After starting four first-years and only winning five games last season, the Loyola women’s soccer team has its eyes set on improvement after a disappointing 2016 campaign. Last season, they finished 5-11-3 and 2-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and were hit hard by injuries and inexperience.
Led by five seniors and 18 total returning letterwinners from last season, the team has set a lofty goal of going from the bottom of the conference to the top by winning an MVC championship.
“You obviously start every season with the goal of an MVC championship and this one is no different with the returning talent and improvement we’ve seen since last year,” said head coach Barry Bimbi.
Reaching their preseason goal of winning the MVC would mean significant improvement for the Ramblers across the board, but Bimbi believes this is exactly what will fuel a big improvement.
“What gets lost in the record is that we started four first-years who were forced to do a lot of learning on the fly,” Bimbi said. “The improvement will come from the minutes our young players played last season as they’re now comfortable and ready to take the lead.”
Alongside these improved young players will be a handful of upperclassmen, who Bimbi hopes will lead the team. These players are headlined by senior goalkeeper Maddie Ford and junior midfielder Madison Kimball.
“Madison and Maddie are two upperclassmen that our team will rely on a lot this season on and off the field as I’m looking to both of them to take leader positions in guiding us towards our goals,” Bimbi said.
Ford, out of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, echoed her coach in what she believed the team could accomplish this season. Now in her third year as starter, she said she believed her leadership and the team’s newfound experience is the way they will to reach their goal.
“I feel like every year since I’ve been a freshmen we’ve been getting closer to an MVC championship and despite some steps back here and there, this is our most promising season I’ve been here [for],” Ford said. We think we’re close to something big.”
The team started the season with a split, going 1-1 on a trip to Oklahoma Aug. 18-20, which included a 2-0 loss to Oklahoma State University, followed by a 6-2 victory at Oral Roberts University in which five different Ramblers scored goals.
The Ramblers then went 1-1 on their first home stand Aug. 25-27 losing 1-0 to Drexel University and beating the University of Akron 4-1.
Now, the team looks to take that momentum to the Marquette Invitational before the regular season begins against MVC opponents.
The start has been coupled with a third place finish in the MVC preseason coaches poll, which Bimbi said shows positive signs for the Ramblers as they try to forget last season’s struggles.
The team’s season continues at the Marquette Invitational Sept. 1 and 3 against Mercer University and Central Michigan University before MVC play is scheduled to begin at Loyola Soccer Park Sept. 8 against Indiana State.