Ready to Ramble: Loyola volleyball in final four

Do something in Chicago that hasn't been done in 50 years, like the Loyola men's volleyball team is doing, and eventually heads will turn.

"Going to the final four, to accomplish that, definitely people are noticing," said Eric Daliege, a fifth-year senior middle hitter for Loyola.

Daliege and his teammates became the first Ramblers men's volleyball team to advance to a final four after knocking off archrival Lewis University on Saturday. They're also the first team from the school in any sport to advance that far since the men's basketball team won the national championship in 1963.

Loyola takes on UC-Irvine at 8 p.m. Thursday in L.A. Penn State and BYU play in the other semifinal.

"It feels great to go to the final four finally," freshman setter Peter Hutz said.


That's something you'd expect to hear from former player and now coach Shane Davis, who has been with the program in some capacity for nearly 15 years.

"It's awesome not only to coach at your alma mater but be able to get the program to the next level, someplace that it's never been," said Davis, who graduated from Loyola in 2003. "So it's special."

So special that the fact that they're making school history hasn't sunk in just yet.

"Growing up as a volleyball kid, I always dreamed about making it to the final four," freshman middle hitter Nicholas Olson said. "[I] never thought I'd actually do it as a freshman."

"It's definitely a weird feeling," added Thomas Jaeschke, a freshman outside hitter from Wheaton who ranks second on the team with 336 kills. "Coming in as a freshman, I didn't know what to expect and this is definitely more [than I thought would happen], but obviously we've still got work to do and that's why we're here."

As for how they got there, Daliege attributes that to a heavy dose of patience and coming together at the right time.

The Ramblers roster features three freshman starters (Hutz, Jaeschke and Olson) who have made an immediate impact..

"We sort of just jelled together as a team at the end of the year and started playing our best ball about a month or two ago," he said. "That's been the key to our success."

With all that success comes recognition on campus.

As the team has kept winning, players say their classmates have taken notice.

"We're getting lots of congratulations from people," Daliege said "I'm getting congratulations from kids I haven't talked to from high school."

"We've all just kind of become little celebrities on campus, which is pretty cool," Hutz added.

And has it helped with the ladies?

"Always," Olson said, laughing.