As the women’s soccer team enters their third year under Head Coach Barry Bimbi, both players and coaches alike realize that this is the year to turn the corner.
Last season, Loyola competed in the Horizon League Conference tournament as the sixth seed. They surprised everyone and pulled off an upset in the first round by beating the three seed, Valparaiso University, in the quarterfinals.
They lost to Milwaukee University in the semifinals, but put up a valiant effort. No team was able to find the back of the net until the second overtime.
Loyola lost a number of players last year to graduation, but are returning four seniors and 10 juniors. Among those returning are junior goalkeeper Monica Gonyo and senior midfielder Tricia Stonebraker.
Now, as Loyola women’s soccer begins their first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, they’re looking to have an immediate impact.
“This is our year to win,” Stonebreaker said. “We definitely have that mentality. Everybody on the team wants to win, and [it] doesn’t [matter] what conference we’re in, that’s the goal.”
Gonyo also expressed confidence in the team. “I think we can take the conference, I really do. I have faith in us and I think a lot of people on the team do, too,” she said.
Bimbi isn’t letting the conference change adjust his approach to recruiting or coaching.
“Since day one that I took the job, we weren’t recruiting to win the Horizon League, we were recruiting to win every game we play,” Bimbi said.
Illinois State University will be the team’s biggest challenge this season. “They won the conference tournament two years in a row,” Bimbi said. “Definitely they are king of the conference right now, as a team standpoint, the biggest obstacle for us right now.”
Bimbi explained how his team is filling in the spots of players who graduated last
season: “Some of the holes will be filled by some freshmen who are new to the program, that really from day one hit the ground running, and [have] done very well.”
Last year Loyola scored only 13 goals. Bimbi explained that he is focusing on scoring goals this season: “I think we are going to get goals by committee. I would expect five, six, seven girls to have three goals or more for us.”
Gonyo knows that becoming an upperclassman on the team means having to take a leadership role within the team, “I am in the backline, obviously in goal, so I am kind of telling people where to go, what to do, and they look up to us, they look up to me.”
Stonebraker is excited about the team chemistry. “We play for each other, we have each others’ backs. We are just a really close team in general … we fight for each other.”
The team starts their season with a trip to South Dakota where they will play the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University.
The first home game of the season is against Big Ten Conference foe, Indiana University, on Sept. 1 at noon.