Men’s volleyball opens conference play with Loras loss

Emily Thompson, Sports Editor

The Illinois Wesleyan men’s volleyball team opened their College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin season on Tuesday, February 15 in a home game against Loras College. The Titans currently stand 5-6 overall. Their standing follows a three-set sweep by the Duhawks that left them 0-1 in the CCIW. The Titans managed to remain toe-to-toe with the Duhawks for much of the first set, but strong offensive moves from Loras proved to be too much to take. 

 

A kill by sophomore Julian Perez put the first point of the game on the board, but Loras made short work of tying the score. 

 

A series of trade-offs kept either team from reaching more than a one-point advantage until the Titans hit a lucky stride. A kill from first-year Jake Kougan started a five-point streak for IWU that brought the score to 5-9. 

 

But, the Duhawks fired back with a six-point streak of their own, dropping the Titans down by one point. Sophomores Michael Eastman and Javier Romano added a kill apiece before Loras pulled ahead too far. 

 

The Titans remained within three points, taking advantage of multiple Duhawk service errors to stay hot on their tail, before Loras pounded out a string of five-straight points made up of Titan attack errors. 

 

After holding out for much of the set, the Titans were down 23-18. 

 

Illinois Wesleyan saw a glimmer of hope in the first set thanks to kills by sophomore KJ Johnson and Perez that brought the score to 23-20, but a service error and final kill by the Duhawks closed out the first set at 25-20.

 

Johnson and Eastman slowed Loras down momentarily with kills, but the Duhawks entered the second set fired up by their first win and hammered out a seven-point advantage early in the set.

 

The Duhawks served up another six-point run, interrupted by one service error point for the Titans. 

 

With the score now at 17-6, Perez broke the Duhawk’s streak and started a three-point redemption that reduced the point deficit to eight. First-year Luke Hartke provided one last kill and Johnson produced a service ace to help the Titans get back in the race.

 

The last-ditch efforts from the Titans could not make up for the Duhawk’s early lead and the second set went to Loras with an 11-point lead and final score of 25-14. 

The third set started off stronger for the Titans, before they fell behind for the final leg of the set. Perez opened the scoring for the set with a Titan kill, followed almost immediately by a Duhawk kill in response. 

 

A series of service and attacking errors from both sides of the net kept the teams within one point of one another until the score reached an even 6-6. 

 

Hartke snuck in a kill for the Titans before Loras fired off a four-point streak. 

 

First-year Ryan Myers and Perez brought the Titans within three points, dropping the Duhawks’ advantage to 13-10. In return, Loras added three more points to the board. 

 

Hartke, Johnson and sophomore Freddy Gamarra added four more kills cumulatively, but to no avail. Two three-point runs on consecutive serves by Loras closed out the set at 25-16. 

 

Perez paced the Titans over all three sets, contributing eight kills, followed closely by Hartke’s seven kills. Sophomore Bradley Benson also proved a valuable asset with team-high assists and digs, managing 14 and eight respectively. 

 

Despite the Titans’ best efforts, the Duhawks out-killed, out-blocked and out-aced Illinois Wesleyan. 

 

The Titans will return to the court in Naperville, Ill, on Saturday, February 19 for a CCIW matchup against North Central College. First serve is scheduled for 3:00 P.M.