CHICAGO — The Loyola curse lives on for the No. 13 Ball State University men's volleyball team.
Ball State was swept by Loyola University (30-28, 31-29, 30-25) in its season opener Friday in Chicago — extending its road losing streak against Loyola to 11 matches.
"The curse up here continues," coach Joel Walton said. "We didn't get the start to the season we wanted."
Ball State had late leads in the first two games but failed to win the set.
In the first set, the Cardinals had a two-point lead before the Ramblers went on a 10-4 run to close the game. Ball State blew a 22-17 lead in the second game and lost in overtime.
A controversial call cost the Cardinals in the second game.
With the score 26-25, middle attacker Andy Nelson reached over the net and blocked a Loyola kill attempt. However, the official awarded Loyola the point, calling Nelson's reach over the net in a forward motion as a kill attempt — which is a net violation.
"It was a horrible call," Walton said. "We can't give points away at critical times and expect to win."
Ball State has not won at Alumni Gym since April 1999.
Redshirt freshman Jamion Hartley said the streak was on the players' minds before the match. The outside attacker said the team is still confident it can beat Loyola away from Alumni Gym.
"We have faith we can beat Loyola anytime," Hartley said. "It's just the environment of the gym."
The major difference between Alumni Gym and other MIVA arenas is the venue's lower ceilings and confined space.
During the match, more than five volleys involved the ball bouncing off the gym's 20 foot high rafters or a championship banner located around the court. At Alumni Gym, these balls are still considered in play.
"This gym is just so different from what we're used to," Walton said. "We know each game we are going to lose one or two points to the gym."
Hartley said it was difficult to prepare for this venue because it is so different from a bigger gym like Worthen Arena.
"I don't like this gym all," Hartley said. "None of us do."
Loyola out-hit Ball State .326 to .269 and had two players with more than 10 kills. Sophomore outside attacker Domenic Dewaele had a match-high 16 kills in the victory.
In his first collegiate match, Hartley led Ball State with 14 kills.
Hartley said he was pleased with his first playing time since completing for his high school team in North Chicago. He said he was able to connect well with senior setter Ethan Pheister throughout the match.
This was the second time in the last three seasons Loyola has swept Ball State in Alumni Gym. Their defeat of the Cardinals in 2008 was one of two conferences losses for Ball State that season.
Following Friday's match, Walton said he is still optimistic his team can win the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association regular season title and host the conference tournament. He also said there is a chance the squad could return to Alumni Gym for the postseason tournament.
Following this loss, Ball State will play a non-conference match against Carthage College on Saturday.
"We need to regroup and we need to regroup quickly," Walton said.