing some of its best volleyball an additional boost.
The young man in question is a 6-foot-5 outside hitter named Albert Klimek. And if he and the Mastodons can duplicate what they did against Ohio State, it could be some homecoming for him.
Albert has been playing what we call the second swing spot, and he’s got a little more experience than the young man we played there before, IPFW coach Arnie Ball said. And he just handles the ball a little better.
(It’s) a change in our lineup that we’ve got to stay with, because it’s allowed us to pass the ball with a much higher efficiency than we did the first two times we played (Loyola). They’re a very strong serving team. They’ve got about four guys that can bring some major heat from the baseline, so we’re going to have to be able to handle their serve in order to run our offense.
If they can do that, the offense can take care of itself. Against Ohio State, opposite Andrew Sellan was again the big banger, blasting 15 kills. Eddie Rivera added nine kills, and three other players had at least five – including Klimek, who had six.
We passed the ball extremely well, so we were able to have our middles hit at a real high percentage, and of course Andy Sellan did, too, Ball said. In order to do that offensively, you have to be able to handle the other person’s serve, and we did. It was the best we’ve passed all year.
That’s very encouraging obviously because of the way Loyola serves the ball from the baseline. They depend upon that to take other teams out of their offense.
Loyola did that a lot in the first two meetings, winning 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 25-18 in Chicago and 25-20, 25-13, 25-22 in Fort Wayne. In the latter match, IPFW had an abysmal attack percentage of .093 – as opposed to last Saturday, when it was .407.
IPFW will need that kind of efficiency tonight against a Loyola team with a powerful attack of its own.
The key to their offense is their ability to pass our serve, and they have a number of guys who can jump and hit the ball really hard, Ball said. So in order for us to take them somewhat out of their offense, we’ve got to do the same thing to them in regards to their serve. And they’ve been a good passing team all year. That’s why they’ve only lost one match.