In December 2017, Loyola hired Amanda Berkley as women’s volleyball head coach to replace Chris Muscat, who was let go in October after finishing 5-24 last season.
Berkley comes to Loyola after five seasons as head coach at University of Southern Mississippi, where she went 104-59 at the helm. She said she’s fit in well at Loyola in the short time since her hiring.
“Loyola’s been great. I’ve actually really enjoyed my time here so far,” Berkley said. “I think it’s been just a real blessing to be here. Everyone’s been so welcoming and it’s been kind of like a family atmosphere, which I really enjoy.”
Berkley grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, roughly 75 miles north of Chicago. She walked on the volleyball at University of Wisconsin after missing out on making the soccer team before her first year and later earned a scholarship. After graduating from Wisconsin in 2008 and spending two years as a graduate assistant at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Berkley landed at Southern Mississippi for three years as an assistant coach prior to her five-year head coaching tenure.
Berkley said while her path to Loyola was somewhat unconventional, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s been quite amazing, starting at Wisconsin to now being a head coach of a Division I program,” Berkley said. “It’s been unbelievable, but [I’m] very fortunate with how it all turned out.”
The 90-minute drive home is better than the 14-hour drive from Mississippi, according to Berkley, and she’s excited to be closer to her sister, Susie, who’s the women’s volleyball head coach at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. But, Berkley said Loyola and Milwaukee won’t be competing against each other anytime soon, because she doesn’t like coaching against her sister.
“We try not to schedule anything with UW-Milwaukee because it’s just too weird to play against her,” Berkley said. “It’s both of our jobs, so we root for each other … when one of us has to lose, we don’t want that. We won’t play against each other. We did it this past spring during a tournament at [University of Illinois at Chicago], and that was enough.”
Loyola didn’t have a senior on the roster last season, meaning every player is set to return. However, the lack of senior leadership contributed to the team’s lackluster season. With six rising seniors expected to return next year, Berkley said she’s working to change the culture of the team and build leadership within the program.
“Without them having any seniors, we’ve had to develop more of a leadership area,” Berkley said. “They didn’t have captains before and we’ve kind of brought that into the fold. Just kind of teaching them and helping them be leaders has been a goal for us … they’re just a great group of girls, so it’s been easy to work with them so far.”
When Berkley took over as interim head coach at Southern Mississippi in 2013, the Golden Eagles were coming off an 8-20 season. In 2013, they went 17-14 and by 2016 finished in second place in the Conference USA standings. She said she’s hoping to achieve the same success at Loyola and while it’ll take work to move up the Missouri Valley Conference standings, she’s already seen a change in the players’ mentality.
“I think at Southern Mississippi, we tried to bring a lot of energy into the program and we were really gritty,” Berkley said. “We’ve tried to bring that to this team and also make it enjoyable for the players … I think we’ve been able to do that [at Loyola]. I think the players are having a lot of fun playing volleyball, but still competing and finding ways to get better.”
The Ramblers are set to start back up under their new coaching regime in the fall. The schedule hadn’t been released as of time of publication.