(New Orleans, La.) The Loyola University New Orleans Volleyball team begins the 2014 season in Houston this weekend at the University of St. Thomas Labor Day Tournament. The Pack opens play on Friday, August 29 as they take on tournament host, St. Thomas at 1 p.m. followed by a matchup against St. Gregory’s University at 7 p.m. On Saturday, August 30, Loyola will face Texas College at 9 a.m. and finish play against Oklahoma Wesleyan University at 3 p.m.
Coach Angela Franke begins her first season with the Pack, returning seven members from last year, including three seniors, one junior and three sophomores. The roster will also feature six new freshmen and one new junior.
Returning to the Pack is senior Becca Burnett, who led the team in digs last season, tallying 376. Burnett also finished second on the team in assists with 48. Fellow senior Lauren Brand contributed 164 kills during the 2013 campaign, finishing third on the team in hitting percentage (.202). Senior Tiffany Walker, a Southern States Athletic Conference Champions of Character Recipient her sophomore year, returns from an injury sustained last season. Both Brand and Walker were named to the 2013-14 SSAC All-Academic team.
Junior Eva Allen led the Pack offense with 276 kills and 37 aces, averaging 2.65 kills per set. She was also named to the SSAC All-Conference Second Team.
Sophomore Daniela Leal was named to the SSAC All-Freshmen Team and ranked first on the team and fifth in the SSAC in assists, compiling 953. Sophomore Katie Philippi ranked sixth on the squad in digs, tallying 121 for the season. Fellow sophomore Wren Overesch notched 86 kills over 60 sets in her debut season.
With the loss of four seniors, the Pack will look to its seven newcomers to add energy and athleticism on the court. Junior transfer Breanna Stevenson will have an immediate impact on defense and brings two years of prior collegiate experience to the Pack. Freshmen middle blockers Shelby Boyd, Keyanna Gayden and Julianna Lydon will add both height and depth to the Pack’s front line. Freshmen defensive specialists Elizabeth Scioneaux and Hannah Kraker will both be a powerful presence on the court and will bring speed and intensity to the back row. Freshman outside hitter Raven Daniels’ proficiency as a utility player will be beneficial to the Pack’s success both offensively and defensively.
Following the St. Thomas Tournament, the Pack will open regular season play on the road against Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. on September 1. The home opener is scheduled for September 5 against conference contender Bethel University.
The squad will face Jesuit rival Spring Hill College in The Den on September 9 and again in Mobile on October 23.
The Wolf Pack will play four matches against city opponents. The first will be against SUNO in the Den on September 25. The following night the team will play a road match in New Orleans against Xavier, and on October 8 Loyola will play another local road contest against SUNO. The Pack will host Xavier in the Den for the last home match of the season on November 3 for Senior Night.
Loyola will play eight conference games in the month of October, hosting three in The Den - Oct. 10 against Coastal Georgia, Oct. 11 against Brewton-Parker and Halloween night against Belhaven. The team will finish conference play on the road in Tennessee November 7-8 against Bethel and Martin Methodist respectively.
The SSAC Tournament is scheduled for November 13-15 in Montgomery, Alabama. Coach Franke is confident about her team’s chances for a successful conference tournament and competing in the NAIA Opening Round on November 24. The NAIA Nationals will be held December 2 to December 6 in Sioux City, Iowa.