Loyola Women’s Volleyball Finds Early Rhythm During Season-Opening Tournament

Picking up her 200th career win as a head coach in the process, Amanda Berkley led the Ramblers to a 2-1 overall record over the weekend.

The Loyola women’s volleyball team opened their 2023 season at the Purdue’s Reamer Club Xtra Special Premier tournament in West Lafayette, Indiana, Aug. 25 to 27.  Picking up her 200th career win as a head coach in the process, Amanda Berkley led the Ramblers to a 2-1 overall record over the weekend. 

Fourth-year right-side hitter Emily Banitt was front and center in an upset win over No. 16 Purdue University and was named Atlantic-10 Player of the Week with a career performance offensively. She registered 19 kills, two aces and three blocks.

Loyola began their season on Aug. 25, dropping a game against No. 18 Creighton University Bluejays 3-0. Despite the outcome, the sets between the Bluejays and Ramblers were even as Loyola held late leads in the encounter. However, the blue and white would close out the maroon and gold in straight sets.

The following day, Loyola faced Duke University and reigned victorious, flipping the outcome of Friday’s game and taking down the Blue Devils 3 sets to none. Third-year outside hitter Karlie McNabb and second-year setter Bree Borum had double-doubles in the match. 

The Ramblers held the Blue Devils to a slim .118-team hitting percentage overall. The victory was Berkley’s 200th career win as a head coach and her 96th while leading the Ramblers.

“I didn’t realize I was getting the 200th win, but it’s pretty exciting and means you’ve been doing this a long time,” Berkley said. “So it’s also kind of strange, but it was exciting to get it against a really good program.”

Purdue was the Rambler’s final opponent of the weekend. According to Ramblers athletics, Loyola rallied to defeat the Boilermakers in a 5-set nail-biter — the first win over any ranked opponent since defeating No. 9 Illinois in 2004. 

The team performed positively as they seized on service trouble from the Purdue backcourt in the first set. Loyola continued their momentum from the first set into the second and came out with a strong 6-2 lead at the beginning of set two.

“The preseason is a very tough schedule this year. Tournaments typically played two in one day. At this time, it was just one each day,” Berkeley said. “But it’s still really good competition, preparing us for the conference play and trying to put ourselves in position for an at-large bid.” 

Purdue was reserved to a 0.61 hitting percentage, and four Loyola serve aces helped stifle the Purdue onslaught, putting the Boilermakers out of the system for most of the set. The two sides were evenly matched during the third and fourth sets, as each team fought to win one each. A major upset opportunity was on the line for Loyola as they entered the decisive fifth set.

Purdue had a 12-7 advantage and was looking like they were going to put the game away towards the end of the set. Loyola scored three consecutive points sealed by a solo block from graduate middle blocker Taylor Venuto, leading to a Purdue timeout as the scoreboard read 12-10. 

Out of the break, Loyola scored four points to give the visitors a match point at 14-13. Banitt was the hero and delivered back-to-back kills to accomplish the upset. 

“I thought that in the fifth set against Purdue we really finished greatly as a team,” Bannit said. “That last point wouldn’t have been possible without a great dig by K.J. and a great set by Bree Borum. The A-10 award is not just for me but for the team as a whole.”

The Loyola women’s volleyball team will host the Rambler Invitational for their second invitational on Sept. 8 against No. 25 University of Tennessee and Sept. 9 vs. No. 9 University of Pittsburgh. 

Featured image courtesy of Steve Woltmann | Loyola Athletics

Christopher J. Henry

Christopher J. Henry