In its first game back in Gentile Arena since Sept. 4, the Loyola women’s volleyball team (10-5, 3-0) won in three straight sets against the Evansville Purple Aces Oct. 1. This is the team’s best start in Valley play since 2019 and it now holds a record of 3-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC).
The Ramblers started out hot. They wasted no time and began the set with four out of the first six points. Sophomore outside hitter Karlie McNabb scored the first two points of the night, first a kill and then an error off of Evansville.
Junior outside hitter Addie Barnes — who was recently named MVC Women’s Volleyball Player of the Week — along with sophomore outside hitter Emily Banitt and junior middle hitter Taylor Venuto followed up McNabb’s kill with their own, helping the Ramblers keep the lead.
More key plays followed, including sixteen digs in the first set. First-year setter Lane Jenkins made six digs while sophomore libero Grace Hinchman took the other five. The Ramblers finished the first set 25-20.
Loyola’s head coach Amanda Berkley said she was happy with how her team played and how many players stepped up to make plays. She said she was especially excited about seeing her players rise to the challenge and get nine total blocks throughout the night — a goal that assistant coach Evan Muys set for the team after a first set of no blocks.
The Ramblers showed off their versatility tonight against the Purple Aces. They set the ball up well, made few mistakes and kept up the energy throughout the sets.
“I think we did a really good job of being consistent tonight,” Barnes said. “We distributed the ball very well to our hitters and setters, and they did a good job of seeing the block. That just shows how great we are offensively.”
In the second set, Banitt and Hinchman were two standout players, with Banitt making four total kills and Hinchman making seven digs to keep the offense flowing. Though Loyola stayed on top the whole way through, the Purple Aces made their efforts in catching up. Evansville’s Alondra Vazquez made eight kills, while her teammate Melanie Feliciano helped bring in three as well. Ultimately, Loyola won the set 25-19.
The third set was quick and easy for the Ramblers. With six players getting digs and tallying a total of four blocks, Loyola finished with a score of 25-15 to end the night.
The energy in Gentile Arena was high with fans back in the building, complete with a packed student section. The players said they thrived off of the energy and it provided them a great atmosphere to play in.
“We’ve got a team that’s focused,” Berkley said. “They are committed to having a championship culture and we’re on our way there.”
Loyola continues its season and conference play when it hosts the Indiana State Sycamores Oct. 2 at Gentile Arena. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN3.
Correction: An earlier edition of this piece misspelled Karlie McNabb’s name. We regret this error and it has since been corrected.