Ramblers Secure A-10 Championship Spot with Win Against VCU

They will face Dayton in a rematch of last year’s final.

The Loyola women’s volleyball team took down Virginia Commonwealth University in four sets Saturday afternoon to secure their spot in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship. 

Fifth-year outside hitter Addie Barnes led the Ramblers in kills, digs and aces with 17, 20 and three, respectively. Third-year setter Bree Borum followed closely with 42 assists and 16 digs. 

The Ramblers started the first set high at 6-1 with a four-serve streak by fourth-year outside hitter Karlie McNabb that resulted in kills from graduate middle blocker Taylor Venuto, fourth-year right side hitter Emily Banitt and Barnes. 

Banitt would secure two more kills with assists credited to Borum to put the Ramblers ahead 8-3. Two attack errors and a kill from VCU’s third-year outside hitter Kialah Jefferson and a kill from Barnes shortened the Ramblers lead to three at 9-6. 

Play stayed at a back-and-forth pace with two kills from Venuto, one each from McNabb and Barnes, three attack errors from Banitt and two attack errors from VCU’s fourth-year middle blocker Jasmine Knight and graduate setter AnnaBelle Tomai. 

Banitt, Barnes and Borum each racked up a kill before VCU went on a four-point run to tie the game at 19. The Rams took the lead after a bad set from first-year setter Kylie Schulze, but the Ramblers came right back to tie the set again off of a kill by Venuto. 

Attack errors from Banitt and McNabb put VCU ahead by two. A kill by McNabb signaled the Ramblers’ attempt at a comeback, but VCU’s first-year outside hitter Sydney Houchens responded with a kill, maintaining the Rams’ two point lead.

A service error by first-year Anja Kujundzic followed by a kill from third-year opposite hitter Parker Hartzell would be the last moves from VCU in the first set, as the Ramblers took the last four points with kills from Banitt, Barnes, and fourth-year middle blocker and right side Anna Feldkamp to clinch the set 26-24. 

Two attack errors from VCU’s Jefferson and Hartzell and Loyola’s Barnes and Venuto, a service error from McNabb and back-to-back kills from Barnes set up the only time the Ramblers would have the lead in the second set at 4-3. 

Loyola would make five attack errors in eight points, putting the Rams up at 12-5. Barnes would record the only point for the Ramblers in this stretch of the set. 

Kills from Feldkamp and Borum and VCU’s Knight and graduate opposite hitter MaKenzie Chambers set the score 14-7, in favor of VCU. 

The Ramblers made minimal contact with VCU’s side of the court, only scoring seven more points in the set. These points were on two kills from McNabb, a kill from Barnes and Venuto, bad sets from Jefferson and Knight, and an attack error from Jefferson. 

VCU’s set two win was credited to two kills from Jefferson, three from Chambers and one from Knight and Hartzell, along with a service ace from Knight, a service error from third-year libero Olivia Lovett and an attack error from Feldkamp making it 25-14 and the match at one each. 

The third set started at an even pace with kills from Venuto and Banitt, a service error by Borum and an attack error from Venuto to make it 2-2. The Ramblers scored three points back-to-back with kills by Barnes and McNabb and an attack error by Hartzell. 

After a service error from Lovett, the Ramblers would score three more from two attack errors caused by Houchens and Knight and a kill from Barnes to make the score 8-3. The Rams attempted to close the lead with two kills from Houchens and Jefferson that were both answered with kills from Feldkamp. 

Attack errors from Jefferson and Venuto along with a kill from Chambers shrunk the Loyola lead to four at 11-7. The Ramblers would then score two off of a kill from McNabb and an attack error from Jefferson, who would then redeem herself with a kill of her own making the score 13-8. 

The teams took turns scoring two points each until the Ramblers cut the streak at 18-12 with a Banitt kill. The tension kept building as both teams inched toward 25, alternating one-point builds. Knight and McNabb racked up two more kills each and Banitt and Chambers would each have one kill making the score 22-15. 

The remaining three points VCU would add to the board were from errors by Borum, Barnes and Banitt. Loyola managed to add three more of their own to secure the third set with McNabb, Barnes and Banitt all receiving kills to close at 25-18. 

Loyola started the fourth set with a five-point run with McNabb serving. Barnes recorded two more kills and Banitt one, McNabb added a service ace and an attack error by Hartzell made the score 6-2 early on. 

The four-point gap would remain as a kill by Houchens, a bad set by Barnes, two attack errors from Hartzell and Knight and a kill from Banitt raised the score to 9-5. 

VCU would score three more points credited to attack errors from Loyola’s side before the Ramblers went on a six-point run with Barnes serving. Barnes would put down three service aces and a kill along with a McNabb kill and attack error from Chambers before a service error, putting the Ramblers ahead 18-9. 

Jefferson recorded two kills back-to-back in response to a kill from Feldkamp. Tomai made a service ace to keep the Rams in the game at 19-12. 

The last four VCU points were kills from Chambers, Jefferson and Houchens along with a block from Chambers off of Barnes. Loyola finished the set with two kills from Banitt and one from Barnes and Venuto each, with the match point being received off a service error from fourth-year outside hitted Ana Brangioni. 

Head coach Amanda Berkley said the team had some “tournament jitters” but is overall proud of the team’s performance  going into the final match. 

“Play it one point at a time and play as many five-point games,” Berkley said. “Just play how you know how to play. We don’t need to do any more than that. Just have fun.” 

The final match for the Ramblers will take place on Sunday at noon, where the team will take on the University of Dayton Flyers for the A-10 Championship trophy. The match can be streamed on ESPN+.

This article was written by Andi Revesz

Featured image courtesy of Tim Cowie | Loyola Athletics

Andi Revesz

Andi Revesz