Sports

New conference, new challenges: Women’s soccer looks forward to stronger competition in the MVC

Senior midfielder Maggie Olsen scored the winning goal against Indiana State University, and the Ramblers outscored the Sycamores 2-1. The victory marked the team’s first-ever win in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Senior midfielder Maggie Olsen scored the winning goal against Indiana State University, and the Ramblers outscored the Sycamores 2-1. The victory marked the team’s first-ever win in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Senior midfielder Maggie Olsen scored the winning goal against Indiana State University, and the Ramblers outscored
the Sycamores 2-1. The victory marked the team’s first-ever win in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Loyola’s women’s soccer team started Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play this Friday, Sept. 27. The Ramblers have had both successes and disappointments against nonconference opponents so far this season. They entered conference play with a record of 3-4-3.

Earlier this season, the Ramblers recorded wins against nonconference opponents South Dakota State University, Eastern Illinois University and Northern Illinois University. Loyola also tied Big Ten opponent Indiana University and lost to University of Wisconsin at Madison 5-1.

“I think with the way we scheduled, we are close to where I thought we would be,” said Head Coach Barry Bimbi of the team’s level of play. “I think we are really starting to hit our stride; the sharpness is there, the understanding is there.”

But Bimbi said he still feels his team could be playing at a higher level.

“We want to be 10-0; the goal of every game is to win,” he said.

He also pointed out that several players have stepped up their game this season. “We’ve had some good performances from the freshmen,” he said. “Some of the returning players have definitely had breakout years — [such as Sammy Gage] with three goals in the last four games, the most she’s scored is one in a season.”

Gage, a senior, has been one of the bright spots in the offense this year.

“It’s been, I think, just as a team, kind of relieving,” Gage said. “We’ve been working on a lot of those offensive strategies in practices, finishing our balls off crosses and coming up on rebounds, so the team effort was there and it was just nice to finally get the result we’ve been working for.”

Junior goalie Monica Gonyo has recorded three shutouts this season and 56 saves. She has allowed 15 goals this season.

“Opening the season I knew we had a couple of tough games and we overall kind of struggled in those, but I think they were good learning experiences, and from there we look forward to conference [play],” Gonyo said. “We focus more on the conference games than those past games.”

Gonyo explained the difference between this team and previous teams: “I think we are just super supportive of each other. A couple of games we haven’t been scoring, but in the end we stay positive, we stick together and I think that helps us going forward into the next game, knowing that, you know what? We can score. We are capable of scoring goals.”

Entering MVC play, Loyola has scored nine goals after only scoring 13 goals all of last season. When asked about his team’s performance on the offensive side of the ball, Bimbi explained that the offense could always be better, but that the ability of his team to come back in games where they are down by a goal to win or tie the game demonstrates the character of the team.

The Ramblers will face several competitive opponents in the MVC.

“I think at the end of the day, soccer is soccer. If we could take care of our business, play our style, teams are going to have to adjust to us.”

One of the opponents that Loyola will keep an eye out for is Illinois State University, according to Bimbi. The Redbirds have won the past two MVC championships, but he still is confident that his team can do well in conference play.

“Hopefully we are in the one or two seed, get that bye. That’s definitely important,” he said, emphasizing the importance of being able to take a game off during the tournament. “As you get through the grind of the tournament you want to be able to rest and heal up any bumps and bruises.”

“I am really looking forward to the new conference, facing some new competition,” Gage said. “We’ve been in the Horizon League for a long time … so seeing these
new teams and just facing these new squads will be really fun and exciting.”

Loyola made the most of its first game in the MVC and beat Indiana State University 2-1. The Ramblers went down 1-0 late in the first half when Sydney Loesing scored the first goal of the game. As the packed stadium continued to cheer for the Ramblers, defender Valerie Gonyo scored the game-tying goal in the 52nd minute. Ten minutes later, midfielder Maggie Olsen scored the winning goal for the Ramblers.

“If we play our style we don’t think there is a team in the league that can beat us. That wasn’t us in the first half, we let them push us around a little bit, take the game to us. Second half it was dominant really for us — good things going forward for sure,” Bimbi said.

Olsen, a senior, added, “It is so exciting, I think that we’ve been working really hard. We’ve had a really tough schedule, and I think that winning this game really did a lot for us.”

The Ramblers’ next home game will be against Missouri State University on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.

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