The Loyola women’s soccer team (11-6-1) clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 with a 3-2 win over Drake University at Loyola Soccer Park Nov. 4.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” junior defender Madison Laudeman said. “You come in and you work hard all summer and these seniors have been working all four years and this was the moment you always wanted when you come into play college soccer.”
The first half saw the Ramblers get off to a fast start as senior forward Jenna Szczesny was awarded a penalty kick after being taken down in the box after a throw-in. She fired the penalty shot past the Drake goalkeeper in the 10th minute to put Loyola ahead 1-0.
The Bulldogs responded quickly to the goal, however, as forward Olivia Bruce also converted a penalty kick in the 12th minute following a Loyola foul in the area, tying the score at 1-1.
The second half proved thrilling as the rain picked up and the Bulldogs took a 2-1 lead on a 55th-minute deflection, as Bruce picked up her second goal of the match. Laudeman said while the goal left the Ramblers rattled, the team never lost its poise even during adversity.
“We said we were gonna give everything we have on this field,” Laudeman said. “We’re going to do everything we can to put the ball in the back of the net and we’re not gonna stop.”
The Ramblers continued to put pressure on Drake and found a lifeline through Abby Swanson’s 70th minute shot into the bottom left corner which tied the game 2-2. Szczesny picked up the assist after wrestling the ball from two Drake defenders.
Loyola then completed the comeback as substitute sophomore forward Kat Stephens finished from close range in the 76th minute. The ball was swung in from a corner kick and found a cluster of players from both teams before Stephens powered it in from less than five yards out to give Loyola a 3-2 lead.
“It just landed at my feet and I just kept toe poking it trying to get it in,” Stephens said. “I didn’t get as many minutes as I wanted to this year so to be able to get that goal in when we needed it most means a lot.”
At the end of 90 minutes, Loyola was crowned MVC Tournament champions for the first time ever and punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time in Bimbi’s tenure.
“As a coach, it’s great, but it’s all about the players, Bimbi said. “We always said there is no finish line, Porter [Moser] and the [men’s basketball team] said that mantra in the spring and we’re continuing it and hopefully other teams at Loyola will follow that.”
The Ramblers’ season is scheduled to continue next week in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They’ll find out who their opponent is and where the game will be played during a Nov. 5 selection show.