For the first time in program history the Loyola women’s volleyball team won the Atlantic 10 (A-10) championship after it beat the University of Dayton Nov. 20. The team will advance to the NCAA tournament for only the sixth time in program history, its first time since 2005 under Head Coach Marcie Wolbeck.
The first set began with Loyola trailing after Dayton hit two kills and took advantage of an attack error, giving it a 3-1 lead. The Ramblers fought back offensively with straight kills from junior middle blocker Kelsey Watson, senior outside hitter Addie Barnes and junior outside hitter Emily Banitt.
From then on, the Ramblers held the lead. Offensively, Loyola dominated with 14 kills, holding Dayton to a mere six in the first set. Both teams had a similar number of errors, Loyola with five and Dayton with six. The Ramblers held off the Flyers for a dominant 25-16 first set win.
Senior middle blocker Taylor Venuto hit two kills to begin the second set giving Loyola a 1-0 lead, but was interrupted by a Dayton kill. The action continued with back-and-forth scoring between both teams, until the Ramblers pulled away with the lead after they went on a four-point scoring run with three kills by venuto and one from McNabb.
The end of the set was tight, as Loyola held the lead until Dayton tied the set at 20 after a service error from McNabb. Loyola made two attack errors, giving Dayton a late 23-21 lead. The Ramblers attempted to comeback with a kill by Banitt and a service ace by senior outside hitter Sarah Murczek, but the Flyers took the win after an attack error by Barnes.
The Ramblers came back in the third dominating on offense. With 18 total kills and a .516 hitting percentage, Loyola was not giving up after dropping the second set. Barnes and McNabb led the Ramblers in kills throughout the set, Barnes with six and McNabb with eight.
Dayton was never able to gain the lead after the Ramblers led by 10 at 23-13 after more kills. To finish the set, McNabb hit her eighth kill of the set and her thirteenth of the match.
In a forced fourth set, Loyola stunned Dayton on both sides of the court with 18 digs and 14 kills. The Ramblers held the lead for most of the fourth committing only four errors while forcing eight Dayton errors. Towards the end, Dayton tied the score at 18.
The set was close up until the end, as both teams a point or two away from the lead and eventually, the win. With the title on the line on set point, sophomore setter Bree Borum set up the ball for Barnes, who knocked the ball down claiming the set and the match 25-23.
Following the win, Head Coach Amanda Berkley said she is incredibly proud of her team for the win, especially one player in particular.
“What a season for Karlie McNabb, and she really played well in the tournament,” Berkley said. “So proud of her for fighting through adversity this season. The team pulled together to win for Kim!”
Ending the night, the Ramblers set more records. McNabb — the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player — hit a career-high 21 kills and Barnes matched her season-high 17 kills. The win was also historic, as the program’s first A-10 Championship title and Loyola’s second A-10 title behind the Cross Country team. With the win, Loyola claimed a spot in the NCAA tournament beginning Dec. 1. The team will find out its opponent Nov. 27.