The Loyola women’s soccer team opened MVC play against Missouri State with a 2-0 win. The team wasn’t very successful in this season’s nonconference schedule, but head coach Barry Bimbi said the Ramblers are hoping for better luck against conference opponents. The win marked Loyola’s fifth MVC meeting with Missouri State and ended with Loyola leading its particular series with a 3-2-0 record.
But if Loyola wants to make a statement in the MVC, it’s going to have to defeat some tough opponents.
No. 1 University of Northern Iowa (7-5-1, 1-1-0)
So far, the Panthers have beat Bradley and lost to Evansville in MVC play. Junior defender Sarah Brandt is the team’s top scorer, with five goals this season. Sophomore midfielder Hannah McDevitt leads the team with three assists. McDevitt has also scored two goals.
No. 2 Drake University (9-3-1, 0-2-0)
The Bulldogs lost against the University of Evansville on Sept. 25 and Indiana State on Sept. 30. But under the direction of head coach Lindsey Horner, the Bulldogs are one of the MVC’s toughest defenses to score against. They’ve only let in nine goals and have kept a clean sheet in eight out of their 13 games, making them the MVC leader in shutouts.
No. 3 Illinois State University (7-5-1, 1-0-0)
Senior forward Lauren Koehl is the MVC’s top scorer, with 10 goals this season. Koehl also leads the MVC in shots (51), shots per game (3.92) and points (22). The Redbirds are undefeated in their last six games, with five wins and one draw. ISU has scored two or more goals in all of its wins this season and hasn’t yet lost by more than one goal.
No. 4 Indiana State University (6-8-0, 1-0-0)
In their only MVC game so far this season, the Sycamores defeated Drake. Sophomore forward Katie Wells leads the team with six assists. Wells contributed one goal and one assist against Drake. Indiana State will try to make it back to the MVC Championship after its most recent appearance in 2013, when it lost to Illinois State.
No. 5 Missouri State University (3-7-2, 0-2-0)
With eight goals scored this season, the Bears currently hold an average of 0.67 goals scored per game, which puts them in seventh — last place — in the MVC rankings. On the defensive end, they’re allowing opponents an average of 1.33 goals per game, good for third in the MVC. First-year forward Ashley Coonfield is the team’s top scorer, with three goals this season.
No. 6 Loyola (3-7-2, 1-0-0)
The Ramblers are the fifth highest-scoring team in the MVC, with 1.33 goals per game. Although Ashley Bovee was named MVC defensive player of the week after Loyola’s win against Missouri State, Loyola is the fourth-ranked defense in the conference, with an average of 1.67 goals allowed per game.
Bovee said the regular season has been a suitable preparation for MVC tournament.
“We played a bunch of hard teams, and I think that all of the teams showed us something different and it’s prepared us to [be] where we are now,” Bovee said.
Murray, who scored a hat-trick in the Ramblers’ game against Chicago State University Sept. 23, said the team has more confidence than it did earlier in the season.
“The team morale is definitely looking up moving forward,” Murray said. “We have had some great practices. We feel more confident, and we are able to connect more.”
No. 7 University of Evansville (3-9-1, 2-0-0)
The defending MVC Champion Purple Aces started the MVC with victories against Drake and Northern Iowa. Senior midfielder Bronwyn Boswell leads the team in both goals (5) and assists (2).
Loyola is scheduled to play its second conference game on Oct. 8 against the University of Evansville at Loyola Soccer Park, in what will be the rematch of last year’s MVC Championship game.