Loyola Chicago defeats Stanford in four sets to win first national title
Junior Cody Caldwell slammed 20 kills and top-seeded Loyola hit .452 as a team for the match, dropping Stanford 3-1 (25-17, 19-25, 25-19, 25-15) to claim its first NCAA championship in front of a partisan crowd of 4,485 inside Gentile Arena. It marks the school’s second overall NCAA title (1963 men’s basketball) and closes out a special season that sees the Ramblers finish with a 29-1 record. Stanford finishes the year with a 24-9 ledger.
The opening set was close early on with the teams tied seven different times to get to 8-all. Kills from Joe Smalzer and Caldwell gave Loyola a little bit of breathing room and the Ramblers took a 15-13 lead into the media timeout after an Owen McAndrews kill. That set Thomas Jaeschke up at the service line and he rattled off four consecutive points, capped by another Caldwell kill, to give Loyola a 19-13 advantage. The teams traded points to 21-15 before the Ramblers put the set away, with two Caldwell kills and one from Nick Olson extending the lead to nine, 24-15. Kills from Conrad Kaminski and Eric Mochalski kept the Cardinal alive before a service error closed out the opening set 25-17. Loyola hit a sizzling .696 (16-0-23) in the set, with Caldwell ripping nine kills on 13 swings to lead the way.
The second set followed a similar script early, as the teams were tied on eight occasions en route to a 9-9 score. This time it was Stanford that made a run, using two aces from James Shaw in a 5-0 spurt that pushed the Cardinal out to a 14-9 lead. Loyola was only able to temporarily stop the bleeding before Stanford opened up an 18-11 lead on a Steven Irvin kill. Despite Loyola being able to stave off two set points, a Mochalski kill gave Stanford a 25-19 victory that evened the match.
Loyola moved in front early in the pivotal third set, using back-to-back kills from Jaeschke to grab an early 8-4 lead. Two Brian Cook kills helped Stanford regain its feet, with his second kill getting the Cardinal within a point, 10-9. However, Loyola was able to keep its composure and the home team extended to a 16-11 advantage on another Jaeschke kill. Stanford was able to hang around and was still down just three (20-17) after another Cook put-away but a Smalzer kill put him on the service line and he followed up the kill with an ace to help the Ramblers to a 23-17 lead before he put the set away moments later, sealing a 25-19 lead that gave LU a 2-1 lead. Loyola’s balance was on full display in the set as Jaeschke led the way with six kills and Smalzer and Caldwell pitching in with four apiece.
A triple block from Peter Hutz, Olson and Caldwell helped stake Loyola to an early, fourth-set lead and a Caldwell kill put Jaeschke back to serve with an 8-5 lead. An ace prompted a Stanford timeout and two Cardinal errors forced a second timeout as the Ramblers opened an 11-5 bulge. However, the breaks did not break Jaeschke’s concentration, as McAndrews and Smalzer each came up with huge solo stuffs to make it a 13-5 game before Stanford was finally able to side-out. Loyola’s offensive efficiency made it tough for Stanford to string together points and a 4-0 run, capped by a Smalzer/McAndrews block, made it a 22-12 lead as the crowd roared its approval. Kills from McAndrews and Caldwell made it 24-13 and, after kills from Irvin and Cook, a service error closed out the match, sending the Gentile Arena crowd into raptures.
Caldwell, a California native, was terrific all night, posting a double-double of 20 kills and 10 digs en route to earning the tournament’s most outstanding player award. He was joined in double figures by Jaeschke and Smalzer, who posted identical stat lines of 12 kills and eight digs. McAndrews finished with seven kills while Olson racked up five put-aways and four blocks.
Hutz was outstanding in coordinating the attack, dishing out 47 assists while guiding the team to its .452 hitting percentage, while libero Peter Jasaitis was the team’s anchor in the back row, digging six balls in addition to his sterling passing.