The Loyola women’s volleyball team (6-4) is preparing for a season like no other. With tougher teams on its schedule and Loyola’s joining the Atlantic 10 (A-10) conference, the team has difficult matches ahead, but is ready for the challenge.
The team’s preseason started at the Tennessee Cup on Aug. 26 where it faced Bowling Green University, the University of Tennessee and No. 9 Purdue University. The Ramblers were able to pull out a 3-1 win against Bowling Green but dropped the second and third matches. Despite their losses, senior outside hitter Addie Barnes said it was important in the team’s season preparation.
“These are top 25 teams and SEC teams, we have Big 10 teams coming up, so it’s definitely a challenge,” Barnes said. “They’re definitely going to push us and make us better, adapting to a roster filled with 6’5” girls, we definitely have to find different ways to score and defend.”
The challenge of the new season is something the team is ready for across the board. Head coach Amanda Berkley said one goal the team has set is to be back in the hunt to win a championship after her team won the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season outright in 2021. Berkley also noted the team plays tough preseason games for a reason — to prepare them for what’s to come.
Barnes said what sets her team apart from other members of the conference is its chemistry. Something she said the team has focused on throughout the years bonding by making sure everyone is comfortable with each other, on and off the court, leading to effective communication during matches.
Along with Barnes, junior outside hitter Emily Banitt attested to her team’s strong bond.
“Our team chemistry is stronger right now than ever,” Banitt said. “We all have different things going on in our lives and I think that has brought us a lot closer this last year.”
Some ways the players strengthen their chemistry include hanging out during their free time. For example, Banitt said before traveling to the Tennessee Cup, the team went to the beach to talk about their goals for the weekend and what each player wanted to work on.
Another unique aspect of the team is the roster is almost the exact same as last season, adding only two new players. The team didn’t lose any of its starters either, only one first-year, one sophomore and one senior. The newcomers include first-year middle hitter Ella Ramsay and graduate setters Madi Corey and Bayley McMenimen.
Barnes and Banitt said what gives them an edge this season is the depth of their team. With only a few new players to bring energy and a younger but more experienced team, the two are confident this will set them apart from other teams in the A-10.
“We just support each other so much,” Barnes said. “Our special bond is really different compared to other teams. I think the unconditional love that this team has is really special and it helps everyone who’s on and off the court.”
The A-10 teams on Loyola’s schedule include George Washington University, Fordham University, Saint Louis University, Duquesne University, the University of Rhode Island, Virginia Commonwealth University, Dayton University and Davidson University. The Ramblers will host nine out of the 18 games throughout the season, including a three-game homestand at the end of October. The Ramblers will travel to the west side of the city to face cross-town rival University of Illinois Chicago on Friday, Sept. 16. First serve is at 7 p.m. and the broadcast information is yet to be announced.