Despite junior defensive specialist Ella Boehle calling this season full of challenges, the volleyball team was still able to perform strong this season. 

Another season is in the books for LMU volleyball, one proclaimed to be “full of difficulties” by junior defensive specialist Ella Boehle. The Lions performed competently through a slate of 16 games, marred by crucial injuries to senior middle Meredith Teague and junior MB Erin Curl, both of which were suffered in the first match against Saint Mary’s. Some major props must be given to sophomore middle Emmelynn Walters and senior opposite Sierra Bartley for stepping into new roles and giving LMU a fighting chance in most games. Still, they finished 7th in the West Coast Conference (WCC) standings, before only Gonzaga (5-11), Pacific (2-7) and Portland (2-12).

It was a tale of two teams for much of the season, characterized by inconsistent play and culminating in a middling 7-9 record. With a schedule like no other (containing strict COVID-19 testing, limited options for WCC competition and four in-season cancellations), they did not travel well despite an admirable 6-3 record at home, as they went 1-6 away from the confines of Gersten Pavilion. That lone victory ended 3-1 versus conference rival Gonzaga, thanks to Kari Geissberger’s 18 kills.

The season did have its bright spots, including a thrilling 3-2 win versus then-No. 18 University of San Diego (USD), who boasted an 11-game win streak prior to the match. Down 2-1, the Lions went on runs of 6-0 in game four and 10-3 in the fifth to ensure a dramatic, memorable upset. Redshirt freshmen Audrey Klemp and Mary Shroll performed exceptionally well, with Klemp providing 21 kills and defensive specialist Shroll contributing with a team-high 21 digs.

Thus, some season-ending accolades are in order for those athletes who made their presence known and their impact substantial. Our exclusive, one-member committee (founded and populated entirely by me) established three prestigious awards that will hopefully turn into an annual thing.

24/7 Award: This made-up award goes to freshman setter Isabella Bareford. In addition to controlling the Lions’ offense, Bareford played all six rotations throughout the season, which is a lot of responsibility. She was, and will continue to be, essential to the team, and her sharp decision making consistently set up her hitters for success.

Playmaker Award: Audrey Klemp swept this category for her spectacular showing of 188 points on the season. Our committee noted that Klemp was actually a setter last year, but she transitioned into an opposite hitter with grace and didn’t miss a beat. “Nothing fires me up more than Audrey getting a stuff block and celebrating,” said outside hitter Rose Booth. “She has the heaviest arm. She’s a beast out there.” Case in point, Klemp produced so many kills and stuff blocks that her contributions could not go unsung.

Dirty Work Award: The team’s libero (defensive specialist) is Mary Shroll— an outstanding passer and teammate. Shroll has made a name for herself this season for flying all over the court, yet she is never out of position. Shroll was, simply put, a human highlight reel and pulled some crazy digs throughout the season, keeping the play alive in impossible situations. Without Shroll’s selfless defense, the Lions could not have run their attack nearly as well.

Ultimately, the Lions finished the season strong with back-to-back sweeps of Santa Clara, demonstrating the resilience that they have been capable of all season. Head coach Aaron Mansfield did a tremendous job with the hand he was dealt, and although the Lions failed to capitalize fully on their talented roster, next season is as bright as ever for a middle-of-the-conference sleeper team like LMU.

This is the opinion of Chris Benis, a sophomore marketing major from Seattle, Washington. Tweet comments to @LAloyolan or email comments to mthomas@theloyolan.com.

Chris Benis, asst. sports editor, has been a dedicated writer for the Loyolan since September 2020. He writes primarily about in-season critiques and enjoys publishing single-player features.

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