Grand Canyon (6-6, 0-3) had No. 1 Loyola (10-1, 3-0) on the ropes in the second set, but weren't able to hold on in a 3-0 loss to the top-ranked Ramblers at Antelope Gymnasium Friday.
GCU lost by set scores of 25-20, 28-26, 25-22.
In the second set, GCU broke a 6-6 tie with a 7-2 run. Senior setter Keith Smith had a solo block, kill, service ace and assist on a Connor Dougherty kill during the run. A Ben Ponnet kill gave GCU the first of four set-points at 24-20, but Loyola wrapped the set up by scoring eight of the next 10 points.
"We had our chances in the second set," said GCU coach Jeremy Price. "Loyola has a guy (Joe Smalzer) that I believe is the best server in the country and they ran off four straight on his serve. We got a couple more sideouts, but we never created another good point-scoring opportunity."
The Antelopes tried to do the same to the Ramblers in the third. At 24-20, GCU middle blocker Keaton Berry had a kill, which was followed by a Loyola attack error, but the Ramblers were able to close the match on the next point.
Sophomore outside hitter Gerrard Lipscombe led the Antelopes with 11 kills, nine digs and three block assists. Libero Jared Morrison had a match-best 11 digs.
GCU middles Dougherty and Berry had seven kills each. Dougherty hit .400 on 15 attempts and one error. Berry hit .462 with 13 attempts and only one error. Dougherty was part of three blocks, including one solo.
"Our middles did a nice job," said Price. "They kept Loyola off-balance and did a good job attacking the gaps and Gerrard Lipscombe did a nice job on the perimeter."
The teams play again Saturday at 6 p.m. at Antelope Gymnasium. Fans unable to attend can follow live links at www.gculopes.com.
"We had a good effort tonight, but we have to raise our play when we're playing the No. 1 team in the country," said Price. "When you're the underdog, it's nice to have two shots."
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