A strong finish that led to an NCAA second round tournament appearance in 2018 figures to help Loyola Marymount’s women’s volleyball team meet or exceed that target in 2019.

With the season’s first match just a week away, the Lions also are expected to benefit from the return of 13 players from last year’s team as well as one of the top recruiting classes of incoming freshmen in the country.

Such assets will be necessary as LMU embarks on what head coach Adam Mansfield calls “the most challenging preseason schedule, top to bottom, since I've been here,” with four matches against top-30 teams from a year ago including Nebraska and Illinois, both of whom made the final four last year.

The Lions play an exhibition match against Long Beach State August 17, followed by the annual alumni match on August 24, both at Gersten Pavilion, then spend nearly a month on the road to begin the regular season with tournament play, starting with the University of Arizona event in Tucson (August 30-31). 

LMU’s challenging road stretch continues for the first three weeks in September with tournaments in Texas, Nebraska and Indiana. 

"Learning how to adapt and play our brand of volleyball on the road is a skill and we look forward to learning how to do that on the road for the four weekends of preseason" said Mansfield.  "We have a group that has a balance of experienced players coming off a first round NCAA tournament win, mixed with new players who will be thrown into the fire of competition immediately. We look forward to these challenges."

The Lions finished their 2018 season with an overall 21-10 record overall, 10-8 (fourth place) in the WCC, and the second round NCAA appearance. LMU returns 13 players from 2018, including senior setter Tess Reid, whose conference-leading 12 assists per game ranked third in the nation and earned her a berth on the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Division 1 All-America Team.

Also returning are seniors Savannah Slattery (Notre Dame/Sherrman Oaks), Emma Johnson, Bo Culo, Megan Rice and Jessie Prichard; juniors Alexis Morrow and Sierra Bartley; sophomores Ella Boehle (Notre Dame Academy), Ella Knowlton, Meredith Teague and Bailey Steger; and Emily Rohrer; and graduate student Sara Kovac.

The LMU recruiting class was ranked 23rd in the U.S., the highest ranked class in program history. Newcomers include outside hitters Rose Booth from Jesuit HS in Portland, Oregon, and Audrey Klemp of St. James Academy in Lansing, Kansas, both of whom were named Gatorade Players of the Year in their respective states in 2018.

Other incoming freshmen include Piper Manross (Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix), Mary Shroll (Corona Del Sol HS, Tempe) and Emmelyn Walters (Murrieta Valley HS, Temecula).

The Lions begin WCC play on September 26 and 28, hosting Santa Clara and San Francisco. LMU hosts its last match of the season on November 16 against Saint Mary's and closes out the regular season in San Diego, on November 26. 

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News).

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