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Men’s College Volleyball: Lewis ready for anything and everything at NCAA tourney

Lewis' BJ Boldog (16) taps ball over for point during Saturday night's game between LoyolUniversity Lewis University. | Paul Bergstrom

Lewis' BJ Boldog (16) taps the ball over for a point during Saturday night's game between Loyola University and Lewis University. | Paul Bergstrom ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 30, 2014 6:21AM



Lewis is starting to establish itself as an NCAA men’s volleyball tournament regular.

No. 4 Lewis (23-7) takes on No. 5 Penn State (24-6) in one of two play-in matches at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Gentile Center in Chicago. The winner faces No. 1 seed and top-ranked Loyola (27-1) at 8 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals. The championship is 7 p.m. Saturday at Loyola.

“I am excited for the team and the program to continue to play for a shot at the national championship,” Lewis coach Dan Friend said. “The team has battled through a lot of tough matches. Their body of work has put us in this position.”

The Flyers’ body of work includes runner-up finishes in the Midwestern Collegiate Volleyball Association regular season and tournament and wins against qualifiers Brigham Young and Erskine. Lewis, which finished the regular season ranked No. 11, lost three times to Loyola this year in four matches, the most recent in the MIVA title match Saturday at Loyola.

“We’re going to come out fighting,” Flyers outside hitter Geoff Powell said of Tuesday’s match. “We’re going to give it our best shot and see what happens.”

“We’ll be ready to come out and fight on Tuesday,” Lewis setter BJ Boldog said. “That’s all we can do.”

Lewis dropped a 25-21, 19-25, 26-24, 25-20 decision to Penn State five weeks ago in Romeoville.

“Our match with them at their place was like a heavyweight fight,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said on the team’s website. “It was as physical as any match we’d played all year long.”

The Flyers will look avenge the setback behind all-MIVA selections Boldog, Powell, outside hitter Greg Petty, libero Lucas Yanez and middle blocker Bobby Walsh. Lewis is 8-18 all-time against Penn State. This is their first postseason meeting.

The Flyers are fourth in the country in blocking and second in hitting percentage. Three players totaled 200 or more kills during the regular season: Powell (403), Petty (345) and Eric Fitterer (203). Boldog dished out nearly 1,000 assists. Walsh is third in the nation averaging 1.36 blocks per set.

Penn State, the 2008 national champion, won its 16th straight Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association championship this season. Setter Taylor Hammond is fifth in the nation in assists per set, while outside hitter Aaron Russell is second in aces per set. Penn State is fifth in the nation in kills and digs per set.

The other play-in match features No. 3 Stanford (22-8) vs. No. 6 Erskine (21-6) at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The winner faces No. 2 Brigham Young (21-8) on Thursday. Lewis fell to USC in the 2012 tournament semifinals.

The play-in and semifinal matches will be streamed live at www.NCAA.com. The national final will be aired on ESPNU.



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