Women's Volleyball

Progress Comes in Baby Steps for Women’s Volleyball

Steve Woltmann | Loyola AthleticsFirst-year middle blocker Elle Van Grinsven is second in kills on the Ramblers with 144 this season. She trails junior outside hitter Gabi Maciagowski’s 181 kills.

After winning just eight sets in its first 15 matches, the Loyola women’s volleyball team (1-20, 0-10) appeared to show signs of slight improvement as it won six sets in three games before getting swept by Drake University and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) Oct. 20-21.

The Ramblers took the first two sets from Bradley University Oct. 7, but were unable to close the door as the Braves won 3-2. Loyola returned home to play the University of Evansville and Indiana State University Oct. 13-14, and the matches were identical. The Ramblers won the first set, lost the next two sets, tied the match in the fourth set and lost in the fifth set.

The Bradley match was the first time Loyola had made it to the fifth set all season, and the first time the team won more than one set in a match since its 3-1 victory over Samford University Sept. 3. The Ramblers have been looking for symmetry all season, according to head coach Chris Muscat.

“We have to find a balance with our ability to score and our ability to control some situations and not give our opponent free points,” Muscat said. “I think that’s the balance we’ve been trying to find on the floor over the past five [or] six matches.”

Muscat also said the team needs more than one or two players to step up and perform, comparing its playing to how one hitter can’t carry a baseball team. While players have stepped up recently — junior outside Gabi Maciagowski and first-year middle blocker Elle Van Grinsven both tallied double-digit kills in the Indiana State and Evansville matches — Muscat feels the rest of the roster needs to start regularly filling the stat sheet for the eight remaining matches.

“We’ve got to be able to put it together consecutively and more consistently,” Muscat said. “I think that’s the piece I’d like to see this team move towards and continue to grow. We’re putting together better and we’re getting two [or] two-and-a-half sets out of [the players] now. It’s, ‘Hey, can we put together three sets and put them together in a row?’ and that’s the difference between going and winning 3-0. … I think it’s just really about trying to find some consistency and putting it all together.”

One aspect that has changed from the start of the season is the team’s energy. During games, the bench is animated leading cheers to pick up the players. Van Grinsven said she feels the team is playing better because they’re starting to have more fun on the court, which, in turn, gives support on the sideline.

“I think everyone’s energy and effort has improved so much from the [beginning] part [of the season],” Van Grinsven said. “The energy … gets super hyped and it gets so much more fun to play when it’s like that and we’re realizing that.”

Sophomore setter Delilah Wolf echoed Van Grinsven’s thoughts, saying the support from the bench goes a long way during a rough season.

“We’re all an important part so even though some people are out there and some aren’t, we’re playing for each other out there and we know we have that support back there if we need it,” Wolf said.

The women’s volleyball team is scheduled to get back in action at Valparaiso University Oct. 27 and at Southern Illinois University Oct. 30.

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