The Ramblers closed out their season second in the A-10 with a 16-2 conference record.
Women’s Volleyball Wins 16th Straight Over Rhode Island to End Regular Season
The Loyola women’s volleyball team closed out their regular season with a win over the University of Rhode Island during their Nov. 11 Senior Day.
The Ramblers finished with an 18-11 overall record and a 16-2 record in the Atlantic-10. The team has won a program-best 16 straight wins since Sept. 29 and is sitting pretty at No. 2 in the A-10 behind the University of Dayton who is undefeated against conference opponents and gave Loyola their only conference losses.
Rhode Island ended their season last in the A-10, going 1-17 in the conference and 4-26 overall. The Rams were also defeated by the Ramblers the night before in 3-0 sweep.
As the final time some of Loyola’s players would set foot on Gentile Arena’s court, Loyola Athletics honored the team’s six graduating players.
Teammates Emily Banitt, Addie Barnes, Anna Feldkamp, Grace Hinchman, Karlie McNabb and Taylor Venuto each walked onto the court with their families and bouquets as they were given framed jerseys. Loyola head coach Amanda Berkley also gave the three Rhode Island fourth-years a flower.
“I’m really proud of this group of seniors,” Berkley said after the game. “They’ve really done a lot for this program. They’ve gone to three conference championship title games, they’ve taken this program to new heights every year. Last year we broke records, and this year we’re still breaking records.”
Third-year setter Bree Borum got an early kill and the first point of the match. An attack error by the Rams and a kill by fourth-year outside hitter McNabb gave the Ramblers a quick 3-0 lead.
A two point Rhode Island run was halted by fourth-year right side hitter Banitt’s kill, but the Rams’ first-year outside hitter Madi Disu quickly responded with a kill and tied the game at four.
Loyola stayed in control with a kill from graduate outside hitter Barnes, an ace from Banitt and another kill from McNabb.
A joint block by Rhode Island’s graduate outside hitter Gabrielle Shilling and second-year outside hitter Aerin Bowman put the Rams within one at 9-8. The team from Kingston continued to pack it on with a kill from third-year outside hitter Andrea Owens and a mistimed Loyola spike, giving the Rams a 9-10 lead.
A tip from fourth-year middle blocker and right side Feldkamp tied the game again and led to three kills from McNabb off left-handed serves from Loyola’s third-year right side Esma Ajanovic.
The Rams called a timeout, down 13-10, but wouldn’t get anything going after that.
The height of Rhode Island’s 6’3” Bowman was a major defensive obstacle for Loyola, but Banitt got her fifth kill and forced a second Ram timeout at 20-12. Banitt would finish the game with a team-leading 13 kills.
A service error from McNabb gave Rhode Island a point out of the timeout 20-13, but Loyola maintained their lead.
Rambler fans were called to their feet as first-year outside hitter Kaley Board came in to serve. A block from Borum led to a Rhode Island spike into the top of the net which ended the set 25-15.
Back-to-back kills from graduate middle blocker Venuto and McNabb gave the Ramblers a quick lead they wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the second set. An ace from McNabb and six Loyola kills later, the Rams were forced to call a timeout down 9-3.
After an ace from Banitt, the team was all smiles as they reached double digits with ease. Rhode Island would only get five kills the entire set, compared to Loyola’s 12.
An eventual ace by Ajanovic gave Loyola a 17-6 lead going into a Rhode Island timeout. After the break, Borum kept up the pressure with an immediate ace.
A kill from first-year middle blocker Olivia Gardner brought the Ramblers to match point. Feldkamp and Board worked together for a block that led to a return error from Rhode Island, ending the set 25-12.
At the break, it was announced Borum had gotten her 2,000th career assist as the Ramblers went up 2-0.
The final set was the most contentious as the Rams wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Venuto began the scoring again with a quick kill. A Borum service error tied it for the Rams, but a kill from Banitt gave Loyola the lead once more at 2-1.
The Rams’ persistent defense kept Loyola on their toes as the set was tied at 4-4. Off a Banitt serve, a fantastic rally paid off in Rhode Island’s favor as they took the lead at 5-6.
The Rams’ second-year outside hitter Karlee Pinell got a kill, making it 6-7. McNabb, channeling the frustration of the back-and-forth, leapt and attacked, tying the game at 7. McNabb got two more kills until Rhode Island’s Disu answered back with her own, making it 9-11.
The Rams’ coaching staff was making constant substitutions, keeping their players rested and hydrated while the Ramblers were showing signs of tiring.
Even with Borum sliding on her knees for a dig and Banitt and Lovett colliding mid-play, the team kept their composure amid the frantic rallies until a Barnes ace gave them a 15-13 lead and led to a Rhode Island timeout.
The Rams continued to be competitive, with aces from redshirt second-year setter Hope Passerello and kills from Pinell, but the Ramblers returned to form for the rest of the set.
A spike from Banitt out of bounds closed the gap to 20-17, but she made up for it with a kill on the next rally. The Rams blocked back-to-back Rambler attacks, capped off by a kill by Bowman. Loyola’s Berkley called their first timeout, only up 21-19.
A Feldkamp kill brought the team to match point and a final service error by Rams graduate outside hitter Maddie Norris flew straight into the net, closing out the set 25-20.
With the win, Loyola maintained their spot as the second seed in the A-10 heading into the championship tournament.
“We’re really excited to extend our season, obviously,” Banitt said. “I think a big thing is, ‘The job’s not finished yet.’ It’s a good way we stay humble, because we still have a lot more we want to compete for.”
After their first round bye, the Loyola women’s volleyball team will play in the semifinals of the A-10 Championship Saturday, Nov. 18 at 3:30 p.m. in Davidson, North Carolina. They will compete against either Virginia Commonwealth University or Fordham University. All of the matches can be streamed on ESPN+.
Featured image by Hunter Minné / The Phoenix