Undefeated in its last three tournaments with 10 straight wins, Loyola’s women’s volleyball team is enjoying its best start to a season since 2008. But can the Ramblers keep this momentum going into Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play?
The team swept host Cornell University at the Cornell Invitational, and with a record of 11-2, the Ramblers hope to translate their winning efforts on Sept. 24 when they start conference play against Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.
The team will look to junior outside hitter Morgan Reardon — the Most Valuable Player at both the Valparaiso Popcorn Classic and the Cornell Invitational — to continue dominating opponents. Reardon has been an effective offensive player thus far in her career, but she said she’s also putting in extra effort on defense this season, an area in which she’s shown improvement.
“I think continuing to be a point scorer on the team is definitely one of my goals, but I’ve also been focusing a lot on my defensive play,” said Reardon. “A lot of times we’re responsible on the outside for making some smarter shots and making good choices … [But] as far as the back row, we’re kind of digging deep in defense and trying to get as many balls up as we can.”
Reardon led the team in the kills category last season, finishing with 392 kills. She also finished the season with a total of 445.5 points, which was 200 more than the next leading scorer for the Ramblers. The question is, will she replicate the form she showed last season? At the moment, she appears to be doing just that.
At the Cornell Invitational last week, Reardon finished with five kills, four aces and one block in the team’s win against Cornell University. Earlier that day the Ramblers played Binghamton University, and Reardon had 11 kills, one ace and one block.
Although Reardon had an excellent season last year, the Ramblers suffered through a lackluster season, winning only five of their 18 conference games.
They dealt with a long string of defeats that spanned through October and November, including seven straight losses that minimized their hopes of postseason success.
Two of the Ramblers’ five wins last season were against Bradley University, which was the only team in the MVC with a worse record than Loyola. The Braves went 2-16 in conference games with their only wins coming against Drake University and University of Evansville.
Although the Ramblers are hoping to improve their conference record this season, Reardon said the team isn’t focused on the postseason just yet.
“I think we just kind of have a different mindset this year,” Reardon said. “Last year I feel like we were focused on end goals, thinking [we have] to make it to the conference tournament, and I think we lost sight of maybe just taking it day by day. So I think this year we’ve really just been focusing on taking it day by day, practice by practice.”
Reardon also said the team’s new players have made a big impact in the Ramblers’ best start to a season in seven years.
“I think it helps that we’ve got a lot of new freshmen [on] the team,” Reardon said. “We’ve got, like, seven new freshmen who are doing a great job.”
After playing Bradley, the Ramblers will host their first home conference game against Drake on Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.