Loyola’s men’s soccer team is not only seeking a Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) championship title this season, but it’s also searching for its first NCAA tournament win in program history.
Captain and fifth-year senior Eric Schoendorf is the only player on the squad who has had the opportunity to compete at the NCAA tournament back at the program’s last appearance in 2011. He plans to lead his team to the tournament this season under the guidance of head coach Neil Jones.
The Ramblers set goals to be the MVC regular season champions and to have 10-plus wins this season, which would be the first time Loyola had a double-digit win season since 2008.
To achieve these goals, the team put in long hours in the sun during preseason. Jones, who is beginning his third season with the Ramblers, plans to continue to raise the profile of the program by practicing good discipline and making his athletes train hard every day.
“The season is long. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs and it’s just about keeping the team focused,” Jones said. “[It’s about] looking forward to the next game, not looking too far ahead and not looking at other results of other teams.”
Senior goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski understands that accountability and team chemistry are important to achieving their goals.
“We just did a team retreat at [Loyola’s Retreat Campus] and we’re focused on starting this road to the goals by gelling each other as a team and really knowing each other on a personal level so we can help each other more when they need it,” said the information systems and operations management double-major. “It’s going to be a long and tough season, but I think we can do it. We just have to help each other and believe in each other and we can do it.”
The Ramblers also added 10 talented freshmen and one transfer to their roster. Some standout additives to the roster include forward Alec Lasinski, who clenched the game-winning goal against Marquette University last week, and midfielders Ryan Walker and Fabian Lifka. Jones noted that a lot of the incoming talent are offensive players because the Ramblers didn’t score as many goals as they wanted to last season.
Schoendorf said he believes the freshmen are making positive strides toward success, but they are still adjusting to the life of a student-athlete.
“The freshmen have a lot of volume and it’s kind of a culture shock coming in,” said the accounting and finance double-major. “They’ve all kind of stepped up and put in a good effort to start their foundation at Loyola.”
Loyola just wrapped up its exhibition play with a win over Marquette University and a draw against the University of Michigan. The Ramblers look forward to playing Red-Line rival DePaul University on Sept. 29 and crosstown rival Northwestern University a month later on Oct. 27.
Jones said the team has been training hard to prepare for its first weekend of regular season play.
“The first three weekends will be a good indicator of how our season will go because we play six of our 17 games, which is more than a third of our season,” Jones said. “We play two of our hardest games against UC-Irvine and Northridge. We’ll kind of know where this group is after our first weekend in California.”