The consensus among Loyola coaches and players is the Ramblers possess the tools to be a championship team. The missing piece, at least according to senior Henry Clemons, is executing in big moments. 

The Ramblers had one of those opportunities Tuesday.

With a share of the Catholic Blue title on the line, Loyola lost 25-19, 25-21 at home to St. Rita. The Mustangs went undefeated in league play to finish first.

“We have to make sure we step it up in games like these,” Clemons said. “We do this in the playoffs, and our season is over. We know we can play with anybody. There’s no more time for excuses.”

Senior outside hitter Jack Howard led the offense with six kills. Clemons, an outsider hitter, followed with five kills. Junior middle Liam Roberts finished with four kills. Junior setter John Hitt totaled 17 assists. Senior Gavin Elliott had two blocks, while sophomore libero Ryan Merk had 12 digs and two aces. 

“We didn’t play bad, but we didn’t play great,” Loyola head coach Lionel Ebeling said. “For us to expect to win a game like this, we have to bring our best.”

The Ramblers (21-6, 4-2) play at Notre Dame on Thursday before competing at Evanston’s tournament Friday and Saturday. Loyola closes out the regular season next week. The Ramblers host Glenbrook South on Tuesday and play at home Thursday against Oak Park-River Forest. 

The state series starts May 20. Glenbrook South and Notre Dame both are in the same regional as the Ramblers, who are the No. 1 seed at the Glenbrook North Sectional. Loyola won a regional title last year. The program is looking for its first sectional championship. 

“We know we have a target on our back,” Ebeling said. “We have to find a way to play more consistently.”