Men’s College Volleyball: Loyola, Lewis have plenty of area ties
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media March 13, 2013 10:56PM
Loyola's Joe Smalzer (16) and Eric Daliege (21) celebrates a point vs. Lewis. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 11:00AM
Much of the national recognition Lewis and Loyola have achieved in men’s volleyball has a local lineage.
Graduates of Marist, Providence and Mount Carmel were among the vocal combatants Wednesday night at Neil Carey Arena in Romeoville, where Loyola ended Lewis’ 13-match winning streak with a 25-23, 25-16, 12-25, 27-25 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association victory.
Loyola (11-8, 4-3) also ended Lewis’ 23-match home winning streak, covering two years.
Loyola, ranked 10th in the nation at the start of the season, has two key players from the southwest suburbs in Eric Daliege and Joe Smalzer, the latter of whom led the Ramblers against Lewis with 15 kills.
The 6-foot-8 Smalzer, a redshirt junior and Loyola’s leader for the season in kills, is a Marist graduate from Palos Heights who chose the Ramblers over Ball State, Pacific and Lewis.
“It seems like in my years here it’s always been us, Ohio State and Lewis in the MIVA semis and championship,’’ Smalzer said. “We’ve been right there. It’s definitely been a fun ride.’’
Daliege, a redshirt senior and the team leader in blocks, is a Providence grad from Orland Park who picked Loyola over BYU and Penn State in order to be closer to home.
“I definitely think I made the right choice,’’ Daliege said. “It’s been unbelievable at Loyola, academic-wise and athletic-wise.’’
Getting elite high school players to stay in town and bypass the big-time schools may sound like a hard sell, but not to Loyola coach Shane Davis.
“Loyola is far enough away that mom and dad aren’t going to come up every night, but close enough to go home for the weekend,’’ Davis said. “We really sell that. And Loyola ... along the lake, it’s nice going through the city on Lake Shore Drive.’’
Although Loyola has dropped out of the Top 15, the Ramblers still are among teams receiving votes in the NCAA poll.
“The year hasn’t gone exactly how we wanted it to go, but we’re definitely improving every day,’’ Daliege said. “Our goal is to be playing our best volleyball at the end of the year. I think we’re on track to doing that.’’
Seventh-ranked Lewis (14-6, 8-1) reached the volleyball equivalent of the Final Four last season by defeating Ohio State in the final of the MIVA Tournament.
Mount Carmel product Bobby Walsh, a 6-9 freshman, has been a key addition to the Flyers as they try to repeat last season’s success.
“He was a highly touted prospect,’’ Lewis coach Dan Friend said. “He filled a void because we graduated two fifth-year senior middles, one an All-American, both All-Conference. Those were big shoes to fill. He has gotten better and better.’’
It didn’t take long for Walsh to describe the difference between high school volleyball and the elite college level.
“It’s huge. It’s so much faster,’’ he said. “Everyone on the court is outstanding. You’ve got to be on top of your game.’’
Two other key players for Lewis are Geoff Powell, a Claremont, Calif., native who leads the league in kills, and serve standout Jay Petty (Downers Grove North), another example of a Chicago-area standout at Lewis.
“Last year, bringing the team to the Final Four, to be able to do that while I’m here was incredible,’’ Petty said.
Both schools are pointing toward the MIVA Tournament that begins April 19 with a spot in the national semifinals on the line.
“We’ve got some tough matches that are going to challenge us as we go forward,’’ Friend said. “That’s what you want—you want your schedule to keep building.’’