From the soccer fields of St. Louis to Loyola Soccer Park, Billy Hency is already making impressions as a standout and confident player and person, despite it being his first year motivating everyone.
Hency has been a force on the field, scoring the game winner in the Ramblers’ 2-1 win against Bradley University in Peoria Sept. 29. This was the team’s first win in Peoria since 1995.
“I think he’s confident … in his ability,” head coach Neil Jones said. “He’s not a timid [first-year].”
Jones described the 19-year-old undecided business major as someone with good banter, who’s not afraid to say something back to him. On the pitch, Jones said he’s got the ability to go off the game plan and do something unique to him and his skill level.
“Sometimes [first-years] are kind of like, head down and just keep quiet,” Jones said. “But he doesn’t do that.”
First-year defensive midfielder Bradyn Knutson said Hency’s contributions to the team motivate everyone.
“[Hency] brings a lot of things to the team,” Knutson said. “He brings … his hard work … his athleticism as well as his skill on the ball. As well as just being a team player and pushing everybody every day to work harder and better.”
On the field, Hency has been quickly learning a lot since arriving at Loyola, according to Jones. He said Hency has attacking talent, plays smoothly and can unbalance defenses with his technical abilities.
Hency said he’s also noticed an improvement in his abilities since coming to Loyola and playing with higher level players.
“I’ve learned how to play a lot quicker,” Hency said. “Everybody here is a lot better than I’m used to playing with, so I think that I was able to learn and grow a lot whenever I got here.”
Considering Hency is a first-year, Jones said there are still things he’s improving on this season. He said Hency’s still learning and improving on the defensive side of the game, and one of his hopes for Hency this season is for him to continue improving in that area.
“My goals for him [are] pretty simple,” Jones said. “To continue to produce offensive chances, assists and goals for us, but improve his defensive understanding, work rate and discipline as the season progresses.”
Hency came to Loyola after playing with soccer club Sporting St. Louis, and was noticed after his team played against Football Club United, the team Loyola assistant coach Pat Flinn once coached. Jones said Flinn told him Hency was one to look at and after, they brought him to campus to get to personally know him.
“I finally came on a campus visit and coach Jones showed me around,” Hency said. “I really loved the campus, and I got to meet a few of the upperclassmen and I just liked it here a lot.”
Jones said it’s important the recruits are good players, students and people, and he felt really good about Hency in these aspects.
“We knew that having met him. We kind of knew that he had that kind of friendly, humorous side to him,” said Jones. “That kind of drew us to him a little bit more than some potentially other recruits we were looking at.”
As far as his future at Loyola, Jones believes Hency could be a big player on the team. He said he sees the same attacking ability in him as he did in former Loyola player Elliot Collier, a 2018 graduate who was drafted to MLS team Chicago Fire Football Club in January 2018.
Jones said he thinks if Hency works on making himself more of a defensive player as well as an offensive one, the same way Collier did, he can could be a star at Loyola.
“That elevated Elliot to a new level, and I think that if [Hency] buys into that and continues to improve his offensive side of the game … then he’s on a very positive track for the rest of his career,” Jones said.
Hency and the Ramblers are set to take on University of Central Arkansas in their final Missouri Valley Conference game Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. in Conway, Arkansas.