June 7, 2011
CHICAGO - The Loyola University Chicago women's volleyball team, led by first-year head coach Chris Muscat, has released its 2011 fall schedule. The Ramblers open the season at Ball State, take on Northwestern in the opening match of the Chicagoland Challenge and tangle with fellow Big Ten Conference foe Iowa at the Hawkeye Challenge to highlight a challenging non-conference slate.
"We have high expectations for this group," said Muscat. "As a team, we know that our schedule will provide the opportunity for us to grow throughout the season as we strive to compete at the highest levels in the Horizon League."
Muscat and the Ramblers rekindle an old rivalry when they open the season in Muncie, Ind. in a three-team tournament hosted by Ball State. Loyola and the host Cardinals will face off on opening night (Aug. 26), facing each other for the first time since 1995. The Ramblers wrap up tournament play the following afternoon when they take on IPFW in the first meeting between the two teams.
Loyola returns home the following weekend to take part in the Chicagoland Challenge hosted by UIC (Sept. 2-3), facing Northwestern in the opening match before taking on either DePaul or the host Flames on day two. The Ramblers open the home portion of their schedule the very next day, battling Montana State in a rare Sunday night match (Sept. 4) on Labor Day weekend.
A short trip to Iowa City the following season will see the Ramblers get tested again, as they take on Oakland, Chicago State and the host Hawkeyes over a two-day span. Loyola has faced the Golden Grizzlies just once prior and has not dropped a set in seven wins over Chicago State. A mid-week road trip to Illinois State (Sept. 13) serves as LU's final tuneup before entering Horizon League play.
A visit to defending champion Milwaukee (Sept. 17) kicks off League play before a drawn out four-match homestand, beginning with a date against UIC (Sept. 23), takes the Ramblers through the rest of the month of September.
A two-game trip to Butler (Oct. 8) and Wright State (Oct. 9) follows before LU closes out its season series with UWM with a Friday night battle on Oct. 14. A midweek home match with Cleveland State (Oct. 18) takes Loyola into a tough four-match road trip that starts locally with Valparaiso and UIC and also includes a non-conference match at Bradley (Oct. 25) before wrapping up at Green Bay (Oct. 28).
The Ramblers usher in November with its final home weekend of the season, taking on Wright State (Nov. 4) and Butler (Senior Day, Nov. 5), then wrap up the regular season the follow weekend with its yearly trip to NE Ohio for matches against Cleveland State and Youngstown State.
"Despite being a young squad, we have a great deal of talent on this year's team," said Muscat. "We will have five new Ramblers joining the program this fall and that will immediately affect our gym culture as they compete for court time.
"Our girls understand the work ethic and commitment needed to continue the rich tradition in volleyball that has been established over the years here at Loyola," continued Muscat. "There are a lot of resources and hard work being put forth to provide us with the support and facilities that will enable Rambler athletics to take the next step while also creating a great athlete, student and fan experience. As a team and staff, we also understand the large role that our students can play in our success. The pride that our students have in our athletics programs have to be the foundation of it's success over the years to come."
Loyola has an intriguing mix of youth and experience on its 2011 roster as those five newcomers join a solid nucleus led by Diana Schulte, Natalie Pounovich and Natalie Fiore. Schulte is the team's leading returner, slamming 242 kills last season, while Fiore was one of the top young setters in the Horizon League in 2010, racking up 1,069 assists (10.38 aps) and 22 service aces.