After postponing this year’s fall sports, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) released the spring 2021 conference schedule for women’s volleyball Oct. 20. The Ramblers are set to open their conference slate on the road against Southern Illinois University Feb. 7 and 8.
Loyola head coach Amanda Berkley is entering her third season at the helm for the Ramblers. She said she’s excited to have a schedule to look forward to, even with the unusual circumstances.
“This year has been challenging,” Berkley said. “Our players are pumped just to be able to play.”
This year’s conference scheduling is altered due to COVID-19, according to Loyola Athletics’ release. Teams will still play MVC opponents twice like normal, but it won’t be the traditional home-and-home format. Instead, teams will play both matches at a single location over one weekend as a way to limit travel.
Berkley said this format will make it easier to prepare for games since the team will only play one team each weekend instead of two.
“All of our efforts will be on just one team, creating a great scouting plan,” Berkley said. “And then after we play them that first night, I’m sure there’s going to be adjustments that we could make. It’s kind of nice because we’ll be able to do it right away and play them the next day.”
Despite the change in formatting, the Ramblers are still scheduled to play eight conference matches at home and eight on the road.
Berkley and the Ramblers were one of the MVC’s biggest surprises last season. After being picked to finish fifth in last year’s MVC preseason poll, Loyola finished with a 14-4 conference record to finish second in the MVC in the regular season.
Loyola returns three starters from last season, including sophomore outside hitter Addie Barnes, who was the 2019 MVC Freshman of the Year and named to First Team All-MVC.
Berkley said the team lost a great class of seniors, but she’s confident in her sophomore class to continue the “foundation of winning” from last year. She also said she’s excited about her incoming first-year class, which has eight players.
“Last year was awesome,” Berkley said. “That freshmen class last year, now sophomores, they’re definitely hungry to take it to the next step and try to be one of the top teams in the conference, a championship-level team.”
This year, the Ramblers have their first pair of home matches Feb. 14 and 15 against the University of Evansville. Following that, Loyola goes on the road to play Indiana State University Feb. 21 and 22.
Next, the Ramblers will have a two-week home stretch, starting when they host Illinois State University Feb. 28 and March 1. The Redbirds defeated the Ramblers in the 2019 MVC Championship en route to winning the entire tournament. Then, Loyola welcomes Missouri State University to Gentile Arena March 7 and 8.
The Ramblers will head on the road to play Bradley University Mar. 14 and 15. Loyola will then travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa to play the University of Northern Iowa Mar. 21 and 22.
The Ramblers finish their season by playing Drake University at home Mar. 27 and 28.
At the time of publication, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri are all designated states listed in the city of Chicago’s emergency travel order due to influxes in cases. As it stands, people returning or traveling to Chicago from those three states must quarantine for 14 days. It’s unclear how this will impact Loyola’s scheduling.
Additionally, Berkley said she’s still figuring out a potential non-conference schedule. She said she wants to play non-conference matches but is uncertain if that’ll be possible.
“We just have to find out if some other conferences are going to be able to play non-conference,” Berkley said. “There are going to be some conferences that are just playing conference-only. That may be something that we get to, but right now we’re trying to play some non-conference matches.”
The MVC Championship is scheduled to be hosted by Bradley April 1-3.