With one regular season game left and the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) men’s soccer championship around the corner, the No. 14 Ramblers (12-2-1, 5-1-1) are preparing to saddle up for postseason play after a setback.
Loyola dropped its first conference match to Southern Illinois University Evansville 1-0 on Oct. 29. Sophomore forward Alec Lasinski said Loyola plans to shake off that loss, and he said the team’s success in the postseason depends on how well the Ramblers close out the last game of the season against Bradley University on Nov. 5.
“To end the season on a high note and get the postseason kicked off on a high note is important to us,” said Lasinski.
The Ramblers’ high-powered offense and stout defense have been driving forces this season for a squad that sits in the top 20 nationally in several measurable categories. Loyola is ranked 19th for scoring offense and fifth for overall defense in the nation.
On the offensive side of the game, the Ramblers rank first in the conference in goals (29), goals per game (1.93) and assists per game (1.93). Loyola also has the second most shots on goal (196) and assists (29).
The Ramblers scored multiple goals in 11 of their 18 matches before the month of November with three or more goals in six of those 11 contests.
Junior midfielder Brody Krassuel said he attributes the team’s offensive success to the players’ comradery.
“There’s just a really good chemistry between all of us,” said Krassuel. “Allowing us to perform more complex ideas of breaking teams down or exploiting different weaknesses.”
This success on offense has allowed 12 Ramblers to score a team total of 29 goals, with Lasinski leading the way with his six goals. Last season, only 10 players tallied a team total of 19 goals. Lasinski’s six goals this season have buoyed him into a tie for the fourth most goals scored in the conference.
The Ramblers’ highly ranked offense has benefitted from Lasinski’s scoring and much of his other work on the field, as he’s highly ranked in every offensive category.
While the Ramblers’ offensive numbers are impressive, the team’s defense has been just as strong.
The Ramblers sit first in the nation with 10 shutouts. They are also ranked fifth in the nation for a goals against average of 0.49, which is the best in the conference. The team also tops the MVC for least goals allowed, conceding only eight.
The team’s grip on the MVC Defensive Player of the Week title throughout September marks another accomplishment for the Ramblers’ hallmark defense.
This defensive strength has been helped by the play of redshirt junior goalkeeper Andrew Chekadanov, who is a leader in numerous defensive categories, and sophomore defender Grant Stoneman, who won three of Loyola’s four Defensive Player of the Week nominations in September.
With both sides of the ball firing on all cylinders, the Ramblers plan to use their last game as a tone-setter before the MVC tournament, according to head coach Neil Jones.
“We feel as though we’re one of the best teams in the conference,” said Jones. “The tone we want to set is hard work, disciplined defending, solid movement and an explosive attack.”
Sitting at the top of the conference, the Ramblers have secured a first-round bye heading into the tournament.
Loyola will play its last game of the regular season against the Bradley Braves on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at Loyola Soccer Park.