Two years after finishing ninth out of 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), the Loyola women’s volleyball team (20-8, 13-2) clinched a top-two seed in the conference tournament with a 3-2 win over Bradley University at Gentile Arena Friday night.
The Ramblers, who have now won six straight matches, also tied a program record with 13 conference wins and sealed a bye to the MVC Tournament semifinals. They have three matches remaining before the tournament, which is set for Nov. 26-28 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Loyola head coach Amanda Berkley said she purposely didn’t tell her players what was on the line before the game. Afterward, she told them in the huddle.
“It was a great feeling,” redshirt senior libero Maddy Moser said after the match. “Everyone was just so happy. It’s something we’ve been working [toward] throughout the season, but having it pay off is special.”
Senior outside hitter Quinn Spieker led Loyola with 16 kills and 16 digs. First-year outside hitter Addie Barnes contributed 12 kills and 10 digs — her 15th double-double of the season.
The Braves won the first set 25-20, but the Ramblers bounced back to take the second and third sets, both by a score of 25-17.
Bradley led for the majority of the fourth set, but Loyola rallied to take a 23-20 lead. The Braves won five straight points to take the set 25-23 and extend the game to a decisive fifth set.
Loyola dominated the fifth stanza, never trailing and winning by a score of 15-8 to take the match 3-2.
Berkley said after the way her team lost the fourth set, she stressed the importance of playing the fifth all the way through.
“We really pushed and served well in that [fifth] set,” Berkley said. “That helped us build a lead, and we were able to finish when it mattered.”
The Braves fell to 13-13 on the season following the loss. Bradley is tied with Illinois State University for third place in the MVC with a 9-6 record during conference play.
The Ramblers last qualified for the MVC Tournament in 2016 when they finished in sixth place — the lowest a team can finish to qualify for the tournament. They then finished ninth teams in 2017 and seventh in 2018.
After locking up a top-two seed for the first time, Moser said it caps off a wild five-year career.
“I think throughout my time here, we’ve been in about every situation,” Moser said. “Especially for the seniors, it’s so cool to be able to have the success this season.”
The Ramblers only trail the University of Northern Iowa for the top spot in the MVC. The Panthers beat Loyola 3-1 Oct. 21 at Gentile, and the two are set to face off again in Cedar Falls Nov. 22.
Next up, Loyola is scheduled to play Illinois State at Gentile Nov. 16. First serve is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.