Tradition never graduates from volleyball program
Despite a heartbreaking loss to Wartburg in the Iowa Conference Championship match, the Duhawks have accomplished a lot this season. A team of half returners and half recruits found a way to sync and post one of the best volleyball seasons Loras has seen in years. The Duhawks finished with a 22-13 overall record after the conference tournament, and head coach Jenna Ness is pleased with their success.
“I was really proud of (the team) with the work they put in the offseason and the team they became. It was a special group of girls that worked hard throughout the whole season and really showed their commitment and dedication to the program and to getting better as a whole,” Ness said.
This dedication was evident in the performances the team showcased during the season which led to them earning their best tournament seeding since 2010. By getting the number two seed the Duhawks received a bye in the first round of tournament play.
Loras went on to face Buena Vista, the number three seed, in the semi-final match. Junior Therese Schultz was a dominant force in the match, recording 16 kills and two blocks. Claire Ritchie also posted a big performance with her 15 kills and two blocks. It was a hard-fought match that kept the entirety of the AWC on their feet, but the Duhawks remained focused and defeated the Beavers in five sets. With this win the team advanced to the Iowa Conference Championship match at Wartburg.
Winning the first set in the championship game was unfortunately not enough to claim the title. Wartburg bounced back winning the next three sets to take the victory. Even so, the Duhawks performed like they had all season: with cohesiveness and skill. First-year Jenna LaCorte provided a spark for the team as she recorded nine kills in the match. Liz Jendra tallied eight kills and one ace serve.
When commenting on her thoughts about the season, Ness had to take a moment and shine the spotlight on Jendra for all the work she put in this season.
“(Liz Jendra’s) role as a senior leader on our team and as the sixth rotation outside player really developed in these last three years I’ve coached her. I think she did an outstanding job at keeping the team together; she was our glue as far as pushing through different situations. She led our team in more than one way on and off the court,” said Ness.
With the graduation of Jendra come spring, the Duhawks will look to other members of the roster to fill her leadership role. The team has begun preparations for next season in other aspects as well as they hope to take home the title in 2016. They are set to work and have thus started offseason conditioning already.
“They know they have to work hard this offseason to get to their ultimate goal of the NCAA tournament. They know what they have to do and how to do it. They are ready for the fall,” Ness said.
With the depth of this year’s team and the talent next year’s recruits will likely bring, it seems that the Duhawks have a good chance of reaching that goal.