As the season comes to a close, Loyola looks to make the most out of its last few games. With six seniors — five of whom are starters — the squad has plenty of experience.
Head coach Neil Jones said this could be the year they win it all.
“It might come down to who makes a special play or who makes a mistake,” said Jones. “We have to be locked in every single play every single minute to make sure we’re not the team that’s making a mistake. Offensively, we have to be very efficient with the chances that we create.”
Jones said he looks forward to the postseason not only to compete, but to fulfill the goals the team laid out earlier in the season.
“We have a lot of team goals that have not been achieved yet, one of which is 10 wins on the season —we’re at nine — [and] being .500 on the road in games,” he said. “Those are still goals that we haven’t fully achieved yet. Our guys will be up for it.”
The team’s defense has been the most consistent aspect of the year, according to Jones. The defense, which is led by senior goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski, has had 10 shutouts this year and statistically concedes only 0.41 goals per game.
A huge part of the team’s defensive success this season is attributed to senior center back Eric Schoendorf. Jones said Schoendorf is one the best players in the conference and described him as a “warrior.”
“Over the past two years, [Schoendorf] has developed a lot,” Jones said. “He’s gotten better and more committed to improving. Defensively, he’s shut down the best offensive players in the league.”
Schoendorf said the team has been successful due to the experience in the defense.
“Having experienced veterans in the back is huge,” said Schoendorf. “Having that experience leads to players being calm and having leadership. Leadership and communication are huge in the back line. That energy an experienced back line can give really gives us momentum in any game.”
While the Ramblers’ defense has been a crucial factor in their success this season, they have also scored eight goals in their last six games.
Sophomore Elliot Collier is one of the team’s more offensive-minded players. The Hamilton, New Zealand, native said the team believes its game plan will remain the same against Missouri State University during the quarterfinals of the MVC tournament.
“We know how we need to play,” said Collier. “We are playing our best soccer of the season. We won’t need to change too much. We just need to make sure we come out with a lot of energy to do what needs to be done.”
Collier said the team’s offensive play is at its best when its defense is “conquering” other teams. The team’s defense-first philosophy has been what makes the offense so successful.
The Ramblers will play Missouri State University in the quarterfinals of the MVC Championship on Nov. 11.