The Loyola women’s soccer team is No. 5 in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), holding a 2-3-0 conference record. With one game left in the regular season, the Ramblers’ objective is to qualify for the playoffs, preferably getting a bye week for the quarterfinal round in order to go directly to the semifinals.
For Loyola to get a bye week in the quarterfinal round, it must end the regular season in second place with more points than Northern Iowa and at least as many points as Evansville. Since joining the Valley in 2013, Loyola has never had a bye week for the tournament.
Loyola currently stands in fifth place with six points, which is one point behind No. 4 Indiana State University, two points behind No. 3 University of Northern Iowa, three points behind No. 2 Evansville and seven points behind No. 1 Illinois State. With one game remaining, Illinois State University has secured a spot in the semifinals as it stands in first place with 13 points, and out of reach for any other MVC team.
The Ramblers stand two points above Drake University and Missouri State, which each have four points.
By winning or tying their remaining game against Drake on Oct. 27, the Ramblers would total nine points and secure a spot in the semifinals. If Loyola loses to Drake, the Ramblers could still qualify for the playoffs if Missouri State ties or loses its game against Evansville on Oct. 27. The only circumstance that would leave the Ramblers out of the playoffs is a loss to Drake and a Missouri State victory over Evansville.
If Loyola ties in points with Evansville in second place, Loyola would advance to the semifinals because Loyola beat the Purple Aces 1-0 on Oct. 8, which hands Loyola the tiebreaker. For this tie to happen, Loyola would have to beat Drake and Evansville lose to Missouri State.
Additionally, if Loyola ties in points against Northern Iowa in second place, Northern Iowa would advance directly to the semifinals instead of Loyola because the Panthers defeated the Ramblers 4-1 on Oct. 16. For a tie between Loyola and Northern Iowa to happen, Loyola has to beat Drake and Northern Iowa must tie against Illinois State.
The closest the Loyola women’s soccer team has been to skipping the quarterfinal round was in 2013, when the Ramblers earned a third seed with a 3-3-0 conference record, only behind Illinois State and Indiana State University.
Senior defender Ashley Bovee said she believes it’s important to get a bye week so the team can fully recover before the quarterfinals.
“Going from playing on Thursday if we would have to play on Sunday — that’s three days and two games, so we are really shooting to get that bye week,” said Bovee.
Head coach Barry Bimbi said he predicts the game against Drake will be intense due to the teams’ desperation for points.
“There are a lot of desperate situations in all of the teams, with us included,” Bimbi said. “There is so much pressure at this time of the year that every team needs points.”
Getting a bye week for the first playoff round would mean more rest for the Ramblers, making it important to finish in second place.
“We were a little bit sluggish on that Sunday [2015 championship game against Evansville] and then we still did enough to [tie] the game [before] losing in penalty kicks … I think this year, we want to give us the best chance by trying to get that bye [week] and then go into conference semifinals with fresh legs,” said Bimbi.
Junior midfielder Avalon Senn-Raemont said the team expects to have a break from the physical effort the season has demanded that will allow the players to prepare for what lies ahead.
“I think that after this week, we should be fresh. We’ve had a few off days for us to recover,” said Senn-Raemont.
Loyola is scheduled to finish its regular season against Drake University on Oct. 28 at Loyola Soccer Park at 6 p.m.