Women’s Volleyball Tournaments Translate to Team Development

Stephanie Miller | The PhoenixElle Van Grinsven (right) prepares to return a serve during the Rambler Challenge.

Over the last four weekends, the Loyola women’s volleyball team (7-6) has played in tournaments across the country — from Toledo, Ohio to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Now, instead of playing three matches in two days, the Ramblers can focus on two to three matches per week for the rest of the season.

These back-to-back tournaments might seem like they don’t matter for conference play, but the team uses them to figure out what they need to work on with their gameplay. It’s also “exciting” to play against other teams outside of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), head coach Amanda Berkley said.

“These tournaments are great for learning what we need to work on in practice,” Berkley said. “We are going to be focusing on passing and serving against other teams. There has been a lot of growth on the team.”

After going 1-2 in their first tournament in Toledo, the Ramblers posted identical 2-1 records three straight weekends: during the Rambler Challenge at Gentile Arena Sept. 6-7, the Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic Tournament in Colorado Springs Sept. 13-14 and the Chicago Cup at DePaul University Sept. 20-21. 

After losing in the final match of the Chicago Cup — Loyola’s last before conference play — redshirt senior defensive specialist and libero Maddy Moser said she thinks the team is prepared for conference play.

“I think we’ve definitely learned a lot through … our wins and losses,” Moser said. “I can just see as a team we’ve grown through each game and I think we’re ready to take on conference teams.”

This season, Loyola added seven first-year players to the team. Newcomers such as outside hitter Addie Barnes and middle hitter Taylor Venuto helped secure their wins against University of California Irvine (UC Irvine) and Air Force at the Svoboda Tournament. Barnes and Venuto led with eight kills each against Air Force, and Venuto led with nine kills and six blocks against UC Irvine.

“During tournaments, the team has to learn quickly and they have to learn to execute.”

— Berkley said.

Venuto and Barnes’ success continued into the Chicago Cup. Barnes led Loyola over the three matches with 3.42 kills per set, while Venuto had a team-high 15 kills against University of Illinois at Chicago.

“These tournaments were great for us because we have so many freshmen that are playing right now,” Berkley said. “It’s great to learn about how we have to grow as a team. We ironed out some lineup changes. We used every single match to get ready for conference.”

Berkley also said the team’s main focus is to work on passing and to be able to “serve tough” against its opponents to steal points. With that goal in mind, Loyola recorded 16 aces throughout the Svoboda Tournament.

“During tournaments, the team has to learn quickly and they have to learn to execute,” Berkley said.  “Our goal for [the Svoboda Tournament was] to not have too many negative plays or too many errors.”

For the season, Loyola averages nearly 5.2 errors per set, meaning a Loyola player misplayed an attack and the other team received a point. But the team cut down on errors during the Svoboda Tournament, averaging 3.9 errors per set. 

“We are better than that, and we are a winning team,” senior outside hitter Quinn Spieker said. “So going into [these tournaments], we [were] really looking to pull out some more wins.”

The Ramblers finished out their non-conference schedule with a 7-6 record and with new knowledge of what they need to do to be a stronger team as conference play is just around the corner.

Loyola’s first game of conference play is scheduled for Sept. 27 at Gentile Arena as they take on Valparaiso University.  First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

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