Young players step up as leaders on the court


Henry Baldwin

This is a crucial year for Loyola’s volleyball team as many key players are seniors on their way to graduating, so recent freshman recruits face the task of becoming leaders and team-builders.

Anticipating this loss, the new freshmen are training hard and shouldering the responsibility of becoming the foundation upon which a new team will be built.

“It was intimidating at first to come out, and, you know, have that role immediately, but getting to know the girls, they’re just super welcoming and they have nothing against young players,” Grace Bailey, general studies freshman said. “She [Coach Zabal] told me when I was recruited, ‘you’re good, and you’re going to take control of the different plays.'”

So far, the freshmen feel they have lived up to this high standard as demonstrated by the Wolf Pack’s recent win over the Mobile Rams — their first time beating the Alabama team in seven years. Volleyball coach Jesse Zabal attributes this upset in part to the extensive experience that each freshman brings to the court.

“They have all come from really great high school and club experiences and are coming in with high-level skills that really helps us integrate them into the team, so we don’t have to focus so much on teaching,” Zabal said. “They are able to run plays and just grow in experience, and that really lets us play at a much higher level.”

Before coming to Loyola, the freshman lineup worked hard in academics as well as volleyball. Bailey, of Franklin, Tennessee, who, in addition to being named to the All-District’s First Team and helping her high school become three-time district champions, was a high school honor roll student for each of her four years. Bailey also had 1,000 registered assists before even joining the Loyola team.

Brittany Cooper, mass communication freshman, from Plano, Texas, was a 2017 Regional quarterfinalist, a 2018 state semi-finalist and a 2018-2019 Academic All-State selection.

Dallis Brown, psychology freshman, from Grand Prairie, Texas, another All-District Academic selection, received a District 7-6A All-District Honorable Mention for volleyball.

Casey Aucoin, mass communications freshman, from Covington, Louisiana, balanced her studies to become a member of her high school honor roll while also achieving the status of a State and District Champion for volleyball.

For the girls, volleyball provides the perfect place to execute both their hard work ethic and their devout love for the sport.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I started out indoor, and I did a little beach too. There is just something about the game and the team aspect that I just love it,” said Casey Aucoin.

Zabal said all the new freshmen are expected to continue working hard to become better leaders for their team.

“The strive for excellence and growth does not stop with an accolade or a win, nor should we allow any age or defeat to stop us from moving forward,” Zabal said. “I expect them to grow in the game, but then also for them to grow their confidence. You can lead and be a good example and work hard for the team.”