After falling short against Bradley University in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament on March 9, the Loyola women’s basketball team’s (2-28, 1-17) rough season came to an end.
Heading into Hoops in the Heartland, the conference tournament, head coach Kate Achter said she was keeping a positive outlook on the opportunities the game presented despite the struggles prefacing the game.
“I’ve got a lot of kids that are young that play a lot of minutes for us,” said Achter. “I think this could be nothing but positive for us, whatever the result might be. I think this will be a great experience for our young kids.”
Before their season-ending game, the 10th seeded Ramblers had faced many challenges. With junior guard Katie Salmon and sophomore guards Citiana Negatu and Brandi Seagars being the only returning players from last season, their seven new teammates created a rebuilding year ahead of Achter’s first year as a head coach.
While Achter said the inexperience of the team overpowered its performance at times, she believes the team was invested and willing to put in the work.
“I think one of the [best] things that we’ve done, as a staff, is keeping our kids engaged,” she said. “It’s not easy when you don’t find successes, wins and losses-wise. But, our kids have never quit on us, and they’ve been locked into our game plan.”
Achter and her coaching staff found itself learning alongside the new players as they all transition to Division I basketball. Achter’s staff is one of the youngest coaching staffs in the conference, and she said her staff will take this season as a professional learning experience.
“As hard as it has been, it’s been the most rewarding because, knock on wood, this helps me in the future in that we never have to experience things like this again,” Achter said during an MVC coaches teleconference. “We’ll be able to really learn and guide our kids through difficult experiences like they faced this season.”
Achter and the Ramblers will have plenty to learn from. Loyola lacked offensive power, finishing with a conference-worst -24.3 scoring margin. The Ramblers’ only two wins came against Chicago State University and Illinois State University in the first half of their season. As its conference games progressed, the team couldn’t find a rhythm to produce wins.
Salmon led the team with 8.8 points per game and ranked No. 11 in the MVC for rebounding, averaging six rebounds per game. Salmon was also the only Rambler to earn a conference accolade and was named to the MVC’s Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete Team.
Guard Kaitlyn Williams was the only first-year to play in all 30 games alongside veterans Salmon and Segars. Williams was second on the team in scoring, averaging 8.1 points per game.
First-year guard Kiana Coomber also had a handful of shining moments throughout the season, including a career-high 21 points against Clemson University on Nov. 21.
While Achter admitted this season tested her character, she said she will take the many learning experiences and use them in her future at Loyola. While the payout of the team’s hard work was not immediate, Achter said she’s still trying to build a new culture in the program, one that she hopes will lead to a change in fortune soon.