Dec. 10, 2009
Back in August, no one could say what 2009 volleyball season was shaping up to look like.
The Greyhounds returned six players, all of which had experience in the starting lineup. But injuries to all four seniors and the addition of six unproven freshmen left a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the team. Not to mention, a grueling non-conference schedule that included a game against back-to-back defending national champion, No. 1-ranked Penn State.
Cut to October, when the team was in the thick of a conference tournament race and pulled off a 3-1 upset over conference rival Siena - the first win over the Saints in seven years.
A month later, Nina Camaioni made Loyola history in what turned out to be a decorated year for the junior outside hitter.
While the Greyhounds didn't make it to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament - they narrowly missed finishing in the top four in the regular season - the season successfully set the stage for a promising future.
An 0-4 showing at the Duquesne/Robert Morris Invitational in Pittsburgh opened the season for Loyola. But despite the finish, the Greyhounds did put in some strong numbers and Camaioni was named to the all-tournament team.
The following weekend, the Greyhounds earned their first big win of the season with a 3-1 upset win over Maryland in the Battle of Baltimore. The win improved Loyola to 3-1 in the event, giving the 'Hounds a runner-up finish. Both Camaioni and freshman setter Aubrey Kirven were named to the all-tournament team as well as named MAAC Offensive Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively.
Camaoni went on to have one of the best seasons in Loyola history.
Averaging nearly five kills per set all season, her numbers were consistently among the top-20 in Division I and second-best in the MAAC, behind Burgandy McCurty, the MAAC and DI leader in kills and kills per set. Camaioni surpassed 1,000 kills Oct. 18, in a 3-0 win over Iona in New Rochelle, N.Y., topped the 30-kill mark for the first time in her career in a five-set win over Manhattan early in November and set the single-single season kills record. Her 31 kills against the Jaspers topped Carisa Kreichauf's previous record of 485.
The following weekend, Camaioni set a new Loyola milestone, becoming the first person in program history to reach 500 kills in one season. Camaioni closed her breakout season with 27 kills in a five-set thriller against Saint Peter's.
Her accomplishments earned her an all-MAAC First Team selection. The multi-talented hitter was also named to the MAAC all-academic team for the second straight season and garnered Academic All-District II accolades.
Libero Brittany Born also jumped in on the record-breaking action. On Oct. 4, Born became Loyola's all-time dig leader. The junior finished the season with 471 to give her a total of 1,580 for her career. As a freshman, Born set the single-season dig record with 626.
Senior middle blocker Karlee Woodward also surpassed 1,000 kills this season, doing it at Marist in October. Woodward finished a four-year Loyola career with a total of 1,199 kills and 542 total blocks.
However, it wasn't just the veterans that stood out in '09. Of the six true freshmen on the roster, three started all 33 matches this season and two others regularly joined them in the starting lineup as well.
Kirven was twice named MAAC Rookie of the Week and finished third in the conference averaging 9.77 assists per set. Facing a daunting task of running a brand new offense at the collegiate level, the freshman setter out of Hartville, Ohio took the reigns from day one and never looked back. Kirven also helped out on defense, quickly establishing herself as one of the Greyhounds' strongest blockers and passers.
Katie Dircks, a freshman hitter out of Stony Brook, N.Y., was second after Camaioni with 306 kills and third on the team with 285 digs.
Janet Pressler proved to be a versatile asset. Durable and athletic, Pressler was at times a primary back-row passer, hitter and blocker.
The Greyhounds finished the season 15-18 overall and 10-8 in the conference. With a youthful and experienced core, as well as four promising additions that recently signed letters of intent, the 2010 season is already shaping up to be a strong one.