Loyola’s men’s club soccer team exploded out of the gate this season, becoming one of the most talented teams the program has ever seen. The Ramblers have taken command of every team they’ve played, leaving them with a 10-1 overall record.
The key to this season’s success is the experience returners have brought to the squad. Club president Christopher Pattullo said the goal is to earn a spot in the national tournament.
“We have 18 returners, so it’s the same core group of guys, and we’ve been clicking as a unit,” said Pattullo. “[We] had a goal, and that was to get into regionals. Now that we did that, we want to get to the national tournament.”
In early September, more than 60 participants tried out for the team, and after cutting the tryout roster down to 26 men, practice began immediately. Being a team made up of primarily upperclassmen, some newcomers have become key players.
“We have a new defender [Drew Guarkey], and he has been extremely strong in the back for us,” said Pattullo. “We’ve only gotten scored on twice. [Goalkeeper] Michal [Czesny] has had seven shutouts this year, so that also really helps us.”
The team members opened up their season in a game against Valparaiso Univeristy, in which they pulled off a 2-1 victory. That was a sign of things to come, as victories became greater, culminating in a 4-1 win over the University of Illinois on Oct. 17.
With all this success, there are some areas that need improvement before regionals come, and as Czesny can see the entire field, he said he believes the team needs to push more and provide offensive pressure throughout the second half.
“Pressing as a team [and] pressuring the ball will be important these next several games going into regionals,” said Czesny. “We’re working well together. We just need to continue that.”
After the DePaul match came two weekend games against Illinois State University and Indiana University, where the Ramblers outscored their opponents 2-0 in both games. With those wins, the Ramblers clinched a berth at regionals and gained momentum going into yet another rivalry game against Northwestern. After defeating Northwestern 1-0 and proceeding to its 9-0 record going into the last week of regular season. Loyola then became the best in Chicago.
Several aspects of the team have changed this season, and those are what have allowed the Ramblers to become who they are. Finding the back of the net has been one of those key factors, but goalkeeping is what has held the team together. Czesny is in his second season with the Ramblers. He has roughly 30 saves this season and has taken charge of the team from the back.
His performance came in strong against Southern Illinois University when the Ramblers won 5-0. After an injury to Mario Rako, the team’s central midfielder, and the absence of center back Drew Guarkey, the team lost the last game of the regular season 2-0 to the University of Illinois.
The team now goes into regional play, where it is ranked fifth in the Midwest and will play Ohio State and Michigan State in the first round of play.