Women’s Volleyball Falls to Strong Offense of UIC 

The Ramblers fell to the Flames 3-0 despite a strong effort in each set.

The Loyola women’s volleyball team took to the floor at home Friday afternoon as they faced cross-city rival University of Illinois at Chicago. The Ramblers fell to the Flames 3-0 despite a strong effort in each set.

The Ramblers were welcomed back to Gentile Arena to kick off the beginning of the Hampton Inn Invitational, hosted by the Ramblers, after dropping two games against ranked opponents on their home court last weekend.

While the Ramblers lost to their ranked opponents, head coach Amanda Berkley said the team had been looking forward to Friday’s matchup. 

“I think we were excited to play against a city team,” Berkeley said. “We are coming in excited to play and to play at home. Unfortunately, we didn’t play as well as we can.”

The match started off strong as the Ramblers and Flames traded hard kills. However, the Ramblers’ ability to respond to the power of Flame’s fourth-year outside hitter Martina Delucchi allowed UIC to get out and maintain a lead. 

As the strong battle at the net continued, UIC took their first time out of the match after graduate student and outside hitter Addie Barnes hit the Flames with her first ace of the game. The Flames were welcomed back to the floor with another ace by Barnes, giving Loyola a 15-11 lead.

UIC was slowly able to take control of the match due to fourth-year middle blocker Becca Oldendorf’s ability to identify holes in Loyola’s defense, Delucchi’s kill down the line and team blocks by outside hitter and right side Ayat Amin and fourth-year middle blocker Zahria Woodard. Loyola was able to interrupt their opponent’s stretch of points through the teamwork of third-year setter Bree Borum’s spotless assist and a kill by second-year middle blocker Ella Ramsay.

Loyola fought hard to protect their side of the court, but UIC was able to catch up to them after another attack error by Loyola’s offense. Following a Loyola timeout, the team struggled to respond to Delucchi’s strong kills which helped the Flames extend their lead to 24-20 over the Ramblers. 

As set one approached match point, Barnes and Borum helped the Ramblers hold on to the set through another hard ace by Barnes and a kill by Borum. Following Loyola’s comeback, UIC took their second timeout of the game. 

Two important kills by senior outside hitter Karlie McNabb helped the Ramblers take a 26-25 lead as the teams entered overtime. UIC’s defense responded intensely to Loyola’s offensive plays which helped them take the set 32-30 despite an impressive one-handed save by McNabb and four aces by Barnes. 

Compared to the extended length of set one, UIC was able to claim the second set faster by out-scoring Loyola 25-19. Both teams started the second set off strong, but Loyola’s cross-town rival was able to jump out a 14-7 lead even with powerful kills by Ramsay, Borum and McNabb.

Ramsay and Borum teamed up to help bring Loyola back into the match through two consecutive kills that led the score to 14-9. 

Fourth-year right side Emily Banitt and middle blocker and right side Anna Feldkamp further decreased UIC’s lead to 15-12 through a series of clean kills assisted by Borum and libero Olivia Lovett. UIC’s back row continued to struggle against the power and accuracy of Barnes’ serves which earned two more aces.

While the Ramblers were able to continue to fight against the Flames’ offensive efforts, kills by second-year outside hitter Cleo Lorenzo, Oldendorf and Woodard led UIC to a victory in the second set. 

The third set was reminiscent of the first as the Ramblers and Flames both had strategic kills that led them to slowly compete for the lead. Rambler kills from Banitt and Feldkamp identified weaknesses in the attentive defense of their opponents, and Barnes added to her impressive afternoon with another ace.

Third-year right side and opposite hitter Esma Ajanovic was able to immediately impact the court after coming off the bench with strong hits and kills, helping the Ramblers further their lead to 8-6.

Continuous kills by UIC’s Delucchi, who had 14 kills by the time the teams were tied at 10-10, and additional kills by Amin and Woodard that surpassed Loyola’s blocking attempts catapulted UIC to a   15-13 lead. 

Even though the Ramblers disrupted UIC’s offense through blocks by Banitt, Ajanovic and Ramsay, the Flames still found weaknesses in Loyola’s defense. 

A final kill by Delucchi regained UIC’s serving possession and caused a streak of points that led to the Flames taking the game in three sets. 

While the Ramblers didn’t leave their first match of the Hampton Inn Invitational with a win, many of the Ramblers recorded high numbers of kills and blocks. Berkley pointed specifically to Ramsay and said she had impressive blocks and swings which contributed to Loyola’s comebacks throughout the game. 

Loyola followed their game against UIC with a game against red-line rival Depaul University. Berkley shared her hopes for the team’s game against the Blue Demons. 

“I’d like us to play a little bit more loose and are having fun, because we were a little stressed today,” Berkeley said. “So hopefully we can find our mojo back and confidence back.”

The women’s volleyball team will compete against the University of Dayton Flyers, ranked second in the Atlantic-10 Conference, on Friday, Sept. 22.  The first serve will be at 6 p.m in Gentile Arena and can be streamed on ESPN+.

Featured image by Nick Huck-Reymond | The Phoenix

Sabrina Godinho dos Santos

Sabrina Godinho dos Santos