Women's Soccer

Loyola Finds Its Groove Heading into MVC Play

Steve Woltmann | Loyola AthleticsSenior midfielder Ciara Murray said she was overcome with emotion after scoring her first collegiate hat trick on senior night.

The Loyola women’s soccer team (2-7-2, 0-0-0) is looking to save what’s left of its season after not winning a game in its first eight games of the season.

Since Sept. 18, the Ramblers have won two of their three games. Loyola’s first win of the season, against California Polytechnic State University on Sept. 18, came as a relief after the work done by head coach Barry Bimbi and his players in a winless first half of the season.

Although Loyola went on to lose to Red Line rival DePaul University, 4-1, on Sept. 21, the Ramblers recovered to dominate on senior night on Sept. 23. Loyola showed no mercy in its 7-0 win over Chicago State University. The seven goals, which were the most scored in a single game since the Ramblers defeated Western Illinois University 10-0 on Sept. 26, 1997, doubled the team’s season goal count. Senior midfielder Ciara Murray recorded her first collegiate career hat trick. This was the first time a Loyola women’s soccer player scored three goals in one game since Cynthia Morote-Ariza did it against Cleveland State University on Oct. 5, 2007.

womens-soccer-graphicThe Ramblers’ opponents outscored them 20-14 in their first 11 games. Last season, when Loyola embarked on its conference play, it had been outscored 13-12 after its first ten games. Loyola is looking for these two wins to boost its momentum heading into Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play, which begins Oct. 2 against Missouri State University, according to Bimbi.

Murray said the team has established new goals before starting conference play.

“We actually have a lot of goals that we’ve set going into conference play,” said Murray, a finance and marketing double major. “We definitely want to increase our number of shutouts and be able to score at least a goal a game, and win all our home games for the rest of the season. We also want to keep the positive energy going.”

Junior forward Katie Grall, who leads the team with three goals and three assists, said the team’s offensive structure has improved in the last few games.

“Once you start playing more into the season and understand each other’s runs and how each other play — how we play together — [it’s easier to find the back of the net],” said Grall. “I think the chemistry is just building up and we are able to attack more offensively.”

Senior defender Ashley Bovee said the team has identified its problems on defense and is working to fix them. One of its problems is a lack of communication between defenders and holes in the backline.

“I think that, as a backline, we’re starting to play together more,” Bovee said. “We are seeing the things we have to see now, and hopefully we get the results when it comes to conference.”

Bimbi took responsibility for the poor scheduling, making his team play five games in a 10-day stretch, which didn’t allow his team the proper amount of recovery time.

“That’s on me, for scheduling the way I did, but I think having games like that — in a stretch like that — will only make us stronger for conference season, when we have a longer period of time in between games,” Bimbi said.

Bimbi said he expects the grueling early schedule to help his team reach the MVC tournament in strong physical condition.

The Ramblers are scheduled to begin conference play at Missouri State University at 1 p.m. on Oct. 2.