Duhawks fly past preseason expectations
With their 3-0 victory over crosstown rival University of Dubuque last Wednesday, the Duhawks secured the second place seed in the Iowa Conference standings. The team’s regular season of record 21-12 is the best mark that head coach Jenna Ness has posted in her three year coaching tenure at Loras. In 2014, the team was 14-18 in the regular season, and they were 15-15 the year prior. Ness gives all the credit for this success to her players.
“(Our record) has just shown that the hard work the student athletes have put in is paying off. The determination, fight, and willingness to get better every day in practice is the reason we score a few more points here and there,” said Ness.
Receiving the number two seed in the conference is exciting, but it is even more thrilling considering the team was predicted to place fifth overall in a preseason poll conducted by Iowa Conference volleyball coaches. The team went above and beyond those expectations, but how did they get there?
The most important factor behind the Duhawks’ success this season was the cohesiveness of the roster. The team solidified a strong bond off the court that contributed to their triumphs on the court. This is an impressive feat considering the team is split between returners and new recruits.
“We have a young group, so at the beginning of the season we were trying to mesh our returners with our young kids and get them on the same page. Now that they have been on the same page everything, is meshing together,” Ness said in a post-game press conference.
Ness is absolutely correct; everything seems to be clicking now. The team’s ability to work together so smoothly has resulted in several important wins for them. Coe, Wartburg, and Central were all picked to finish atop Loras in the preseason poll. The Duhawks didn’t let this affect their mentality and proceeded to defeat all three of these conference opponents.
“The chemistry that our team has, how well they get along and how much time they want to spend together really translates to the court. I think once everything started gelling chemistry and personality-wise, that’s when we really started winning and doing good things,” Ness said about her team.
While the team has a whole consistently delivers elite performances, individual Duhawks also find their way into the spotlight. Senior Liz Jendra has just completed her final regular volleyball season as a Duhawk. She posted big numbers for Loras this season and thrived in her leadership role. Jendra leads Loras in service aces with 0.26 per set. She also ranks second in digs with 2.67 per set, only behind the team’s libero Haley Bergan. The Tinley Park, IL native also showcased a great game on her senior night against Simpson. She recorded a team-high 12 kills and 16 digs.
Jendra will continue to lead her team as the Duhawks prepare for the IIAC Tournament. Due to their second place seeding, the team received a bye in the first round of the tournament. The Duhawks will play their semifinal match on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. in the AWC. Coach Ness had these final words to say about the postseason:
“The tournament is all about playing your best volleyball at the right time, so hopefully we can continue to come together and do that.”