Correction: A previous version of this story stated Loyola played every team in the MVC. The story has been updated to correct the error.
After a 3-0 start to conference play, the Loyola women’s volleyball team (13-9, 5-5) dropped five matches in a row before defeating Indiana State University and University of Evansville at home Oct. 19-20, leaving a Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament bid in jeopardy.
Only the top six teams in the MVC make the conference tournament. At the midway point of the conference schedule, Loyola is just inside the bubble at sixth place.
Despite the tough stretch, head coach Amanda Berkley said her players were handling the adversity well and their mindset remained confident.
“We’re definitely doing some good things,” Berkley said. “So I don’t think the team is too discouraged by any means.”
Berkley said the losses were mainly due to tough competition. Over the stretch, Loyola suffered losses to University of Northern Iowa, Drake University, Valparaiso University, Bradley University and Illinois State University — all teams in the upper half of the MVC standings. Still, Berkley said the team isn’t too far behind the conference elite.
“I think we’re right there,” Berkley said. “We’re close.”
In Loyola’s Oct. 5 loss at Valparaiso University, the Ramblers started off the game with a two-set lead before dropping three sets in a row to fall 3-2. Against MVC-leader Northern Iowa Sept. 28, Loyola was swept 3-0, but didn’t lose a set by more than three points.
“We played really well against [Northern Iowa],” Berkley said. “But that’s a really good team and we were right there, so I felt really good after that match.”
Senior libero and captain Alex Nunez said she agreed with her coach, and the difficult stretch hasn’t brought the team down. She said the team has been using the losses as extra motivation.
“It sucks to lose, but I think you can either dwell on it or you can learn from it,” Nunez, 21, said. “So we’re trying to look at the positives, even if it is a loss.”
Nunez, a biology major, said the team is trying to bounce back by focusing on its own game. She said the team is aware the season is nearing a close.
“[We’ve been] focusing on ourselves and realizing that we only have a month and a half, two months left as this team,” Nunez said.
With eight games left in the regular season, the team is looking to make a push for the postseason, according to Nunez. Now that Loyola has faced everybody in conference once — except Southern Illinois University — Berkley said the team is better prepared for the second round of matchups.
Berkley said their success ultimately comes down to their execution— a statement she has stuck to all season.
“If we can win the serve-and-pass battle, we give ourselves an opportunity to win,” Berkley said.
Junior outside hitter Quinn Spieker said the team has been working hard in practice to make the necessary improvements to their passing. Spieker has been the most consistent performer for the Ramblers during the losing streak, recording double-digit kills in her last seven matches. Berkley called Spieker the “glue” of the squad.
“She’s just been huge for this team,” Berkley said. “Now if we can just get everybody else following her lead a little bit more I think that can help us be more successful.”
Spieker, a marketing major, said she and the rest of team believe they’ll be playing in the MVC Tournament this November. She said the team just has to “take care of business.”
“I know some of these matches second round will be tougher than the first round,” Spieker, 21, said. “But I’m still confident that we will be at the tournament this season.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to be in action Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. when they take on Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.