CHICAGO – Loyola of Chicago coach Shane Davis made sure to congratulate his players on making school history – and save the game critique for later.
Thomas Jaeschke had 24 kills and top-seeded Loyola beat fifth-seeded Penn State 3-2 Thursday night in the NCAA volleyball semifinals.
Third-seeded Stanford beat second-seeded BYU 3-2 in the first semifinal. The championship is Saturday.
Loyola (28-1) won the final set 15-11 to earn its first NCAA tournament victory and extend its winning streak to 26 matches.
“It was all cheers and excitement in the locker room,” Davis said. “I don’t have to tell them they had 21 service errors, and that we barely snuck that win out of Penn State. They know they didn’t play their best and they know they have to get better for Saturday.”
Before they return to practice, the Ramblers enjoyed the win.
“It means a ton to everyone,” Jaeschke said. “It’s great for the program, especially because we’re hosting.”
Loyola hit .314 to Penn State’s .259. Cody Caldwell had 15 kills for Loyola, and Nicholas Olson added 12.
Nick Goodell led Penn State (25-7) with 18 kills.
The Ramblers won the first set 25-20 on .410 hitting. Penn State held Loyola to .179 hitting in the second to win 25-22.
Loyola bounced back to hit .441 and won the third 25-21. Penn State claimed the fourth set 25-18, hitting .526.
“It was fun,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. “It had everything. It had outstanding serving. There were some great rallies, great pursuit.
“It was everything you would want in an NCAA championship match. We even had to coach some.”
In the final set, the teams combined for nine service errors. Loyola hit .167 to Penn State’s negative .071.
“It felt like nobody wanted to win it,” Davis said. “Everybody was kind of afraid to make a mistake. It became a passive game with a lot of swings and nobody wanting to kill the ball. It was a very emotional match.”
The Ramblers earned their first NCAA berth last year, losing to UC-Irvine in the semifinals.
In the first semifinal, Stanford fought off two match points in the fourth set. Brian Cook led the Cardinal with 19 kills.
Stanford (24-8) won the final set 15-12 after rallying to win the fourth 29-27. BYU led 24-23 and 25-24 in the fourth.
The Cougars (21-9) were the NCAA runner-up last season.
“They made plays and were able to capitalize,” said BYU outside hitter Taylor Sander, the American Volleyball Coaches Association player of the year. “That was the match right there.”
Sander had 28 kills, and Josue Rivera added 10 for the Cougars.
Stanford won the first set 25-18 behind .679 hitting. BYU (21-9) came back to win the next two, 25-21 and 25-22.
Stanford rallied to hit .257 in the fourth set and .500 in the final set.
“Our serving and passing took over,” Stanford coach John Kosty said.
It was BYU’s first loss in four matches against Stanford this season.
The Cougars swept the Cardinal 3-0 Saturday for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship.
BYU coach Chris McGown said Stanford changed its offense from previous matches. Stanford hit .333, while BYU hit .275.
“They came in with a good offensive game plan and executed it,” McGown said.