Women's Soccer

Szczesny Wraps up Career with Player of the Year Honors

Alanna Demetrius | The PhoenixSenior forward Jenna Szczesny fends off a Drake defender during the MVC Tournament Championship.

Jenna Szczesny has been on the Loyola women’s soccer team for the past four years and after the team’s historic run, her time as a Rambler has come to a close.

The Hoffman Estates native has had a presence on the team since she first arrived in 2015. She’s received many accolades, including Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Freshman of the Year in 2015 and MVC Player of the Year in 2018.

Head coach Barry Bimbi said Szczesny has always been a focal point on the team and her Player of the Year and the MVC Tournament MVP accolades were well deserved. He said he was happy because he thought she should have won Player of the Year last season as well.

“She was great in conference play scoring [11] goals and a couple in the conference tournament,” Bimbi said. “We put some pressure on her to perform on those stages and she stepped up to it this year and here we are.”

Bimbi said Szczesny has matured in many areas over her four years and he said he’s been grateful to see her grow. He said her biggest area of growth was learning to inspire her teammates to step up.

Almost every time Szczesny is on the field, an opposing team’s player is marking her — sometimes she’s double teamed. Bimbi said she’s learned to adjust to playing under pressure.  

“[Playing] under pressure when teams are trying to be physical with her, it’s not an easy thing to do when you’re the focus point of every scouting report that is on us,” Bimbi said. “She’s learned how to play being that main player for us but we’ve had players step up around her so teams can’t focus on her.”

Szczesny’s roommate and best friend, senior forward Madison Kimball, praised Szczesny and her importance to the team.

“She brings competitiveness,” Kimball said. “Every single time she steps on the field, she’s ready to go. We all want to work out best, play as hard as we can to keep up with her. She sets the tone and it’s fun competing with her.”

One key piece Bimbi said Szczesny adds to the team is a sense of unselfishness. While she was the leading goal scorer for the team the past two years, she also lead in assists. This season, she had seven total assists.

“It’s kind of annoying,” Bimbi said. “I’d like her to shoot more. Be a little more unselfish, but that’s just who she is as a person. She cares about the other players, but she cares more about the program and the team than she does her own stats.”

In the Nov. 4 game against Drake University, Szczesny wrestled the ball away from two defenders, while on the ground, before the ball fell to Abby Swanson’s right foot and then off the left post into the goal. It was her assist that put the team back in the game and eventually allowed the Ramblers to win the tournament.

“I want to see my teammates score,” Szczesny said. “I would rather them score before I do. If I see a pass open and they have a better angle than I do then for sure I’m going to pass it to them.”

One player who’s benefitted from Szczesny’s unselfishness is Kimball, who has scored nine goals this season — four of which were assisted by Szczesny.

Kimball said she’s grateful to have played with Szczesny. She said Szczesny brought athleticism to the team and was always unselfish, which made her a great teammate.

“This year it’s so much fun because we can just read each other on the field,” Kimball said.

“I’ll look over and we’ll just start laughing and, you know, I think you play the best when you have fun with people.”

Szczesny agreed with Kimball and said her focus this year wasn’t on herself, but rather the entire program and all of her teammates.

“I’m playing for everyone on the field and everyone on the bench,” Szczesny said. “Just everyone who supports this program. For me personally, having the people behind me supporting me is what keeps me going.”

With a loss to Florida State University in the the first round of the NCAA tournament, Loyola’s season is over as has Szczesny’s time as a Rambler. She said she is thankful for everything the program has given to her and it’s been a great experience.

“I’m definitely sad to leave soon,” Szczesny said. “I’ve gained some true friends through this program. Gone through some hard times and some good times with everyone and everything and every game.”

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