Sitting 1-8 after eight non-conference games since the season began Aug. 21, the Loyola women’s volleyball team has struggled to find its footing this season after finishing 14-18 last year.
Headlined by losses to major programs such as Marquette University and the University of California Berkeley, the team has underperformed both offensively and defensively in all three of its preseason tournaments. With the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) games starting Sept. 22, the team is looking to turn its season around.
“We’re definitely not starting the season where we’d want to be, but through this preseason and working through some things, we’ve gotten glimpses of the team we can be,” said junior outside-hitter Gabi Maciagowski. “But despite the struggles, we feel that everything’s starting to click and it’s all coming together right in time for the MVC season.”
After losing three impactful seniors to graduation, the Ramblers haven’t found anything easy about the 2017 season. The transfer of Caroline Holt in 2015, and Haley Hoffman’s redshirt year, due to injury, means the team doesn’t have a true senior on the roster this season and has looked elsewhere for leadership, according to head coach Chris Muscat.
“We’ve seen the beginning of some great leadership from a couple of our younger players including Delilah Wolf and Morgan Gresham, who have definitely stepped up over the past calendar year,” Muscat said.
Wolf, a returning sophomore setter from St. Paul, Minnesota, is looking to return to last season’s form. She was named to the MVC All-Freshman team and took home multiple freshman of the week awards before an ACL tear ended her season with four games remaining. She is now looking to return to full strength before the conference portion of the schedule.
“We came into the season pretty banged up. We’ve got players coming off injuries from last season and their return will only help us in the long run,” Muscat said.
Now, the team hopes these final preseason games will give it a chance to further experiment with different lineups and tactics as it tries to get back on track to save its season.
“We thoroughly believe the results will come when we get comfortable enough with some lineup consistency, as we’ve been using a very fluid lineup … and we can soon use the experience from this preseason to have enough experience out on the floor collegiately every night,” Muscat said. “That being said, I believe we’re very close to some conference success after this tough preseason schedule and the experience our younger players have gotten.”
The team looks to its core of experienced juniors to turn its season around, and despite its struggles, the team’s optimism remains.
“We’re figuring it out, how to fit our multiple juniors in with the younger talent that’s on this team, and that’s a process, it’s not something you figure out quickly,” Maddy Moser, junior defensive specialist said.
Muscat shared this optimism and said he believes the only way forward after this start is patience.
“The core we’ve got in place is a group that’s been through a lot but has played together a lot, and as we get more comfortable they’re [going to] gel and win a lot of games like we’ve never seen before. So the key right now for us is patience,” Muscat said.
The team’s season continues on Sept. 16 against Miami University (Ohio) in West Lafayette, Indiana at the Stacey Clark Classic tournament.