Outside hitter-turned-libero Olivia Lovett has made an impact this season.
Women’s Volleyball’s Olivia Lovett Thrives In New Position
Third-year outside hitter-turned-libero Olivia Lovett has impacted the Loyola women’s volleyball team this season with her sense of calm on the court and her joyful energy off the court.
Lovett’s volleyball career started when she was a young kid, playing on recreational teams in her hometown of Lenexa, Kansas. Her family was involved with athletics, with her father playing collegiate baseball and her older sister playing recreational volleyball, according to Lovett.
At the age of 10, Lovett and her twin sister started playing club volleyball together, following in the footsteps of their older sister. The two played together all the way through high school and went through the college recruitment process together before going their separate ways — her twin to Georgia Southern University.
“Playing next to my sister did so much,” Lovett said. “When she was going through it, I was like, ‘Oh I wanna do that too.’ So yeah, she had a big role in wanting to play college volleyball.”
There were many factors that drew Lovett to become a Rambler.
In high school, Lovett played with fourth-year Anna Feldkamp who committed to Loyola a year before. Lovett said this bond added Loyola and Chicago to her radar. With the benefits of a quick flight home and a change of scenery, Lovett found her new home.
Head coach Amanda Berkley said she wanted Lovett to be a part of the team because of her athletic qualities and knowledge of the game.
“I remember watching her, and I thought she could play the game,” Berkley said. “She was athletic, and she could move well. She’s obviously a good passer and defender, and I just wanted her to be a part of our program.”
Lovett has grown significantly in her position on the team. In her first year as a Rambler, she wasn’t “a huge talker.” Berkley said she is now categorized as one of the biggest talkers on the team. Third-year Bree Borum added she is “extremely goofy.”
Last season, Lovett didn’t get as much playing time as she has this year, playing in only 32 sets overall. After starting in a match against George Washington University on Sept. 23 and 24, Lovett recorded one of her best matches, stacking up 20 digs and 20 kills. From then on, Berkley said she has relied on her to bring that consistency to the court every match.
“She’s someone who can get the job done,” Berkley said. “She might do it in a quieter manner, but this year and the last two weeks she had to step into a different role. I think she has passed really well.”
Lovett describes herself as someone who can step into any position on the court to help the team out.
She backed this up when she came off the bench as a libero at the start of the season, stepping away from her normal outside hitter position. She had to learn a position with new responsibilities such as staying on the back line and being ready for the opponents’ serve. Lovett said the positions have many similarities which made it easier for her to adjust.
“It translates a lot with the outside position,” Lovett said. “Playing back row, serve-receive is very important, and I have always been stronger in that area of my game.”
On the court, Borum said Lovett has created a “sense of calmness” for the team and always has her teammates’ backs. She has been described by Borum as someone who knows how to support everyone on the team, regardless of the circumstance.
Both Borum and Berkley shared how much joy Lovett brings to the team off the court.
“She’s my roommate and my best friend,” Borum said. “Just the connection of playing with your best friend and someone who is always working hard and always being there for her teammates makes it really fun to play with her.”
Lovett said she looks up to all of her teammates, but especially Karlie McNabb because of her strength through tough times and motivation to make everyone on the team better people.
“After last year, going through what [McNabb] did,” Lovett said. “And coming out as a stronger player, a stronger person and teammate. She pushed not only me but everyone on the team to act very selfless.”
The Ramblers are heading into conference play with the strength of Lovett’s ability to command the court and spark joy. The team is determined to become back-to-back Atlantic-10 conference champions.
“I think our main goal is to win the conference tournament again,” Lovett said. “Be back-to-back and make it further in the NCAA tournament than we did last year.”
Lovett and the Ramblers take on their first conference matches against the University of Dayton Flyers on Friday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 23 at 12:30 p.m. Both games will take place at Gentile Arena.
Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix