Lewis' Eric Fitterer (14) serves the ball in front of fans during Saturday night's game between Loyola University and Lewis University. | Paul Bergstrom ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 29, 2013 7:48AM
Lewis’ All-American duo of outside hitter Geoff Powell and setter BJ Boldog gave all they could muster, but the No. 9 Flyers fell just short of their second consecutive NCAA Final Four.
No. 12 Loyola ousted Lewis 23-25, 25-23, 10-25, 25-23, 15-7 for the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association title Saturday at Neil Carey Arena, which gives the Ramblers an automatic berth into the National Semifinals.
Loyola heads to UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on May 2, with the NCAA championship match scheduled for May 4.
Loyola’s Joe Smalzer, the MIVA Player of the Year and a Marist graduate from Palos Heights, blasted a match-high 20 kills. His relentless attack at the net earned him the MIVA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award.
“I’ve got to credit my setter (Peter Hutz) for keeping me high,” Smalzer said. “You swing hard and hope for the best. If you take any speed off it or try to roll it, Lewis will take it the ball and run it back at you. So you have to stay aggressive the whole time.”
All-tournament selections Thomas Jaeschke (15 kills) and Cody Caldwell (12 kills) also contributed for Loyola (22-9), which garners its first MIVA title in eight tries.
Lewis (20-10) was paced by Eric Fitterer (16 kills), Powell (15 kills), Boldog (44 assists) and Jay Petty (nine kills, eight digs). All four earned all-tournament honors.
“I think in failure, you can come back and succeed if you take it and learn from it,” Boldog said. “And I think that’s what we’re going to do heading into next year.”
Lewis looked ferocious in a 25-10 third set victory that moved them one game from the Final Four, but Loyola battled back behind stellar passing and the play of Smalzer at the net.
“I thought they ball-controlled better than we did,” Lewis coach Dan Friend said. “If you look at the stats, it’s like, ‘Hey, Lewis kind of out-stated them.’ But in the sense of the game, they were a little bit better controlling the ball each play, which put them in better position to score points at opportune times.”
Lewis looks to contend again next season, as Petty a redshirt senior, will be the only major factor it loses.
“It’s tough,” Petty said. “It’s been an up and down year, and we really came together as a team at times. We really pushed each other to get better as a players, and at the end of the year, that’s all you can really ask for. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”