Sept. 5, I wrote a column about the fall sports teams struggling during their non-conference seasons. I’m going back on that to say they’ve fixed their problems — at least when looking at men’s and women’s soccer.
While their statistics were low, that doesn’t mean they weren’t close to success. They were working out the kinks in order to produce successful numbers in the conference. That’s exactly what both teams are doing now.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are leading the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and I’m not surprised. Both teams played competitive non-conference schedules to be able to contend and potentially lead the MVC; now, they’re doing exactly what they planned.
I was really hard on the women’s team in my previous column, but right now they’re producing the numbers and are in a good position to, potentially, go to the NCAA tournament.
Loyola is leading the MVC in goals per game and assists per game. Indiana State University is immediately behind the Ramblers in goals per game, but they’re last in the MVC standings. Indiana State trails Loyola in assists per game, but they’re fourth in the MVC in that category. None of the second place leaders in stats are close to the Ramblers in overall standings.
The team continuously has players earning MVC Player of the Week accolades. Senior Jenna Szczesny was named offensive player of the week two times in a row — three times overall this season. First-years Abby Swanson and Aly Kilburg both received Newcomer of the Week awards Sept.10 and Oct. 8, respectively, and junior Madison Laudeman was named Player of the Week Oct 8.
Loyola was undefeated in conference until they lost to Illinois State University in overtime Oct. 13 on a goal that, in my opinion, was virtually unsaveable. So, I don’t think it’s fair to count that against the Ramblers. It was a fluke.
They’ve dominated the MVC all year and I’m pretty sure they will continue to do so for the rest of the season.
The men’s soccer team was in third place in the MVC until it took on No. 25 Missouri State University Oct. 13. Going into the game, I was unsure. While the defense has been strong, the team has been struggling to produce a consistent offense.
This wasn’t the case in Saturday’s game. The Ramblers won the game 1-0 after a great cross from senior Fabian Lifka allowing junior Chase Wright to score his first collegiate goal ever.
The victory allowed them to leapfrog both Missouri State and Central Arkansas University to first place in the MVC.
Much of the success in the back third of the field can be credited to junior goalkeeper Josh Lagudah. He has statistics in the national ranks, which adds creditibility to his talent. Lagudah is tied for 10 in the nation in shutouts with six total. He’s in ninth in the nation for goals against average with 0.57.
Also in the back line is redshirt senior Grant Stoneman, who was named MVC Defensive Player of the Week Oct. 16. Not only is he a strong defensive presence, but he’s also leading the team in goals, which shows his flexibility on the field.
While I still think the team has some problems to work out — like their offensive struggles and their low scoring games — its recent success has put Loyola in a good position as the MVC Tournament approaches. Just the fact that they beat the perennial powerhouse, Missouri State, makes me excited to see what else they can do.
Both of the soccer teams have proved me wrong after I called out their slow starts. It’s definitely going to be an exciting postseason for Loyola soccer this year.