The Loyola women’s basketball team is in year three of its rebuild, and head coach Kate Achter said she was impressed with the strides the players have already made at Chicagoland Tip-Off Luncheon Monday afternoon.
After the former head coach Sheryl Swoopes left the program when The Phoenix reported allegations of player mistreatment, the Ramblers have had some rough seasons and are trying to rebuild the program. Last year, the Ramblers went 7-23 and Achter said the team is hoping to improve upon that record this year.
“Practice is going actually really well,” Achter said. “Our [players] are working harder than they’ve ever pushed themselves before and they’re setting expectations every day — and they don’t even know that — but each day they’re meeting their own expectations and competing and it’s been a lot of fun so far.”
The team is returning seven players from last year’s roster and unlike other Chicagoland teams — such as DePaul University, which has played in the NCAA tournament every year since 2003 — the Ramblers are a first-year and sophomore heavy team.
“Continuity is huge,” Achter said. “We’re not lucky enough to have a very dense group of seniors yet, but we have seven returners that know exactly what we are asking and are starting to set program expectations.”
In addition to the seven returners the team also gained three first-years and one junior college transfer.
Leading the team this year is sophomore guard Abby O’Connor, who was a Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) All-Freshman team nominee last season. Achter said the team returns other noteworthy players in junior guard Tiara Wallace and sophomore center Kat Nolan. With the three of them leading the team this season, Achter said it’s in good hands to play better this year.
“[Wallace] is looking fantastic,” Achter said. “She’s in the best shape of her life. Leadership wise she’s confident. [O’Connor] of course has been great and [Nolan] has done a lot of good things to get her into shape and she feels comfortable right now.”
Achter said she scheduled the non-conference games in hopes of boosting the team’s win-loss record from last year. She said the schedule is competitive and an easy transition to MVC play.
“I think with the talented group that we’ve got coming back I think anything is possible,” Achter said. “We can compete to be middle-half of our league, which is exactly where we think this year should be. For now we are pleased with the outlook and we’re going to go get it.”
Last season, the team showed progress toward its improvement. In the 2016-17 season, the Ramblers only won two games; in 2017-18, they won seven. They also showed progress from the beginning of the 2017-18 season when they lost 62-46 against Southern Illinois University in January, but beat the Salukis 62-53 just a month later.
In addition to having set goals for the season, Achter said the team is also on course with its five-year plan. While she said the team hasn’t done anything yet, its in a good position to meet its goals for both the season and the five-year plan.