The Loyola women’s volleyball team (6-4) beat Rutgers University 3-1 in its third match of the Rambler Challenge — a weekend-long tournament hosted by Loyola. With the win, the Ramblers claimed a clean sweep of its own tournament and a big win against a power-five conference team.
The match began with back-and-forth play between both teams, neither capable of gaining a strong lead. Loyola had a three point scoring run to start the first set, consisting of a service ace from sophomore setter Bree Borum and kills from senior outside hitter Addie Barnes and junior middle blocker Anna Feldkamp. Two back-to-back kills from Rutgers’ Alissa Kinkela and Lauren DeLo brought the score to a tie at five early on.
After the tie, Rutgers got into a groove of blocking and hitting kills that kept Loyola from taking the lead. The Scarlet Knights didn’t take control of the set until late, after senior outside hitter Sarah Murczek had an attack error that forced a Loyola timeout. The Ramblers had multiple chances for a comeback after two Feldkamp kills, but Rutgers hit two back to take the first set.
The second set was similar to the first — Loyola would hit a kill, Rutgers would make a block and vice versa. Following another tie after five, Loyola took a three point lead with two service aces from Hinchman and a Rutgers attack error. However, the Scarlet Knights didn’t let that lead last long, as DeLo came in with a kill and took advantage of Loyola’s three combined service and attack errors.
A ball handling error from Rutgers brought Loyola to its initial set point at 25-24, but Banitt’s service error brought the score to a tie. This repeated three more times, as the Scarlet Knights wouldn’t give up. Barnes hit a kill to seal the set for the Ramblers, 28-26.
Rutgers was first to get on the board to start the third set. Loyola’s offense picked back up after struggling to overcome its own errors and the Scarlet Knights’ strong offensive game.
Banitt struck four throughout the set, visibly giving her team an instant burst of energy. Two more kills from Murczek and Feldkamp brought the team to set point at 24-19 but Rutgers refused to give up. With a Loyola attack error and one Rutgers block, a Scarlet Knight comeback seemed imminent. After four Loyola set points, Barnes hit a powerful kill bringing her team to take the set and the lead in the match at 25-22.
Though Banitt’s performance put up high numbers for the team, Feldkamp notched just over her with 19 kills throughout the match, leading her team to victory.
“I just kind of went out there and wanted to have some grit and be out there swinging and be aggressive with my team, considering some of them are hurting,” Feldkamp said. “I just wanted to be out there and tell my setters to send me the ball and be aggressive with it.”
The Ramblers came out in the fourth set to prove their dominance over the Scarlet Knights. Three kills early on from Feldkamp helped give the team the lead they were looking to maintain the lead for the rest of the set. Loyola’s strong offense overpowered Rutgers with kills and service aces which ultimately led it to the win. An ace from graduate setter Madi Corey gave Loyola the set, match and a clean sweep of the tournament.
Loyola Head Coach Amanda Berkley was beaming with pride post-game and couldn’t emphasize enough how proud she was of her team.
“What a weekend,” she said. “They’ve gone through a lot of adversity just even within the last year. This weekend especially had a lot of adversity with a lot of different players playing through a lot of pain. Just really proud of this team for fighting for every point in fighting throughout a match.”
Berkley also said the win against a power-five conference team shows the level her team is capable of playing at and sets it up for more success in the coming matches.
The Ramblers will travel to compete in the Chicago Cup, a tournament hosted by the University of Illinois where they will face the Flames in the first of three matches Sept. 16. First serve is at 7 p.m. and the broadcast information has yet to be announced.