Volleyball team reflects on successful season


Shadera Moore

Dallis Brown serves for the Pack at the women’s volleyball game against William Carey University in temporary host Tulane University’s Devlin Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

After being named the Southern States Athletic Conference regular-season champions and finishing as runners-up at the SSAC Championship tournament, Loyola’s volleyball team is reflecting back on the season’s ups and downs.

Junior Brittany Cooper said her favorite moment of the year happened during the championship title game against Blue Mountain College.

“I replayed the final moment in my head for days after, watching the ball move in slow motion as I passed it to Gracie Bailey, who set it to Simone Tyson, who put it away on a monster kill. It was a great day and every day is a great day to be a part of Loyola volleyball,” Cooper said.

The Wolf Pack finished the season with a 22-11 overall record and a 12-2 regular-season mark in the conference to win their first regular-season championship since joining the conference in 2010.

Head Coach Jesse Zabal said the program has grown by leaps and bounds since she was hired in 2017. During her first season as coach, Zabal said they finished the year with a 4-10 conference record. Since then, she said, the team has increased their wins each year.

Despite being faced with obstacles earlier this season like Hurricane Ida and the University Sports Complex damage, members of the team said they remained motivated.

“Winning a championship itself is already rewarding enough, but winning one after going through all of the hardships we went through this year felt extremely rewarding. I am so proud of our team for pushing through our setbacks and sticking to our goals,” said Preslie Boswell, a freshman on the team.

Zabal agreed, adding that the team knew they had each other’s backs.

“After Ida hit, volleyball and this team were the only things that remained consistent, even if our facilities or schedule changed from week to week,” Zabal said.

Loyola traveled to Montgomery, Alabama for the 2021 SSAC Volleyball Championship as the top-seed and started the tournament off with a 3-0 win against Faulkner University.

After beating William Carey University 3-2 in a back-and-forth five-set match during the semifinals, the Wolf Pack suffered a loss against Blue Mountain College in the championship title game and became conference runners-up.

Despite the outcome, Cooper said the conference tournament gets better every year.

“Losing in the conference finals for the second year in a row makes me, and I know everyone else, even more determined to continue to work hard,” Cooper said.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Tournament selection took place after the tournament, and Blue Mountain College received the one automatic bid for the SSAC as the winner of the championship tournament.

“Using this loss to our advantage, I believe it will make us more determined than ever to come back next year and have an even more successful season,” Boswell said.

As an official wrap to the season, sophomores Simone Tyson and Emily Sheperis were named to the SSAC All-Conference First Team, and Tyson was picked as the conference’s Player of the Year. Freshman Simone Moreau was named the SSAC Co-Freshman of the Year.

Zabal won her first SSAC Coach of the Year award and Robert Pitre won the SSAC Assistant Coach of the Year award.

“They fully trust both of us to lead, guide, and direct them, and without that trust, we wouldn’t have achieved what we did this year,” Zabal said. “We first and foremost want our players to know that we love them and care for them as people first. I’m so grateful for our young women and their hearts for each other, for this game, and for the pursuit of excellence.”