At a preseason team meeting, the players talked about their desire to surpass last season’s success, according to Loyola head coach Mallory Thelander.
That’s a tall task, considering the Ramblers return only three starters from a team that won a Class 4A sectional title and finished 30-9. They were one win away from the program’s first trip to the state tournament since 2014.
“They are excited to do more after getting a taste last year,” said Thelander, who’s in her second season as head coach. “That’s what is pushing them.”
Senior middle hitter Jackie Yau, senior libero Grace Anello and senior libero Rosie Talaga are back to the regular rotation. Yau proved her potential last season by totaling 66 kills and 43 blocks in 22 matches.
“She brings leadership to the court with the way she plays,” Thelander said of Yau. “She’s a powerful player on the front row, and her kills energize our team. The players look to her to make big plays.”
Anello and Talaga both bring experience to the back row. Talaga is a captain, alongside senior setter Chloe Tierney.
“Rosie was a big leader for us in the offseason,” Thelander said. “She’s an athlete who plays multiple sports and sets the tone for us when it comes to conditioning. Grace is a quiet leader who’s calm and collected. They are pushing each other to be better.”
Loyola lost most of its offensive production with the graduation of Elizabeth Ford, Mary Kate Lopez, Julia Martinez, Anne Martinson and Lizzie Walker.
Nonetheless, Thelander said there are players ready to step into bigger roles, such as returning varsity veteran Katy D’Ariggo, a senior hitter, and varsity newcomers junior outside hitter Josie Fronczak, junior middle hitter Jane Robertson, junior setter Sarine Kalayjian and sophomore outside hitter Mia McGrath.
Fronczak, Robertson, Kalayjian and McGrath all played on Loyola’s JV team that went 32-0 last year.
“We believe we can be strong all over the court, but we have to continue to work hard,” Thelander said.