Currently sitting at 5-5-1 (2-0-0) as it continues its conference schedule, the Loyola women’s soccer team has found a spark from its new converted forward: Senior Madison Kimball.
Kimball, a three-year starter from St. Francis Catholic High School in Fair Oaks, California, is now playing her third different position for the Ramblers. The move is one head coach Barry Bimbi said will help the team unlock its potential to reach the NCAA tournament.
Originally a defensive midfielder for the Ramblers, Bimbi experimented with Kimball as an outside back during her junior year in a season which saw her start all 20 games and score three goals.
This year, she’s on the move again, with Bimbi moving her to forward to pair with All-Missouri Valley teammate Jenna Szczesny.
Kimball joined the Ramblers in 2015. During the recruiting process, she worked to gain the recognition of Bimbi and his staff by attending multiple camps and tryouts. This eventually landed the then-defensive midfielder a chance from Bimbi and his staff.
“Once I saw the campus and met the coaching staff I was in love and wanted nothing more than to play here,” Kimball said. “When [Bimbi] first offered me a spot here on the team, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was incredibly honored and just ecstatic to be able to live my dream and come out here and play Division I soccer.”
Kimball’s transition has seen her become a difference-maker so far for the Ramblers, as she’s scored four goals — including two in their conference opening victory over University of Northern Iowa Sept 23.
One of seven seniors on the roster, Kimball and the Ramblers have the goal of reaching the NCAA tournament this season — something the team hasn’t accomplished since 2007.
However, Bimbi said he thinks this core is different and ready to take that next step to the NCAA tournament.
“This senior group has seen a lot of action in the MVC tournament,” Bimbi said. “They understand what it’s about and they’ve been so close throughout their career, I think they’ve brought kind of a different mindset into this season in terms of preparation and they understand what it means now to win the conference tournament.”
Kimball said this year’s team is far different than any she’s been a part of due to its experience and confidence.
“I think there’s a fine line between being confident and being cocky,” Kimball said. “Our team is the best that I’ve seen in the past four years. We’ll do great things if we keep working together. Both myself and the team have the ultimate goal of making the NCAA tournament and winning that first round.”
The Ramblers are off to a perfect 2-0 start in conference play. This hot start has included road wins at University of Northern Iowa and Indiana State University where the Ramblers scored eight goals while conceding two, pushing them to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings.
Highly regarded for her work ethic by her coaches and teammates, Kimball said she attempted to bring that same intensity she displayed in the midfield to the forward position for the Ramblers.
Bimbi said she’s brought exactly what he envisioned.
“After playing three positions in the past three years, I think we’ve found a home for her as a forward where she’s been able to start our defense and put pressure on them while also having a hunger to score goals and be a difference-maker in the final third,” Bimbi said.
This intensity has helped the Ramblers, especially Szczesny, find the back of the net so far this season. The team has tied the conference lead with 23 goals this season and is currently averaging 2.09 goals per game, which is the best in the MVC. The new forward pairing of Kimball and Szczesny accounts for almost half the team’s goals.
“Madison’s effort has really shown so far,” Szczesny said. “She’s just a worker-bee up there. “She works her tail off to get us a result and she’ll always do what’s best for the team.”
Kimball and the Ramblers are scheduled to continue their season against Drake University Oct. 6 at Loyola Soccer Park.