After the Loyola men’s volleyball’s 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19, the team is preparing to hit the court again soon after head coach Mark Hulse announced its schedule Jan. 19.
Hulse said the team is fortunate to have help from Loyola administration and the athletic department in creating protocols for a safe season.
“If we can do this, it should really only be done safely, and it seems like we’re going to be able to do that,” he said. “We are excited to have the opportunity to get back after last season was cut short.”
The team’s season will begin Jan. 22 when Loyola hosts Lincoln Memorial University in the first of nine home games this season. Home games will not be open to the public and will be played at Alfie Norville Practice Facility instead of the team’s usual home, Gentile Arena.
Hulse said by having this new home location the volleyball team will be able to avoid potential scheduling conflicts and COVID-related risks from basketball events.
“We kind of have some space to ourselves over there,” he said. “I think it will be a real plus for us to be in there.”
Other non-conference matchups for Loyola will include a home game against Queens University of Charlotte Jan. 23 and two matchups on the road against Saint Francis University and New Jersey Institute of Technology on Jan. 29 and 30, respectively.
The Ramblers will kick off Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) play on the road at Quincy University with a pair of games Feb. 5 and 6. Loyola heads into the season ranked second in the MIVA preseason poll.
Regular season play is scheduled to end with a two-game set against No. 1 preseason pick and conference rival Lewis University at home April 1-2. Loyola will then head to the MIVA tournament which is set to begin April 17.
The 2021 season will include six series of back-to-back games at a single location during conference play. Hulse said this scheduling format will help with minimizing the possibility of COVID-19 cases among the teams.
“In the regular swing of playing one team then another on the road … when you get into some contact tracing, your head would start to spin,” Hulse said. “Keeping the variability [of contact with other teams] to a minimum is helpful,” Hulse said.
The Ramblers’ roster for the 2021 season includes ten first-year players, along with two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-America setter Garrett Zolg and 2020 MIVA Newcomer of the Year Cole Schlothauer. Both Zolg and Schlothauer were also included on the Preseason All-MIVA Team.