Loyola’s women’s basketball team has experienced a disappointing start to its season. The Ramblers currently hold a 2-11 overall record and are 0-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC).
Head Coach Sheryl Swoopes described the start of their season as “bumpy.”
“There’s always going to be some bumps in the road and you have to find a way to either go over those bumps or go around them,” she said. “[The players] believe and they are confident.”
Loyola started its season with an overwhelmingly difficult pre-conference schedule. The Ramblers played several teams from big conferences such as the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference.
In addition to this, Loyola has had to overcome other obstacles, including injuries to two key contributors. Freshman forward Destiny Washington has battled a strained hamstring for the past two weeks, while senior forward Simone Law injured her right knee earlier this season.
Washington returned to action in limited minutes against Drake University on Jan. 2., but she is still not at full strength. Meanwhile, Law anticipates to be ready to play by mid-February.
Although both players expect full recoveries, redshirt sophomore guard Taylor Johnson will not return for the remainder of the season due to what the team called an “unspecified absence.”
Johnson currently leads the Ramblers in scoring with 130 points this season.
Swoopes said that the team must move on without Johnson even though it is always tough to replace a player with the of ability to create opportunities on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
“It’s not one player that has to step up to replace Taylor Johnson,” Swoopes said. “You have to turn to maybe two or three players to step in and realize there is a void that needs to be filled. But it’s also an opportunity for players to do just that and get more playing time. The season goes on and we can’t continue to say ‘what if.’”
Some players have already stepped up and accepted the challenge, according to Swoopes. Freshman point guard Sam Lambrigtsen has impressed her coach in extended minutes on the floor in Johnson’s absence.
“Sam is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and she is developing into the type of point guard we need to run this team both offensively and defensively,” Swoopes said. “She’s really stepped it up these past few games.”
Another notable player is Taylor Manuel, a transfer from Purdue. In addition to averaging 16 points per game, the redshirt sophomore currently collects a team-high 9.2 rebounds per game.
“There are a lot of things that Taylor Manuel can do for us,” Swoopes said. “She can bump elbows on the floor and she really gives us a completely different look on the court.”
Loyola has surrendered many defensive rebound opportunities off of opponent misses this year. The Ramblers are in the bottom half in the MVC in both offensive and defensive rebounding; however, they have made improvements in the rebounding department from last season.
In addition to the team’s rebounding woes, Swoopes recognizes that the team has yet to put two consecutive halves of good basketball together for a complete 40-minute game. She is confident that a complete game is something the team is working on and has improved on since the beginning of the season.
For now, the Ramblers are simply hopeful going into the start of conference play.
“I think it is just a matter of time before we find that chemistry we are looking for,” Swoopes said. “And hopefully once we get that one win, we will get that confidence we need to play.”
The Ramblers will defend their home territory when they next take the court against MVC rival Missouri State on Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. in Gentile Arena.