The Loyola men’s soccer team has players representing five different countries from around the world, with head coach Neil Jones, a New Zealand native, bringing nations together to build a successful team. New Zealand native Lucas Imrie is one of the latest international newcomers to the team.
While many first-years likely found the transition to Chicago from another U.S. city to be difficult, the transition for international athletes such as Imrie can be more of a shock.
“We got Lucas here in January because the academic year is opposite in New Zealand,” head coach Neil Jones said. “They finish high school in … November or December so they are able to come at the spring semester and that helps with the transition because our season is in the fall. It eases them into training.”
Luckily for Imrie, he was able to join a team that helped his transition. When Imrie joined the team, there were already two other players from New Zealand there to help: senior Elliot Collier and redshirt junior Jordan Valentic-Holden. Jones was also able to relate to Imrie’s transition having moved from New Zealand to the United States to play at University of California-Santa Barbara.
“It’s just about trying to make them comfortable here at Loyola and in the [United States],” Jones said.
The transition to life in a different country wasn’t the only change Imrie had to adjust to. He said there are differences between soccer in New Zealand versus playing here as a Rambler.
“It took me awhile to get used to the new lingo. [The game’s] a different quality here — it’s more physical, more athletic and fast,” Imrie said. “I’m glad I came over in the spring, it gave me more time to get used to the transition.”
Imrie played on New Zealand’s Under-20 national team and played in the Under-17 World Cup in Chile in 2015.
“I was working pretty hard to make sure that I would get on the team and then I made the team and it was a great experience for me,” Imrie said. “I got to play against some of the world’s greatest players in our age group. It was amazing.”
While playing on an international team would seem to have more of a competitive quality than playing collegiately, Imrie stressed that it was almost one in the same.
“It’s a different kind of style here. Our style of play is different back home. We play a bit more long ball , but here it’s more position based, so it’s taken a bit of adjusting,” Imrie said. “I wouldn’t say there’s a big gulf in quality or anything. The American level of [soccer] is great and right up there with the international [Under-20] age group. It’s just a bit different playing for your country as opposed to playing for Loyola.”
Imrie played in his first game against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE) on Sept. 23 and said he was proud to be wearing his maroon and gold.
“I was stoked to make my debut. I gave it everything. It was great to be out there,” Imrie said. “We had a pretty decent crowd there so that was good and we got the win so that was great.”
In his first appearance as a Rambler, Imrie played 45 minutes in the team’s 1-0 win over SIUE. In his second appearance, against the University of Central Arkansas, he played 60 minutes and scored his first career goal.
“I try and give everything on the pitch and just work hard,” Imrie said.
The Ramblers and Imrie will try to break a tie with Drake University in the Missouri Valley Conference standings when they head to Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 7.