Sports

Women’s Volleyball Smashes into Atlantic 10, Shattering Program and Conference Records

John KonstantarasThe Loyola women's volleyball team set multiple program records of most consecutive wins and fan attendance at its conference home opener.

The 2022 season for the Loyola women’s volleyball team (23-8, 17-1) has been nothing short of historic. Records were broken, players set personal bests and the team claimed its first Atlantic 10 (A-10) regular season title, making the Ramblers back-to-back regular season champions in two different conferences — Missouri Valley Conference and A-10. 

Though the season has been memorable for the players, they’ve faced more adversity than ever before. Going into the season, junior libero Grace Hinchman was diagnosed with FIRES — Febrile Infection-Related Epilepsy Syndrome, which made her question if she will ever play again, The Phoenix previously reported. 

The team suffered injuries throughout the season, removing senior middle blocker Taylor Venuto, senior outside blocker Addie Barnes and junior outside blocker Kelsey Watson from the lineup for at least three matches each. Adversity continued to hit the team when junior outside hitter Karlie McNabb suffered the loss of her mother Sept. 7. 

The hardships continued but the Ramblers fought back. They persevered to play the program’s best conference season ever with a record of 17-1 at the end of the regular season. 

Throughout conference play, the Ramblers beat every A-10 opponent they faced and only dropped one match to the University of Dayton. The team set a program record for most consecutive wins at 14, and its best conference season in program history. The 17-1 conference record also set an A-10 record for most wins by a team in conference play. 

Despite being one game short of going undefeated in the A-10 Loyola went undefeated at Gentile Arena with a 12-0 home record, more than any other team at Loyola in the 2022 season. Loyola broke yet another record with an all-time high 791 fans in attendance for its conference home-opener against Fordham University Sept. 30

“It’s just nice to see the students support our team,” Loyola Head Coach Amanda Berkley said of the attendance record. “We hope that they continue to come back and continue to bring a great atmosphere here in the Gentile Arena.” 

To pair with the team’s records, several players set career highs. Hinchman sparked the season of personal bests with her 1000th career dig on Aug. 26 against the University of Tennessee, followed by McNabb’s career-high 19 kills against the University of Michigan Sept. 3 and four service aces and two blocks Saint Louis University (SLU) Oct. 4. 

Junior middle blocker Anna Feldkamp posted a career-high 19 kills against Rutgers University Sept. 10, joined by Watson who set a career-best 17 kills against DePaul University Sept. 17 and nine blocks against SLU Oct. 25. Venuto also hit a career-best .778 hitting percentage Oct. 21 against the University of Rhode Island. 

The players’ performances didn’t go unnoticed by the A-10, as four players — Banitt, Hinchman, McNabb and Watson — were tabbed with conference weekly honors according to weekly releases by the A-10. Banitt was named the Women’s Volleyball Co-Player of the Week Sept. 12 and Hinchman was named the A-10 Defensive Player of the Week the same day. 

McNabb was selected as the A-10 Women’s Volleyball Player of the Week Oct. 3 and Watson followed up her award month later as the A-10 Defensive Player of the Week Oct. 31. 

Watson said the team’s success comes after over a year of hard work improving their mental game and practicing at a higher level. 

“There’s a widespread feeling of accomplishment because we all came in really determined to make the season mean something,” Watson said. “We’ve been set on making these big accomplishments and changing how the program is and I feel like we’ve gotten there.” 

Berkley agreed and said this season has been incredibly special to her, adding how proud she is of how her team battled through adversity. She said the success means the hard work and sleepless nights have paid off, which means so much to her. 

The Ramblers are preparing for their first A-10 tournament in St. Louis where they have the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. Loyola will face the winner of No. 4 seeded George Washington University and No. 5 seeded SLU in the semifinals on Nov. 19. First serve is at 1 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN+. 

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