One of the things Loyola head coach Mark Chang said he planned on doing before the Ramblers begin the Class 4A state tournament Tuesday had nothing to do with serving, setting or spiking.

A theology teacher at the school, Chang is a deep thinker and constantly talks about finding ways to give his team an edge. Although the Ramblers are 35 games into the season, he said would incorporate team-bonding exercises into the playoff preparation.

“I think it’s important, even this late in the season, to learn about each other,” he said. “I’ve been with my wife for almost 20 years, and I’m still learning things about her. There is a strength that comes from continuing to build on your foundation.”

Senior setter and captain Mary Leinenweber (pictured above) said she looked forward to getting closer to her teammates and considers chemistry crucial to Loyola’s future success.

“It’s incredibly important,” she said. “Our chemistry is something that can take us far.”

The Ramblers, the No. 3 seed at the New Trier Sectional, play either No. 14 Wheeling or No. 19 Niles North on Tuesday in the regional semifinals at Niles North. Loyola, which has won at least 20 games in each of Chang’s six seasons, is looking for its fifth consecutive regional championship.

Despite missing junior middle and captain Elizabeth Ford and junior right-side hitter Mary Kate Lopez, Loyola (23-12) ended the regular season Oct. 17 with a 21-25, 25-22, 25-14 win over Providence Catholic at home.

Junior right-side hitter/setter Anne Martinson totaled five kills, eight assists and nine digs. Junior outside hitter Julia Martinez finished with four kills, one block and 10 digs. Junior middle Samantha Downey had five blocks and one kill, while junior right-side hitter Avery Bodkin contributed three kills and three blocks. Senior libero and captain Angela Pieroni had 11 digs and one ace, and senior setter and captain Mary Leinenweber finished with eight assists and 10 digs.

“We really stepped up to win that one,” Leinenweber said. “We have some momentum, and we are motivated. We are now in playoff mode.”

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola