After missing the IIAC Tournament Title by one win last season, the women’s volleyball team entered 2016 with a mission of redemption. With a stellar roster and skilled coaching staff, the team definitely has the tools to claim the championship this year. The league must think so as well, considering Loras was picked to top the conference in a preseason poll.
Returning to lead the championship-bound team is head coach Jenna Ness. This season she is joined by a new assistant, Jenna Sullivan, as well as Jeremy Thornburg. Also returning are four all-conference selections, senior Danni Kennedy, senior Therese Schultz, junior Haley Bergan and sophomore Claire Ritchie. The team has a diverse roster this year with a mix of returners and new players making their Duhawk debut.
“Every year is a new group of girls which creates a new environment, a new team or personality,” Ness said. “I think this year is neat because we have a group of five core junior and senior kids on our varsity squad. We have about five sophomore returners and five newbies. That creates a unique blend of kids and a neat camaraderie.”
The Duhawks got off to a great start winning their first two games of the season in the Northwestern Labor Day Tournament. Loras topped UW-Stout 3-2 and swept Concordia 3-0. Despite falling in their next two matches, they finished the tournament with a 2-2 record.
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the team hosted its home-opener against UW-Platteville. The Duhawks dominated the Pioneers, sweeping them 3-0. First-year Michelle Budden is proving her abilities as she recorded nine kills in the game and has 33 on the season. Senior Therese Schultz leads the team with 75 kills total.
The team continued its success over the weekend in the Loras Invitational hosted in the AWC. The Duhawks finished the tournament with a 2-2 record. They topped Augustana and St. Olaf in sweeping fashion, but fell to Carthage and Gustavus Adolphus in a similar way. This left the team with a 5-4 overall record after the weekend.
There are still many games left to play, and while it might seem that the team is anxious for the postseason, coach Ness is looking forward to every game in between.
“I’m excited for each game individually,” Ness said. “I think each game is unique in itself and we have to take care of every game one by one. I’m excited for game by game to see these young student athletes compete together every single day.”
Despite their success so far, the Duhawks do face some challenges. Specifically, Coach Ness wants her team to realize that even though last season ended with them near the top, they still have a lot of hard work to put in for the coming weeks. Ness said that the Duhawks realize that being picked to win in the preseason poll put a target on their back, so they have to grit from now until the end to reach their goal.
Coming up, the Duhawks will face Cornell in Mount
Vernon, IA tonight before returning home to face the University of Dubuque on Tuesday, Sept. 20.