Redshirt senior Ben Crognale received Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) honors as Offensive Player of the Week. This is the first weekly conference award won by a member of Loyola’s men’s soccer team this season.
Although he’s a fifth-year senior, this is only Crognale’s second season with the Ramblers. The Gahanna, Ohio, native was invited by head coach Neil Jones to try out in spring 2014. Crognale found himself a spot on the roster that fall.
Crognale’s transition from club to Division I soccer was not an easy one. Redshirt senior captain Eric Schoendorf said Crognale struggled with the attention to details collegiate soccer requires.
“Some of the struggles Ben had [had] to do with the transition to Division I. It’s about the small details and also about the physicality of the sport,” said Schoendorf. “I think working through that was a little bit of a struggle but at the same time he just provided a good attitude and a good energy. If you put him down, he was going to get back up.”
Crognale said his motivation in soccer comes from his passion for the sport and continuous hunger to improve as a player and teammate.
“Sometimes it’s the mentality of wanting to get better [that motivates me],” said Crognale. “It’s a grind. Every day you have to come in to the weight room, or to practice you have to go in with the mindset to get better and to get something out of what you’re doing.”
Luckily for him, when the grind gets tough, he has a strong support group back at home.
“When it gets tough it’s always nice to call home, and my family is always supportive, so having the whole supporting cast is great,” the history major said.
In the 2014 season, Crognale started in eight of the 17 games he appeared in. He netted his first collegiate goal 45 seconds into a game against Wisconsin, a member of the Big Ten Conference. He had a personal record of 15 shots and five goals that season.
Although Crognale has only seen an average of 15 minutes of action on the field every game this season, the attacking midfielder is still a key component to the Ramblers’ offense.
Schoendorf said Crognale is comfortable in the offensive zone on the soccer field.
“Ben isn’t shy about shooting, and for an offensive player in soccer, you just need to have that confidence,” said Schoendorf.
Schoendorf said he believes Crognale’s presence on the field brings a positive vibe to his teammates.
“Ben has fully integrated himself into the team and provided a good energy boost for the offense,” he said. “Before, we were just looking for someone that could just get on the field and make a play, and I think Ben can get on the field and make a play in the right moment.”
This season, Crognale has had only two shots, one of which was on target and led to Loyola’s 1-0 victory in double overtime against Stetson University at the Northern Illinois adidas Invitational (NIAI). His second shot came in a game against Florida Atlantic, but met the gloves of the Owls’ goalkeeper. His stellar performance at the NIAI led him to receive MVC Offensive Player of the Week last week.
For Crognale, the MVC weekly honor is refreshing and indicates his hardwork is paying off, but he is determined to keep improving.
“It’s just good to see the hard work and perseverance [pay off]. Granted, it hasn’t been very easy,” he said. “It’s good to see it’s finally working out, although it is definitely not a peak for me and the team … It’s another stepping stone to the ultimate goals.”
Crognale aims to bring home a conference title home to Chicago. Not only would this mean Loyola would get a bid into the NCAA tournament — the first time since 2006 — but it would also make the men’s team the first squad from Loyola’s soccer program to win a MVC tournament title.