Coming off a 4-22 record last year, the Loyola University women’s volleyball team has shown dramatic improvement this season, and a big reason is the play of freshman Stephanie Kinane of Batavia.
The Ramblers (15-9) returned five starters from last year’s team, but lost their starting libero to graduation. Kinane was one of the players Loyola recruited to potentially take her place.
“I knew I had competition coming in here,” Kinane says. “I didn’t expect to start right away, but I knew if I wanted to, I was going to have to work very hard.”
Her hard work has paid off. Kinane is one of four Ramblers to play in every set this year and her 477 digs on the season are more than twice as many as anyone else on the team.
Last week, Kinane was recognized as the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks after recording 30 digs each in successive Loyola conference road wins over Valparaiso and Wright State.
“It was awesome,” Kinane says of receiving the honor. “It’s a great feeling to get recognition as a freshman. … I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the recognition if my blockers hadn’t been funneling me the ball to get the digs.”
With three regular-season matches remaining and the Horizon League Championships after that, Kinane is 85 digs short of Ann Deelo’s single-season school record of 562 digs established in 2006.
Holding school records is nothing new for Kinane, who set the Batavia record for digs in one season with 408 last year on her way to earning all-conference accolades in the Upstate Eight River Division. She also holds the Batavia career record for digs with 1,046.
Following the conclusion of her successful prep career, Kinane’s college search included consideration of Marquette, Valparaiso, and Augustana, but a trip to Loyola sealed her decision to become a Rambler.
“I was looking at a lot of schools and I wound up coming here for a visit and met the coaches,” she says. “I loved the campus. The coaches were extremely nice. I definitely could see myself playing here and getting an education.”
Kinane is studying elementary education at Loyola with the goal of becoming a fifth-grade teacher. She says her classes are going well so far.
“I love it here,” Kinane says. “The team is awesome. All of my teammates are very supportive. The coaches work us hard. … It’s just a fun atmosphere to play in.”
After a pair of tough home losses to Youngstown State and league-leading Cleveland State, he Ramblers head into the last weekend of league play with a 7-4 conference record as they travel to Wisconsin-system schools.
“I definitely think even with the losses we’re going to jump right back into it,” Kinane says. “We always work hard in practice. This week we have Milwaukee and Green Bay, and I definitely feel good about those matches.”
The Ramblers are tied for third in the Horizon League standings with Illinois-Chicago. The top six teams qualify for the conference tournament and a chance to win an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. A victory in either match this weekend match will guarantee Loyola a spot in the conference championships.
Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information on local athletes competing in college, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.